LAKELAND, Fla. — Right-hander Jackson Jobe, the Detroit Tigers‘ top pitching prospect, could miss the entire 2023 season.
The 20-year-old reported spine discomfort earlier in spring training and has been diagnosed with lumbar spine inflammation. He isn’t expected to begin his return-to-play program for 3-6 months. Dr. Thomas Tolli, an orthopedic spine surgeon, evaluated Jobe in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Tigers declined to make Ryan Garko, vice president of player development, available for comment.
“It’s unfortunate for him because he was looking as impressive as he has as a pro,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “His stuff was really good. His last bullpen was excellent. All the stuff that we hoped he would accomplish coming into minor-league camp, he was doing.”
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The organization drafted Jobe, a hard thrower revered for his nasty slider, with the No. 3 overall pick in 2021. He is the No. 1 prospect in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline.
Jobe started 21 games in the 2022 season, his first year of professional baseball, for Low-A Lakeland (18 starts) and High-A West Michigan (three starts). He posted a 3.84 ERA with 30 walks and 81 strikeouts in 77⅓ innings.
For the Whitecaps, Jobe logged a 1.15 ERA with five walks and 10 strikeouts in 15⅔ innings.
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The Tigers did not allow Jobe, who signed for $6.9 million, to pitch after the 2021 draft. The draft occurred two months after Jobe’s final outing in high school, so the Tigers were proactive in trying to protect his health.
He turns 21 in late July.
“Obviously, this will take some time for him to get back on the mound,” Hinch said. “But we were very encouraged by where he was at physically up to his last bullpen.”
Another prospect sidelined
Catcher Dillon Dingler, the No. 38 overall pick in the 2020 draft, underwent a right knee meniscectomy on March 14. Dr. Robert Cain, an internal medicine specialist, completed the surgical procedure in Birmingham, Alabama.
Dingler is the Tigers’ No. 16 prospect.
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The 24-year-old, who hasn’t played above Double-A Erie, is expected to begin a return-to-play progression in four weeks. He hit .238 with 14 home runs, 45 walks (10% walk rate) and 143 strikeouts (31.9% strikeout rate) in 107 games for the SeaWolves last season.
Back in October, Dingler reported knee soreness while competing in the Arizona Fall League and returned to Lakeland. He participated in MLB spring training this year, but amid a crowded group of catchers in camp, he received just five plate appearances over four games.
Other medical updates
Infielder Wenceel Perez, the Tigers’ No. 9 prospect and a member of the 40-man roster, remains in the recovery process from lumbar spine inflammation. The 23-year-old switch-hitter is scheduled to complete full batting practice and base running by early next week as part of his return-to-play progression.
In 2022, Perez collected 47 extra-base hits.
He hit .295 with 14 home runs, 42 walks (10.3% walk rate) and 61 strikeouts (15% strikeout rate) through 94 games with High-A West Michigan (55 games) and Double-A Erie (39 games).
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Infielder Quincy Nieporte underwent Tommy John surgery on March 1 to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Dr. Katulle Eaton, an orthopedic surgeon who previously completed a fellowship under the direction of Dr. James Andrews, completed the procedure. The 28-year-old hit .270 with 31 home runs in 123 games for Double-A Erie last season.
Outfielder Steele Walker fractured his right hand in a spring training game at the end of February. The 26-year-old is expected to start light baseball activities next week. He has played five games in the big leagues.
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