After the conclusion of the High-A West Michigan Whitecaps’ season on Sunday, we were hopeful that the Detroit Tigers would see fit to promote Jackson Jobe, their top pitching prospect, up to Double-A Erie. The Erie SeaWolves still have a series remaining in their regular season, and they also have an Eastern League playoff berth already locked up. So there was an opportunity for the recently turned 21-year-old right-hander to get another start or two before his regular season ended, as well as a little big game experience.
He’s clearly ready for the next test. We’re happy to see the Tigers agree. They announced on Tuesday that Jobe has been promoted to Erie, and will make his next start for them on Sunday against the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the San Francisco Giants affiliate. He’ll then potentially be available for a deciding Game 3 if the SeaWolves best-of-three, first round postseason series goes the distance.
2023 has been quite a rollercoaster of a season for Jobe. In spring camp, he had some back trouble and was eventually shut down in March with lumbar spine inflammation. That was disturbing news for him, as well as for an organization that controversially invested a fair amount of draft capital in the young starter pitcher over top shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer in the 2021 draft. That decision, like a great many of Al Avila’s draft decisions over the last four years of his tenure, looks pretty good in retrospect. But at the time of the injury , it was reported that Jobe could miss anywhere from three to six months of action, potentially wiping out his whole season.
Fortunately, the reality wasn’t quite so grim. Jobe was back on the mound in June. The results on the mound were somewhat erratic early on, but after a few starts, he began making rapid progress. His new high-80’s cutter added a new dimension to his arsenal, while the outrageous movement on his slider was more consistent and under command. The final piece was more consistent location with a fourseam fastball regularly bumping the high 90’s, and the rapid development of a changeup that is now a plus pitch for him and a huge equalizer against left-handed hitters.
Jobe was certainly blessed with enormous talent, and for players like that, progress can come in fits and starts, bits and pieces, or all at once. The latter path has been the case this season as Jobe graduated to High-A West Michigan at the end of July and proceeded to dominate older competition to an eye-popping degree.
RHP Jackson Jobe, catcher Eliezer Alfonzo and RHP Trevin Michael are scheduled to join the @erie_seawolves this week, where they’re expected to make their Double A debuts.— Detroit Tigers Player Development (@RoadtoDetroit) September 12, 2023
Jobe is slated to start Sunday’s game for the SeaWolves. pic.twitter.com/AnyUFYHYAH
Early on with the Whitecaps, Jobe still had a little trouble with the long ball. Extremely aggressive strike-throwing, and a few too many grooved pitches in swing counts were the issue, and perhaps illustrated a remaining bit of vulnerability in the fourseam fastball. A little bit of tune-up in movement is still required there, but there’s time for that. More than anything, the flaw was just his extreme aggression, refusing to nibble around the edges when ahead in counts, and simply going after every hitter he saw, without necessarily spotting the heater around the edges effectively.
Jackson Jobe ultimately threw 40 innings across 8 starts for the Whitecaps. In that entire span, he walked three hitters. He struck out 54 hitters. The early home run troubles leave his High-A ERA at 3.60, which is fine but not spectacular. However, those peripherals are really incredible and have completely reversed opinion on him after many soured on Jobe following a rough 2022 campaign and then the back inflammation to start the season.
Suddenly, Jackson Jobe looks like one of the top couple of pitching prospects in baseball, and the recent trajectory is fantastic, foreboding further rapid development.
Jackson Jobe's last four starts at High-A:— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) September 11, 2023
22 IP, 2.05 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 28 K, 0 BB
Over that span, Jobe has poured in strikes at a 71% clip, while garnering a swinging strike rate of 18.5%.
Things are really coming together for the Tigers 21-year-old prospect.
It won’t hurt that Jobe will have catcher Eliezer Alfonzo moving up to Erie with him. We’ll be interested to see who catches Jobe on Sunday. They could go with a more experienced catcher at that level, or go with Alfonzo in a nod to Jobe’s comfort level. RHP Trevin Michael, who has served as the Whitecaps closer in recent months, will also joint them in Double-A.
Jobe really needed to get his innings in this season and continue that development, so based on the first half injury, we’ve already predicted he would get some starts in the Arizona Fall League next month. However, getting some Double-A work, as well as challenge of pitching in the postseason, is even better experience for him and allows him to keep riding the groove he’s in before taking a break.
Last Sunday, Jobe took the mound in a must-win game for the West Michigan Whitecaps, so the experience of big game pitching will be familiar. The Whitecaps ultimately fell just short, but under the most pressure he’s ever dealt with as a pitcher, Jobe was excellent. He allowed one run over five innings, didn’t allow a walk, and struck out seven. There were a few mistake pitches, but for most of the outing he was completely overwhelming to the Great Lakes Loons’ lineup. The demands of a game like that didn’t appear to faze him a bit. Expect the same as he moves to Double-A, even if the results aren’t quite as good at the next level immediately.
While the value of winning baseball in the minor leagues can be overstated in terms of what it says about a farm system’s ability to produce actual MLB talent, the Tigers certainly seem like a club that values those experiences for their prospects, and the team-building camaraderie that comes with chasing a minor league pennant and postseason action. So this certainly seems like a good move to make, and a well-timed, and well-earned promotion.
Jobe will get a challenging introduction to the next level he needs to conquer, and the Erie SeaWolves will get a major boost to their rotation just in time for the postseason. It should be fun to watch.