Around the Tigers’ farm: Jackson Jobe’s back at West Michigan as his season brightens

Detroit News

There were three home runs West Michigan’s fans would have preferred not being on Jackson Jobe’s first-game record at high-Single A West Michigan.

But given that Jobe allowed only four hits in five innings Saturday night at LMCU Ballpark, and considering he struck out nine while walking not a single batter, no one seemed overly bothered by a 20-year-old, right-handed starter’s return to Comstock Park.

Make that 20 years old until he turned 21 on Sunday.

“He looked good,” said Whitecaps manager Brayan Pena, who appreciated Jobe’s fastball that sat at 96 and hit 98, as well as a pocket-full of secondary pitches Jobe wielded against the Fort Wayne TinCaps. “He attacked the strike zone, and what I liked most was his adjustment throughout against a very aggressive team.

“He started mixing his speeds extremely well, with his slider and change-up. I was happy. With a full house (6,983), a lot of spectators, and a lot of anxiety, I was super-excited for him.”

As the Tigers audience will attest, not always happily, Jobe was Detroit’s first pick — third overall — in the 2021 MLB Draft. He made it to West Michigan late last summer, his first full professional season, and figured to be a short-timer there in 2023 before moving on to Double-A Erie, or so the timeline appeared.

But then he arrived at Lakeland, Florida, in March for spring camp and then came trouble: lower-spinal inflammation. Jobe rested for three months. He was cleared to pitch in June and showed during a half-dozen games for the low-A Flying Tigers that he was ripe for a West Michigan reunion.

“What I liked was that he didn’t back down after the homers,” Pena said of two third-inning bombs and a single blast in the fourth. “He could have backed down and tried to be perfect. But he had an explosive fastball last night and didn’t walk anybody.

“I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but it’s obvious what he can do, because he’s a special talent. You know sooner or later he’s going to be helping at the highest level.”

Jobe’s control Saturday was documented: 73 pitches, 56 for strikes. He’ll continue with an every-six-days routine for the remainder of West Michigan’s season.

And while it would be expected Jobe then will head for the Arizona Fall League to get work denied during his spring recovery, the Tigers have made it clear there have been zero discussions to date about AFL plans and Jobe’s possible migration there.

Promotion accepted

Jace Jung got the word last Sunday: He had done quite enough at West Michigan. Time for a trip to Double-A Erie and an upgrade in pitching that might move last year’s first-round Tigers pick closer to Detroit.

Jung’s acclimating. Quickly.

He blasted two home runs Sunday, to go with one earlier in the week for the SeaWolves, and is behaving this summer as if second base at Comerica Park might be a destination as soon as next season.

“I’m glad we were patient with him,” said Ryan Garko, the Tigers’ player-development supervisor who acknowledges the Tigers like to take their time making sure players are ready for a next-level move. “A lot of these decision revolve around certain markers — controlling the strike zone, swing-and-miss numbers, that kind of thing.

“You want to make sure a guy dominates at a particular level. Some decisions, you can’t unwind.”

Jung is 22, a left-handed batter, and hit 14 home runs as part of an .842 OPS at West Michigan ahead of the Tigers shipping him to Erie.

The handyman can

There might have been one-fifth of a second from the time he was asked who had been impressing him most of late before West Michigan’s skipper answered, his voice crackling.

“Definitely, Brady Allen,” said Pena, who hasn’t been terribly surprised by what a 23-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder has brought these past two months to the Whitecaps lineup.

After all, Pena had done some opposite-dugout scouting on Pena before he was traded to the Tigers in a May deal that sent outfielder Jonathan Davis to Miami.

“I saw him playing there in Beloit (Marlins’ high-A club), and he really caught my attention. I just said, wow, this guy can make a difference, and he’s doing just that. He’s one of those guys who’s a total professional.”

Allen had played 50 games for the Whitecaps heading into Sunday with nine home runs and lines of .257/.361/.481/.842.

“Good tools,” Pena said of a fifth-round pick by the Marlins (2021, University of South Carolina). “I love the fact he can play three outfield positions. That’s a big asset. He can also throw well and move well.”

Kiwi with clout

Garko on Clayton Campbell, the 19-year-old, New Zealand native who was signed by the Tigers in 2021 and who has been hitting — heavily — for the Florida Complex League Tigers, all while playing third base and catching:

“He’s really taken nice steps toward adjusting to the speed of the game and to the talent here,” Garko said of a 6-foot-1, 209-pound right-handed hitter, who in 22 games is batting .317/.423/.608/1.031, with three home runs.

“He hasn’t faced a lot of really good pitching coming from that part of the world, so one of the questions is how he’d adjust states-side. But the one thing about Clayton is that he’s really physical — a big strong athlete.

“You can’t outmuscle him in the box. He swings at strikes and he’s not chasing the breaking ball.

“It was really a good job of scouting by our international staff.”

Madden’s move

Ty Madden in his last six starts for Erie has been, well, what the Tigers thought they were getting two years ago when they drafted him 32nd overall.

He has a 1.86 ERA, with his Saturday start against Akron typical of his recent work: five innings, four hits, one earned run.

His strikeout and walks ratios can occasionally baffle (four walks against three punchouts Saturday — 10 whiffs and two walks in his previous start), but the summer has been stronger for a right-handed starter, 6-3, 215, and still only 23 years old

“We’ve challenged Ty continually on his need to improve, and he’s doing a much better job of getting left-handers out,” said Garko, speaking of a pitcher whose season ERA is 3.43, with a 1.34 WHIP. “It was a big development goal.

“He has a lot of ownership over his career. There’s been a lot of feedback to our staff on things he wants to improve on. He’s a true starter, and he’s showing what grit he has.”

Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and retired Detroit News sports reporter.

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