Image: Jeremy Fleming, MSU Athletic Communications
Michigan State baseball has been largely irrelevant since the 1980’s. Their recruiting and production of professional talent hasn’t been strong as of recent, either. However, the 2023 season has been a large success thus far, as the team is third in the Big 10 Conference as of April 3rd. It’s possible that they’ll be able to make a tournament run. Their pitching has also vastly outperformed their in-state neighbors to the Southeast.
The heart of their team, though, can be found on the offensive end of the ball. Hitting in the two-hole in the squad’s everyday lineup is shortstop Mitch Jebb. An in-state player from Saginaw, Michigan, Jebb has likely one of the more unique set ups in the batter’s box in college baseball. In a crouched position with the knob of the bat nearly pointed at the pitcher, Jebb’s stance resembles a more upright version of Hall of Famer Rod Carew.
As seen here, Jebb’s stance and slappy swing allows his bat to remain in the hitting zone for a maximum amount of time. This allows Jebb to make contact even when out in front or far behind the ball. Just like Carew, Jebb’s swing isn’t necessarily a power stroke, although scouts believe he does have the ability to be a 15 homer guy if he reaches the MLB.
Where Jebb excels offensively is through his ability to make contact and proceed to cause havoc on the base paths. Although the scrappy lead-off guy with speed is becoming less and less of a sight in the MLB, players like Brandon Nimmo and Jon Berti show there is still a place for this in the game. Jebb’s eye at the plate is also superb, as he has walked more than he has struck out in each of his last two seasons as a Spartan.
The ability to get on base through base hits and walks, then steal second, is an asset which is undervalued in today’s game. Flashy rookie Corbin Carroll is already showcasing the electricity which comes with speed, sparking a team’s offense.
The 2023 MLB Season has just begun, and new rule changes regarding pickoffs and larger bases have clearly incentivized stealing in the early going. Through the first four days of the 2022 season (49 games), there had been 29 stolen bases on 43 attempts. In the same span (with 50 games) in 2023 thus far, there have been 70 steals on 84 attempts.
The magnitude of these stolen base numbers isn’t likely to be sustained but will still be higher than in season’s past. This raises the question of whether speed will play a larger role in the 2023 MLB draft than in recent years. If so, a player like Jebb will likely see his draft stock rise. His on-base ability and speed are once again big deals in today’s game.
On the defensive end, Jebb’s 6’1”, 185 lb frame is typical for a shortstop. An asset to his game is his ability to play at both second and third base as well. Although he is the shortstop for MSU, Jebb has a below average arm for the position and a lack of range in comparison to some of the top draft prospects at short. As a result, it is likely Jebb profiles better as a second baseman and could be viewed in such a manner by MLB organizations.
Adding to Mitch Jebb’s college play has been his time spent in the top league for summer baseball, the Cape Cod League. During his time there in 2022, Jebb had a .356/.429/.490 line with 26 stolen bases in only 38 games. These impressive numbers alongside his college resume has led the business major to be ranked 44th in MLB Pipeline’s 2023 Draft Prospect Rankings.
The last star MLB player to come out of State’s baseball program was Mark Mulder. Before him, you would have to go back to Kirk Gibson to find a legitimate MLB player who grew into a great ballplayer in East Lansing. Jebb may just have the ability to put the Spartans back on the map in the baseball world, leading to better recruiting and more on-field success.
As for Jebb himself, he could land anywhere in the 2023 Draft, but could profile well for a team which needs help in the middle infield. The college junior is about as close as it gets to an MLB ready prospect, so don’t expect his ETA to be too far out once drafted. Although not as dynamic as top shortstop prospects Jacob Gonzalez (Mississippi) and Matt Shaw (Maryland), expect to see Jebb go in the early rounds in 2023.
Categories: 2023 Prospects, Articles, MLB Draft
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