A really gifted scout once told me the number one thing you look for when evaluating amateur talent is something different. Something unique. Find something that can be brought to the game that will not only work, but can disrupt the meta.
Jackson Jobe, my friends, is different.
Indeed, the pride of Oklahoma City and Heritage Hall High School can do things to a baseball others just simply cannot. That’s not hyperbole either. No exaggeration. He quite literally can do things to a baseball others are unable to do.
Jobe entered last summer a middle-infielder. The bat was good, not great. Probably not a carrying tool that would’ve vaulted his name into high-tier draft conversations. It was enticing for college baseball, but didn’t quite make pro scouts salivate.
Then he got on the mound.
A relative unknown as a pitcher, Jobe hopped on the mound last June throwing 94mph seeds and following them up with 3100+ RPM sliders. Jobe ripped through one slider that exceeded 3300 RPMs. This kid’s slider could bore a new tunnel under the viaduct in less time than WSDOT’s “Bertha” did.
Guys that throw breaking balls exceeding 3100 RPMs are rare. Of the nearly 47,000 sliders thrown in Major League Baseball in 2020, just 353 of them exceeded 3100 RPM. There were just nine pitchers in baseball last year that threw more than 10 of them over the course of the entire season.
Jobe routinely floats around that 3100 mark during an entire outing. 99th percentile stuff and then some.
Going a step further, Angels righty Griffin Canning was the only arm in Major League Baseball last season to throw more than three sliders with spin rates exceeding 3360. Jobe did it completely out of nowhere at 17 years old and hasn’t stopped flirting with those numbers since.
At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Jobe still has a lot of filling out to do. Mechanically, there’s a lot to like about Jobe as an arm. He’s extremely athletic on the mound with a really quick arm. He doesn’t have a ton of innings on his arm either, so as far as the prep-righty demographic goes, he has that working in his favor. There’s not excess effort in the delivery either.
Let’s not act like Jobe is a one-trick pony with the slider though. The whole arsenal flashes.
Future Value (Tools)
There are a lot of things to like about Jobe’s fastball and the direction it’s headed. For now, he sits 92-93 touching 96 with average control and command. Jobe does a good job of using his fastball at the top of the zone and spotting it early in counts to allow the slider to eat.
Once Jobe gets into a pro ball, I’m sure some tweaks will be made on the release and subsequent shape of the pitch. For now, he’s got a low-efficiency release and 1:00 spin direction. The result is a fastball that neither rides nor sinks sitting in the 14.5” induced vertical break (IVB) range. As currently constructed, the characteristics and shape are similar to that of a Michael Pineda fastball. The difference is what Jobe is capable of moving forward.
Like the slider, Jobe possesses above average spin traits on his fastball, averaging close to 2350 RPMs. If Jobe can add some efficiency to his release and get more consistent consummate backspin on his fastball, he could push his IVB closer to 17”, effectively making it a plus pitch at the top of the zone. Pineda isn’t capable of this type of transformation as his fastball averages just 1970 RPMs. Pineda will have to be a pitch-to-contact arm going forward, relying heavily on run and sink. Conversely, Jobe has the innate ability to turn his fastball into a weapon with proper development moving forward.
There’s no two ways around it, Jobe’s slider is comfortably the best prep pitch in the 2021 class. It might be the best breaking ball out of a prep in the last several years, to be quite frank.
Just watch scout’s reactions behind the plate after he gets Brady House with a nasty one at PG National...
It obviously starts with the outlandish spin rates and Jobe’s innate ability to absolutely tear through cowhide. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but it’s truly elite next-level stuff that could play at the big league level today.
Jobe’s slider has been up into the 86 mph range but more comfortably sits 81-83 in most outings. Given the arm-speed, physicality and athleticism, Jobe will probably sit in the 84-86 range by the time he debuts.
For an 18-year-old, Jobe’s command of the breaking ball is really quite impressive. He’s got above average control for the pitch with pretty average command. Considering the shape of the pitch, his feel for throwing good strikes with the slider is encouraging moving forward.
Jackson Jobe came out and absolutely dominated... again.— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) September 4, 2020
Fastball was 95-96 with ride. Changeup showed progress, flashed 55 once. Slider was still absolute hell on righties. Made Brady House look silly and Rene Lastres here... 3100 RPMs. Insane. pic.twitter.com/bOQar8dk9m
At the end of the day, if Jobe debuts with an 84-85 mph slider, above average command with 3100+ RPM life and big two-plane break, you’re looking at one of the better sliders in Major League Baseball.
Leaving PG National, Jobe was tasked with continuing to develop feel for his changeup in order to boost his stock as a potential starter at the next level. After all, drafting a prep righty that only possesses a fastball-slider combo probably isn’t good enough.
Jobe really took that to heart and reports from those who have seen the righty of late have had really good things to say about the cambio.
Last June, the changeup probably best projected fringe-average. It was 84-86 with good fading action but Jobe lacked feel for the pitch and too often would miss arm-side. He’s reportedly added some depth to the pitch and now has much better feel for throwing it for strikes on both sides of the plate.
Jackson Jobe has special arm talent and an arsenal built for future big league success. There’s some polish required around the edges, but given the athleticism and especially the development being seen over the past six months, it’s not difficult to project a big league starter down the line.
For my money, Jobe is likely the first or second prep arm off the board in the draft and figures to be a pretty good bet to go in round one.
As it pertains to the Mariners, the farm system is in a better place these days that should afford Jerry Dipoto and Scott Hunter the luxury of being a little more aggressive at the top of the draft. I wouldn’t disqualify Jobe from being a very real option for Seattle at pick no. 12.