Ask a Scout: Why did the Tigers select Jackson Jobe over Marcelo Mayer?

The MLB Draft was a month ago. In examining the top-5, the Detroit Tigers selection of high school pitcher Jackson Jobe stands out as arguably the most surprising.

The Tigers, who have an obvious need for middle infielders in their farm system, opted against selecting shortstop Marcelo Mayer with the third-overall pick. Mayer was rumored to be going first to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but fell to fourth-overall to the Boston Red Sox and Chaim Bloom, who rushed to the podium to select the 18-year-old from California.

But to understand why the Tigers would pass on a talent like Mayer, perhaps it’s best to examine the player they took instead — Jackson Jobe from Heritage Hall School in Oklahoma City.

Jobe was the second pitcher selected on July 11, with only Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter going ahead of him. He possesses three-plus MLB-caliber pitches as of now, with a fastball touching the upper-90’s and tremendous breaking stuff. Jobe rewrote the high school record books and is arguably one of the most polished high school pitching prospects in quite some time.

The Tigers also have an affinity for high school pitchers, going back as far as Rick Porcello and more recently with Matt Manning. Detroit believes in their pitcher development, and they have every right to feel that way given the major league success of Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal this year. Manning has also made some noise in MoTown this season.

Like any pitching prospect, Jobe has to develop his secondary pitches and fastball movement before he heads to the bigs. He has several years to do so, however, and a development staff devoted to his eventual success.

Mayer, meanwhile, has questions of his own. His position is in flux, as he needs to show more range at shortstop. His bat is solid, but until he performs in the minors will continue to be a query due to his size.

Detroit Tigers: What stood out about Jackson Jobe?

For a better idea of why the Tigers took Jackson Jobe, I spoke to Tim Grieve, who helped scout the Oklahoma high school product for Al Avila and Co.

1. Let’s start with the obvious — the Tigers were in prime position to select Marcelo Mayer, the top-rated shortstop in the class, but instead went with Jackson Jobe. Why Jobe, and not Mayer, in this case?

TG: “End of the day, with Jackson Jobe, it was as simple as he was the top guy on our board. And that’s not a slight on Marcelo Mayer…we loved Marcelo Mayer, he’s a great player. The room was pretty close to unanimous on that. Everyone agreed the stuff was unique…as for me, I can go back over the years…I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone in my area with the combination of the athleticism, the makeup and stuff across the board…you just don’t see that in high school pitchers ever.

2. A quick scouting report on Jobe shows plus pitches and an incredible spin rate at a very young age. While he still has plenty of time to develop, what are his strengths and weaknesses as a prospect?

TG: “The first time we saw Jackson was primarily as a shortstop. (Fellow scout Justin Henry) went to Ole Miss and sees this kid’s name and thinks ‘oh hey that’s Ole Miss’ new shortstop recruit’…then Jobe takes the mound and Justin turns to us and said ‘I think Ole Miss is going to need a new shortstop’…Once we got out of the showcase season…you start to see (increase velocity) of 96, 97 and he already has great breaking stuff. Getting to what he needs to work on…pure pitching experience since he doesn’t have some of the mound experience some of these other kids would. That very quickly becomes not even an issue at all. Everything’s pretty much in place right now.”

3. The Tigers can’t get enough of high school pitchers. While other teams may shy away due to injury risk and a lack of development, what makes the Tigers so comfortable in picking high school-level pitching talent time and time again, especially so high in the draft?

TG: “There is a comfort level and it comes from the top-down. Al (Avila) is the same guy who took Josh Beckett (out of high school). We all understand there’s risk involved no matter who you take. With Jackson we just felt this is a kid who’s took good to pass up…we’re very comfortable with our development staff, we’re ecstatic with (pitching coach) Chris Fetter and you think we can only imagine what they’re going to do with a kid like this.”

4. The success of Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal shows an organizational willingness to draft and develop young pitching. Does that confidence play into the decision to draft a guy like Jobe, who while talented still has plenty of room to grow?

TG: “Absolutely it does…You look at some of the transformations like a guy like Kyle Funkhouser has had and other guys thanks to their own hard work and some help from Chris Fetter and you think, ‘Well, okay, let’s take this guy,’ because we’ve got the process in place now that this kid is going to maximize his abilities…You have examples (in Mize, Skubal, Manning) to say, ‘Yeah, let’s keep doing this.’”

5. In an ideal world, what would the next steps look like for Jackson Jobe in a Tigers uniform. I read an article saying he’d like to be playing in games by perhaps this Fall, or at the very least some form of live BP. How does this typically work for draft prospects?

TG: “It tends to be different player to player…what we ran into this year was a big gap between when his last pitch was and when we drafted him. Often it’s more of a smooth transition where there’s not a lot of down time. With Jackson…we have to build it back up. (We have to take into account) how many innings he’s thrown, and decide if we want him to throw this summer. My understanding is to expect him to throw a little bit…how much it is I’m not real sure…I know for sure the plan is to have him throw some.”

6. Outside of Jackson Jobe, were there any other prospects the Tigers drafted we should keep an eye out for right away?

TG: “We were ecstatic with (32nd-overall pick) Ty Madden falling right into our lap. I don’t think there was anyone in that room who envisioned him being there. That was an absolute no-brainer. Isaac Pacheco (second-round pick) was another guy we targeted early on. We were very happy he fell to us…I know the reaction from the room on a lot of these guys was ‘wow’.  Obviously, we went pitching-heavy…we think we’ve got some guys (to be excited about).”

It’s far too early to judge the Detroit Tigers draft

By all accounts, Jobe seems like a tremendous talent. The Tigers have confidence in their player development, especially when it comes to starting pitching. But in the end, it’ll depend on Jobe alone whether what Grieve and the Tigers front office see in him becomes reality.

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