Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
Pick #9, Slot Value: $3,080,000
“The competitor in me makes it hard for me to see, maybe, a bunch of guys get picked ahead of me — guys that I know aren’t better than me, some guys out of high school that don’t really understand the game of baseball yet. It’s going to be tough if I fall a little further. But everything happens for a reason, and whatever team takes the so-called risk and drafts me is going to get the best player in the draft.”
That’s Jeff Hoffman, the player who the Jays selected with the ninth overall pick in the draft on Thursday night, speaking to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The player who lost millions of dollars due to an ill-timed injury and landed at the feet of the Toronto Blue Jays, who at least managed not to fumble the opportunity away.
There is risk that comes with this opportunity, of course. There always is when it comes to the draft, but it’s especially true of Hoffman, who recently underwent Tommy John surgery. On the MLB Network broadcast of the draft, Peter Gammons reported that many teams had looked at his medicals and felt that the operation had gone cleanly, but while the recovery rates for the surgery have improved over the years, it’s hardly foolproof. But knowing that, because of a second high pick, they wouldn’t be blowing their entire first round if Hoffman is never the same again, the Jays smartly took the guy whose pre-injury ESPN.com scouting report said “could challenge” for being the first pitcher off the board.
As in, a top four, or three, or two, or maybe even top-of-the-draft talent.
Obviously such designations are fluid — obviously — but if you’re a Jays fan this is something you can’t not be very, very happy about. That’s easy for us to say, of course. I mean, we don’t know what the hell goes on behind the scenes and with the medicals, and why teams appear to make more conservative picks than not. We have no idea what actually constitutes a reasonable risk in the draft. We have a bunch of media proxies who try to help guide us through these things as best they can, working as they do slightly deeper within the murk of the various clubs’ draft schemes. But… welll… think of the Jays’ next pick: Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost. There were all kinds of intriguing names still on the board at the time he was selected, and which makes you wonder about the degree to which they’ve been conservative. It’s hard to gauge, and really, the whole draft is about the balancing act between risk and reward, between floor and ceiling, between safe reliability and unhinged potential. To us, who know so little of the particulars, it’s all risk — or, at least, that’s probably how we ought to look at it, rather than get hung up on certain guys — and that’s why Anthopoulos just flopping his balls on the table and taking the injured guy with the pedigree way above where he’s been selected seems totally fine.
Especially you have things being said about him that simply do not get said about ninth overall picks. “If Hoffman were healthy,” writes Chris Crawford, ESPN live draft blog, “he would have been a lock for the top four, as some compared him to a poor man’s Adam Wainwright.”
“I’ve heard a lot of people talking about Verlander or Strasburg when they see him in live action,” Hoffman’s Cape Cod league coach, Dan Roszel, who mentored Chris Sale at Florida Gulf Coast, told the Times. “Watching Jeff and the way he’s handled everything, it makes me believe he can be a big league No. 1.”
And according to a tweet from Ben Nicholson-Smith, Jays scouting director Brian Parker adds that, “We thought for most of the spring we wouldn’t even get a chance to take [him].”
He’s 6’4, he’s touched 98, and that pre-injury report from ESPN gave him a future 70 fastball, 70 curveball, 60 feel for pitching, and a plus changeup as well. And if you want to give him extra points for confidence, he’ll take those too.
“In the short term, my goal was to be the No. 1 overall pick, because I feel I’m the best player in the draft,” Hoffman told Kepner. “That’s kind of changed a little bit, but my long-term goal of making an impact on a big league team within two years — that’s not changed at all.”
Oh yes, two years. That feels weird, considering he’s a Jays first rounder, but he somehow actually isn’t a high-schooler! Neither is Pentecost!
Hoffman is, in fact, just six months younger than Aaron Sanchez, who was taken four drafts ago. So there’s that. It’ll still be a while before he can make any sort of impact, but there’s a lot to like about this. And! Because he’s injured now, and will only barely have himself back on a mound again next year in time to show that there are no ill-effects of the surgery, and will be a college senior then — meaning he wouldn’t have a lot of negotiating leverage anyway — it’s hard to see this one getting away from the Jays for any sort of financial reason. Hoffman will get paid, but he just doesn’t have the incentive to not sign something if the Jays are being remotely fair. In fact the Jays, the thinking goes, should be able to get him at some measure under slot, which would allow them to save a bit of money to load up on some talent later in the draft as well.
Yep… not a whole lot to dislike about this.
Image via Reflector.com.