The MLB draft is underway tonight and with their first selection the Toronto Blue Jays selected RHP Jeff Hoffman with the #9 overall pick. It was not an unsurprising pick considering his talent level but it wasn’t a conventional selection either noting that Hoffman had just underwent Tommy John surgery in May/2014.
Here are a few notes and scouting reports from around the web.
East Carolina University right-hander Jeff Hoffman — a projected Top 5 pick in this year’s amateur draft — will miss the remainder of the season with an arm injury, reports Kendall Rogers of PerfectGame.org (via Twitter). ESPN’s Keith Law adds that the news is even worse than that, as Hoffman will require Tommy John surgery (Twitter link).
Scouting reports indicate that Hoffman is an excellent athlete with a fastball that reaches 97 mph and a plus curveball when he’s at his best. The 6’4″, 192-pound right-hander has posted a 2.94 ERA in 67 1/3 innings this season, striking out 72 batters against 20 walks and holding opponents to a .216 batting average.
Hoffman’s injury doesn’t necessarily preclude him from being selected in the first or second round of the draft. In 2012, right-hander Lucas Giolito was considered a potential No. 1 overall pick before he sprained his UCL, causing him to drop to the Nationals with the 16th pick. Last season, injury concerns over former projected Top 5 pick Sean Manaea caused him to fall to the Royals with the No. 34 pick. Clubs with extra draft picks and/or large draft pools could take a chance on Hoffman, conceding the year of development time and a slower start to his career in order to land a Top 5 talent far later than originally anticipated.
Perfect Game wrote:
East Carolina righthanded pitcher Jeff Hoffman, the No. 2 college prospect for the upcoming Major League Baseball draft, was working toward solidifying his case as a number one overall pick candidate this spring, and recently had been opening up a lot of eyes. Now, his 2014 season is over. As of Tuesday, Hoffman has been shut down for the remainder of the college baseball season, and has opted to have Tommy John surgery after consulting with Dr. James Andrews on Monday.
After being shut down a couple weeks ago for what was believed to be minor elbow swelling, it was discovered this week the ECU righty has a small tear in his right elbow and will indeed require surgery.
The surgery is scheduled for next week with Dr. Andrews. Early indications show that Hoffman is still potentially being considered by teams (who already have knowledge of the situation) in the first 5-10 picks. But, it’s also too early to speculate just how this may impact his stock.
The news is a major setback for the righty. We saw him at a recent performance at Rice University, where he touched 98 in the eighth inning, and showcased a plus curveball and changeup. Overall, Hoffman’s junior campaign ends with a 2.94 ERA in 67 1/3 innings, along with 72 strikeouts and 20 walks.
Baseball America wrote:
Scouting report: Scouts in the Northeast recall Hoffman as an athlete with some projection who was not ready for professional baseball, with a mid- to upper-80s fastball. He made good on his East Carolina commitment, and three years later, he could become the highest-drafted player in program history despite requiring Tommy John surgery in mid-May. Hoffman has a premium pitcher’s body at 6-foot-4, 192 pounds, with twitchy athletic ability, and his stuff has grown with his body. He broke out in the Cape Cod League, where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect last summer, and pitched well in front of a large scouting crowd at Virginia in February 2014 in his second start.
He was having an uneven season until mid-April, when he struck out a career-best 16 in eight one-hit innings against Middle Tennessee State. It was his last start prior to surgery, though. At his best, Hoffman’s athletic body, electric fastball and ability to maintain his velocity evoke Justin Verlander. His fastball sits from 92-96 mph, reaching 97-98, and his two-seamer features above-average sink, life and arm-side run. His changeup and curveball both flash plus, with the changeup being more consistent. He also throws a slider, which usually earns average grades. Hoffman appeared poised to be one of the first seven players drafted, but his late arm injury and surgery cloud his immediate draft future. His athleticism and elite velocity still portend a rosy future if he returns to health, and a team with extra picks will likely take a shot at him.
Prospect Insider wrote:
Ten hours of driving and a nasty case of facial sunburn were modest prices to pay for escaping the snow-covered everything of Eastern Pennsylvania. The baseball wasn’t bad either, as I journeyed to Charlottesville to see East Carolina ace Jeff Hoffman, take on a talent-laden lineup from the University of Virginia. The highly touted right-hander did not disappoint.
Hoffman’s physiological build is immediately striking. At a broad-shouldered 6-foot-4, Hoffman checks in at a projectable 19 2 pounds with a set of disproportionately long arms. It’s really a body you’d associate with an NBA combo guard –- Jamal Crawford came to mind in this case –- more so than a baseball player. This isn’t a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned, as Hoffman’s long-limbs give him room to add weight without mechanical disruption as he develops. Right now those mechanics are just fine; exceptionally loose and athletic, but the control and command are not as solid as Hoffman’s athleticism would indicate. Such is the plight of the pitcher with long levers; minor mechanical variances from pitch to pitch are magnified and the control and command suffer. For Hoffman, this manifested in difficulty pitching to his glove side.
There’s enough athleticism here that I’m optimistic about Hoffman developing average control and command, though it may take a little while before he claims acute control of his extremities. If and when that happens, look out, because the stuff is explosive. Hoffman’s fastball sat 94-96 mph and touched 98 early in his start Friday before dipping to the 92-95 range as his outing wore on. That sort of drop doesn’t really concern me in February. It’s a plus-plus fastball on velocity alone but it plays down a little bit because it lacks movement. I’d like to see more two-seamers. He certainly has the arm and finger length to put RPMs on the fastball, and RPMs mean movement.
Hoffman compliments the fastball with three secondary pitches, two of which project as major league weapons. Most frequently Hoffman showed an average changeup in the 86-90 mph range that featured good arm speed and flashed bat-missing, arm side movement. He used the change often, sometimes three pitches in a row, and showed a willingness to pitch backward with it. It showed true plus once or twice and projects there, comfortably, as he continues to learn how to spin it.
The other swing and miss offering on display Friday was what Hoffman calls a slider, a two-plane breaker in the 79-81 mph range that also flashed plus. Hoffman showed a penchant for backdooring this breaking ball for strikes and back-footing it for swings and misses against lefties. He’ll need to tighten it up but it’s another future plus pitch.
Hoffman also showed what was, for me, a throwaway curveball in the low 70s. It was more vertically oriented than the slider but was too loopy and blunt to do any damage at the upper pro levels.
The total package is very enticing. For me, Hoffman’s ceiling is that of a No. 2 big-league starter with three pitches that project to grade out in the 60-70 range to go along with 45-50 command and control, and a body that looks like it will handle a 200-inning workload. Barring injury or some other unforeseen malady, Jeff Hoffman won’t have to wait very long before he hears him name called in June.
Overall Future Projection: 65/70 (No. 2 starter)