Image credit: (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
Jacob Lindgren was ready to set the world on fire at Mississippi State. The lefthander from Bay
St. Louis, MS turned down Cubs, who’d taken him in the 12 th round pick and met his asking
price, because he was so intent on getting to Starkville. Lindgren figured he’d slot into the
Bulldog rotation and pick up where he left off in high school.
Then he started fall ball.
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“I remember I had a rude awakening in my first fall,” said Lindgren. “Coming out of being a
draft pick out of high school, ego was kinda big—I got put into place real quick.”
It was obvious that Lindgren had an electric arm, but finding the right role took some fine tuning.
He spent most of his 2012 freshman season in the bullpen, getting a couple starts towards the end
of the year. Lindgren opened his sophomore year as State’s Friday starter, but injuries led to an
up and down year, one that ended with him in flux over where his future would be best spent.
Entering his junior year, the year he’d again be eligible to enter the draft, he a conversation with
then-Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson, who left the choice up to Lindgren—did
he want to be a Friday guy, or a lockdown reliever?
Lindgren knew many pro teams would eye him as a reliever, so he slid back into the bullpen,
determined to make the best of his final year in Starkville.
“I knew my stuff was nasty, I just had to throw strikes,” said Lindgren. “When I did that, the
results were good.”
“Results were good” is an understatement, as Lindgren turned in the best relief season in
Division 1 baseball. He was a Baseball America 1 st Team All-American, carrying a 0.81 ERA
with an astounding 16.3 K/9 ratio over 55.1 innings. When Lindgren was locking down a game,
it meant a lot of missing bats.
“I had an elite slider, that was my pitch,” “Pretty much I’d ride my fastball early on and make
them hit it, because it was cutting and sinking, so I’d try to hunt for that early contact. And then
when I would get ahead in the count, put them away with that slider.”
The Yankees took Lindgren with the 55 th overall pick of the 2014 draft, making it to Double-A
that same year pitching out of the bullpen. During fall instructs, he was given the same choice.
Try to stretch out as a starter, or continue his rapid ascent in the bullpen. For Lindgren, the
choice was easy.
“I just want to get to the big leagues as fast as possible,” said Lindgren.
It was the right decision, as that next season Lindgren made his big league debut less than a year
after being drafted. He appeared in 7 games for the Yankees, making him a big leaguer forever,
but arm injuries derailed his rapid ascent. Multiple elbow surgeries, including Tommy John
surgery, ended his run with New York, and while in spring training with the Braves in 2018,
Lindgren found out just 19 months after his first TJ that another would be required. Even for the
eternally confident Lindgren, it was a heavy blow.
“My mentality, I’m always optimistic, always positive,” said Lindgren. “But, I was back to
consistently throwing harder than I ever have in my career right before I got the 2 nd one.”
He eventually made it back on the field, throwing his first official pitches in nearly three years
for the White Sox organization in 2019. The lost 2020 season cost him possibly his best chance
to break into a depleted White Sox bullpen, and after his 2021 release Lindgren caught on with
the Kansas City Monarchs of the American Association. In Independent ball, Lindgren was able
to reconnection with a passion for baseball that injuries and being on the wrong side of
transactions had robbed him of.
“Going from getting released to winning a championship, it really made me appreciate baseball
again, and get back to actually enjoying the game,” said Lindgren.
Lindgren retired following the 2022 campaign with Kansas City, after once again finding
happiness running out of a bullpen and missing bats.
On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm,’ former big league lefthander Jake Lindgren
joins to walk through his career from Mississippi State All-American to big league lefthander.