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Jobe casts an Erie shadow in Double-A return

MLB's top-ranked pitching prospect hits 99 mph, strikes out eight
@JoeTrezz
July 5, 2024

Baseball’s newest top pitching prospect is Jackson Jobe, and it had been a while since he toed the rubber at Double-A. When the 21-year-old right-hander returned to the level on Friday night, it was as if he’d never left. Jobe pitched like he hadn’t missed a beat in Erie’s 6-1

Baseball’s newest top pitching prospect is Jackson Jobe, and it had been a while since he toed the rubber at Double-A. When the 21-year-old right-hander returned to the level on Friday night, it was as if he’d never left.

Jobe pitched like he hadn’t missed a beat in Erie’s 6-1 win over Akron at UPMC Park, striking out eight across five innings of one-run ball in his first Double-A start since May 1. Baseball’s No. 11 overall prospect (and Detroit's No. 2) held Akron to three hits -- all singles -- in an economical outing, throwing 52 of his 79 pitches for strikes. He also finished with a flourish, recording five of his last six outs, and his final four, via strikeout.

“I felt good,” Jobe said. “I fell behind early in the first inning. Made the adjustment after that and kind of cruised. I felt like I got better as the outing went on, so I’m happy about it and definitely happy to be back here.”

Jobe missed a little more than six weeks with a left hamstring strain before making three rehab starts at High-A West Michigan, where he allowed two runs and racked up eight punchouts across nine combined innings. Before that, he’d been building on his superb 2023 at Erie, beginning the year with a string of strong outings.

Through six starts at Double-A this season, Jobe owns a 2.08 ERA and 32/11 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 21 2/3 innings and has held opposing batters to a .132 average.

“I’m definitely back in a groove," Jobe said. "I feel comfortable. Honestly, I’m probably feeling better and stronger now than I did pre-injury, which is always the goal in rehab. I went down there and worked my tail off. I felt like I got stronger [tonight] as the game went on. Hopefully that turns into six-inning, seven-inning outings here soon.”

Jobe said he was symptom-free about two weeks after being sidelined by the hamstring issue, then spent several weeks building up strength in the hamstring and building his arm back up after the layoff. He said he's incorporated daily maintenance work into his routine to make sure the hamstring doesn't crop up and become an issue again. Any other delays would make his goal of reaching 100 innings this season -- for the first time in his career -- very difficult, though Jobe could conceivably stockpile extra innings in the Arizona Fall League again like he did last year.

As it stands now, he's logged only 30 2/3 innings in 2024.

“We definitely took the conservative route [with the hamstring]," he said. "They tend to do that with me. But at the end of the day, I’d rather be safe than sorry. Here I am, healthy. Hopefully it doesn’t affect me too much for this year.”

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In April, Jobe said it was his goal to reach the big leagues this year, and he showed again Friday why the idea of him helping the Tigers in the very near future isn’t far-fetched. His fastball reached 99 mph, sitting in the 96-98 range for most of the night, and his 70-grade slider remains the most potent weapon in his advanced four-pitch mix. Furthermore, the minor command issues Jobe experienced early in the year appear to be a thing of the past; he issued only two walks in his three rehab starts, and one Friday night.

Asked if he thinks reaching the big leagues this year is still a possibility post-injury, Jobe said, “I like to think so. But as we all know, that stuff is very much out of my control no matter how well I’m pitching.”

“The main goal is to stay healthy and pitch however many innings I can,” he said. “Where I end up I guess is kinda out of my control. I just gotta keep my head down, continue to get better and learn from each outing. Probably the biggest thing is just pitching. Logging innings.”

Joe Trezza is an contributor for MiLB.com.