How Jackson Jobe Became One Of The Top Prep Arms In The 2021 MLB Draft
The Jackson Jobe high school story has been a thing of fairytale fiction, and all it needs now is its storybook ending.
Jobe left middle school athletic but undersized. When the 18-year-old two-way player was little, his best sport was soccer, but the son of a professional golfer eliminated everything but football and baseball by the time he got to Heritage Hall High in Oklahoma City. Joining the Chargers for his sophomore year, Jobe was a quarterback and safety in the fall, and a shortstop who would head to the mound to close games in the spring. His junior year would have followed the same pattern, if the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t brought his baseball season to an end after four games.
That’s when the tale of the turning tide began.
“I was always the guy who would come in from shortstop, had a good arm, good fastball,” Jobe said. “Then one day something clicked. Last February, I got on a weighted ball program, started working on my mechanics, and started getting in the weight room. Then I started my season, got a few games, and everything got shut down, and then I had another three months to work on my size, getting stronger, my mechanics, doing my weighted ball program, and cleaning up my arm path.
“My first outing was at [Perfect Game] National at the beginning of June and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I came out and surprised everyone, as well as myself.”
Jobe considers himself a late bloomer, having added 12 inches and a lot of strength and size to his frame over the last five years, getting him to the 6-foot-3, 200 pounds he is today. Though he’s still Heritage Hall’s shortstop in every game, he doesn’t start on the hill—and the Chargers’ three-hole hitter—Jobe sees his future in his right arm.
“That’s what most people think,” the Mississippi commit said. “I’ve put in less time on the mound than I have playing the field and hitting, and pitching comes natural to me. So I feel like if I put in all the work on pitching that I’ve put in on everything else it can take me a long way.”
Heritage Hall coach Jordan Semore understands that Jobe’s long-term future might only see him between the white lines every five days, but he’s enjoying his front-row seat to seeing his star player on the field as much as possible.
“I see the kid play every single day and he still amazes me with something new he does on the field, whether it be a great play or taking a ball to right field and driving it out of the park, going from first to third on something that shouldn’t be stretched,” Semore said. “There are so many things he does that you don’t see very often anywhere else.”
While Jobe ranks his big league-ready slider as his best pitch, followed by his fastball, curveball and then his changeup, Semore’s list favored Jobe’s fastball over his slider and his change over his bender.
It doesn’t seem like hyperbole to say that Jobe’s 3,000-plus rpm slider is ready for the majors when big league pitchers have already come calling for it.
“I had a cool interaction with Lance McCullers Jr., from the Astros,” Jobe said. “Perfect Game posted a video of my slider and he quoted it on Twitter and tagged me and said, ‘Pass me that grip,’ so I obviously went on Twitter and DM’d him the grip. He asked me for my number and then we texted a little bit, just talking about what he thinks about when he’s throwing it.
“It was pretty dang cool.”
Jobe’s grip on the elite pitch was born out of regular games of catch with his dad Brandt. He started throwing the baseball the way he would a football, at first thinking the grip might work for a slow, loopy breaker.
“When he was teaching me how to throw it I was playing tons of football,” Jobe said. “I was 13 or 14, a quarterback, and I was playing catch with him all the time, throwing it like a football. I did that for a few years before I started throwing it a lot harder and with more intent, like I was throwing a fastball.
“As a sophomore I was babying it and trying to make it an offspeed, make it 20 miles an hour below my fastball. Then I worked on making it a much harder pitch. Originally it was a slow curveball and now it’s developed into a harder slider. I didn’t realize it was different until right before my junior year, when the old spin rate was brought out.”
“I figured I had a good arm when I was 9, first starting to throw kid pitch,” Jobe said. “I was always throwing harder than everyone. Then I got to be 13, 14 and I was a late bloomer so I was 5-foot-3 playing against a bunch of kids who were 6-foot and I was a little behind everyone around eighth grade. Then I started growing a little bit and my high school freshman year I was low 80s, sophomore year moved up to mid-to-upper 80s, then my junior year I was low-to-mid 90s and now I’m starting to be in the mid range. It was a pretty gradual increase.”
Added Semore: “With the spin rate, his slider is top of the charts for major league pitchers, [but] any time you have a kid who’s also throwing the fastball at 95 to 97 miles an hour, that’s a pretty good pitch too … As a coach, I love it when he throws his fastball because nobody at this level can touch it, and he throws it for a strike 90% of the time. I love the fastball; the slide piece is what everybody else is in love with. But don’t get me wrong, I still like the slider.”
“My slider and curveball are similar in a way, but I don’t have as good of command on my curveball,” the righthander said. “The thing with my curveball is that it has really good movement and spins really well, but I don’t always know where it’s going ... I try to make it more 12-6 because my slider moves more laterally.”
“I started developing it this past offseason,” Jobe said. “I had one in the summer but I didn’t really throw it, I didn’t take it seriously. It was one of those things like a pitcher’s supposed to have a changeup, so I technically had one, but I would never throw it until I started hearing people say that to be a starter you have to have a changeup. I started working on that and really taking that pitch seriously this offseason.
Though he didn’t stick with it, Jobe also gleaned insight from McCullers on the offspeed pitch, in exchange for his slider grip.
“He sent me a two-minute video of his changeup and also his two-seam and how they played off each other, so I got to see the grips and then what he thinks about when he’s throwing it.
“I looked at his changeup and studied it and tried it out, but I don’t really like throwing a circle change because I don’t feel comfortable throwing it with those three fingers. So I started throwing a different changeup, it’s kind of like a split-change but instead of splitting the ball in between my fingers, I set my fingers on the laces and then pronate.”
Command and control
“My fastball and slider are my top two as far as command and control goes, and that’s because those are the two pitches I’ve been throwing the most and for the longest time,” Jobe said.
Added Semore: “He’ll throw his whole bag of tricks that he’s got with all his pitches, but I’ve honestly never seen a high school pitcher locate in the zone as frequently as he does. It’s absolutely amazing to see.”
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While the story of Jackson Jobe’s future remains to be written and his commitment to Ole Miss is as a two-way player, most scouts have him penciled in on the mound. There is added appreciation for his relative inexperience as a pitcher and the upside it translates to, alongside the 18-year-old’s boundless athleticism.
For now, though, Jobe is still a shortstop for the Chargers in every game he doesn’t start. At the plate, he’s racked up more hits than outs, and his head coach Jordan Semore still thinks that hitting for average is his fifth-best tool.
“When it comes to his ability and his athleticism, it is very rare,” Semore said. “There are a lot of people who get labeled five-tool players coming out of high school or college, but I don’t throw that around very lightly. He’s a really special kid.”
As a position player, both Jobe and Semore agree his No. 1 tool is his arm, followed by his defense and power. Jobe then gave himself a leg up on his ability to hit for average over his run tool, while his coach ranked the latter two tools in reverse.
“Athleticism is the biggest part of that, and playing a bunch of sports growing up helps with all that lateral movement and speed and hand-eye coordination,” Jobe said.
“My freshman year of high school, I was doing it in batting practice,” he said of hitting homers. “And no other freshman was doing it so I thought ‘OK, I can hit a little bit.’ Then I got bigger. I was 5-foot-7 as a freshman, so I wasn’t doing it too much in games.
“It starts with hitting for average and then after a while you get your swing down and get comfortable and stronger. This is the first year where I’ve been bigger than everyone else. I’m older, because I’m a senior, but being as strong as possible and having faith in your swing and not thinking about home runs when you’re in there, it all comes together with the right pitch when you put the right swing on it.”
“I’ve been hitting since I was 3, so it’s instinct at this point, but constant reps and seeing the baseball as many times as possible has helped me,” Jobe said.
“I’ve always been pretty fast growing up,” Jobe said. “It’s God-gifted talent, like I was born pretty athletic and always could run a little bit. Then getting in the weight room, doing sprints, lifting legs, and training all around helped me become a better athlete and helped me run faster. There’s no secret formula, but that’s what we got.”
No secret formula, but it seems as though Jobe has all the ingredients he might need, and more.
“How many times do you have a guy come through who’s maybe a first-round draft pick, or throws 97 miles an hour, or doesn’t give up a run all year as a pitcher? He’s irreplaceable,” Semore said. “It’s storybook stuff. He’s the right kid, he’s got the ability, he does the right things, makes good decisions. I’m really proud of him.”