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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 100: Jake Elliott

Org arm or legit bullpen piece? The 2022 season will hold the answers.

With his slow ascendance up the organizational ladder, 2022 could be a make-or-break season for Jake Elliott.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

Jake Elliott
230 pounds
Throws: Right
Age: 27
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 93
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: N/R
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: N/R
SSS rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 18

After a solid first two years with the Oklahoma Sooners, Elliott picked an inopportune time to struggle. As a junior, Elliott posted a 6.02 ERA and 1.77 WHIP in 12 outings totaling 46 innings, relinquishing 58 hits (.320 OBA) and 24 walks while fanning just 30 batters. Strangely enough, he and teammate Alec Hansen both struggled badly that year with the Sooners, despite their large physical builds.

While Hansen fell to the second round, Elliott dropped all the way to the White Sox in the 15th round of the 2016 MLB draft as a result of his struggles. After receiving a $100,000 signing bonus, Elliott pitched for Great Falls and posted a respectable 4.30 ERA and 1.27 WHIP mostly in relief, allowing 39 hits (.273 OBA) and nine walks (5.7%) while striking out 45 (28.3%) in 37 2⁄3 innings.

Elliott spent both the 2017 and 2018 seasons in the Kannapolis bullpen. In 2017, he posted a 2.29 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 63 innings while allowing just 48 hits (.215 OBA) and 10 walks (4.1%) compared to 59 strikeouts (24.3%). In 2018, Elliott’s numbers fell ever so slightly, although his strikeout rate improved significantly: In 75 1⁄3 innings while posting a 2.99 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, he relinquished 57 hits (.211 OBA) and 22 walks (7.3%) while fanning 86 (28.4%).

While Elliott didn’t pitch badly after a promotion to the Winston-Salem Dash for 2019, his numbers weren’t at their usually high standards. In addition to two games he pitched for Birmingham, Elliott combined for a 4.75 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 35 appearances (66 1⁄3 innings) by allowing 63 hits (.252 OBA) and 27 walks (9.2%) while fanning 57 (19.3%). He especially struggled in August, with a 7.31 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 16 innings as he allowed 17 hits and 10 walks while striking out 11.

After the 2020 pandemic shutdown, Elliott pitched the entire 2021 season with Birmingham. In 30 games for the Barons totaling 55 2⁄3 innings, he produced a solid 3.72 ERA and 1.24 WHIP by limiting opponents to 48 hits (.230 OBA) and 21 walks (9.0%) while fanning 48 (20.5%). He’s succeeded in the past by keeping the ball down, but his ground ball rate this year was just 31% — well below his career norms. This could’ve been by design, as allowing fly balls is usually to the pitcher’s advantage when pitching in Regions Field. Elliott appears to have an excellent changeup to stifle lefties, as they hit just .165 against him as compared to righties’ .269 average.

Elliott throws a 91-93 mph fastball according to 2080 Baseball, along with a 78-80 mph changeup. His control had been decent, but based upon his slow trajectory and relatively modest fastball, it seems he’s viewed as more of an organizational arm than a true prospect. Elliott likely will begin the 2022 season with Charlotte; of course, a return to Birmingham isn’t totally out of the question.