Blue Jays Could Risk Future By Not Addressing Present

The Toronto Blue Jays biggest trade deadline addition this season was….platoon infielder Danny Valencia.  Yeah, awesome.

In a wild trade deadline that saw names like David Price, Jon Lester and John Lackey move the Blue Jays stood pat and made no major acquisitions.  A lot of the time the deadline is in fact the worst time to make a move as the bidding is intense and the asking prices start to rise.  It can be very detrimental to the future of your franchise if you make the wrong move(s).

However this year the Blue Jays might have slightly risked their future by not addressing the present day roster.  Hear me out.

RA Dickey, Mark Buerhle and JA Happ.  That is who the Jays will be counting upon to a) attempt to make the playoffs and b) attempt to win a playoff series with.  Marcus Stroman is the future of the rotation but he has six maybe seven starts total remaining in his season before the Blue Jays brass has to seriously consider shutting down their shiny new toy.

Marcus Stroman’s highest inning count as a professional came last year when he threw 124 total innings.  He has over 109 innings thus far in 2014.  If the Blue Jays are willing to ratchet up his innings by 20% year-over-year Stroman would be able to throw around 148 innings this season.  That leaves 39 innings for the remainder of this season or around 6-7 starts.  That barely gets him to September.

Drew Hutchison is coming off Tommy John surgery and has shown enough promise this season that risking his future by pushing the innings down the stretch is just not an option in my opinion.  He has shown both flashes of brilliance and the inconsistencies of youth.

Drew Hutchison’s highest inning count as a professional came in 2011 when he threw 149 total innings.  He has over 119 innings thus far in 2014.  Considering he barely pitched last season and is coming off surgery I can’t see the Blue Jays going much over 150 total innings.  That leaves about 31 innings or about 5-6 starts.

If you are satisfied with JA Happ as a permanent member of the starting staff the Blue Jays will be without two of their best arms when the games will presumably mean the most, and that’s if the team is smart in terms of not abusing their top two young arms.

Perhaps Brandon Morrow has been secretly held back for this very reason and will be the saviour of the season but if I’m Alex Anthopoulos I’d be very concerned about my job security at seasons end.  This was not the year to come away empty handed in terms of a starting pitcher (or two) who can be relied upon to pitch meaningful innings in September (and beyond).

I hate to have such a negative, knee-jerk reaction but the fact of the matter is the Blue Jays have essentially decided to give this season away.  They didn’t add to a weakened bullpen, they didn’t add a desperately needed veteran pitcher and they didn’t help a quickly deteriorating public relations problem.

If the richest owner in the game of baseball couldn’t fork out another $10-12 million (prorated) to help the current roster while at the same time eliminating the temptation to push our top two arms to the breaking point shame on them.   This article doesn’t even begin to touch on what message this is sending your star players.  Specifically Jose Bautista who was none to happy with the recent inactivity at the deadline.

Did Melky Cabrera Take Subtle Swipe at Teammate RA Dickey Via Twitter?

This was probably an innocent mistake but one Melky Cabrera favorite the following Tweet on Thursday, July 3, 2014:

This prompted a quick reply from an astute Blue Jays fan:

Read what you will into this.*

Even after his last start which was a complete game his stats for 2014 are less than stellar.  Through 112 IPs Dickey has a 4.10 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 4.68 FIP and 1.29 HR/9.  In 30.2 June IPs Dickey had an almost unfathomable 2.93 HR/9 as 28.6 of his fly balls left the yard.  There is a lot of talk on Twitter (always a reliable source of fandom) that Dickey needs to be taken out of the rotation.

Without a proper replacement there is absolutely no sense in taking out one of the few starting pitchers who can actually pitch 200+ innings.  I am worried that with a division on the line and an impatient fan base to please the Blue Jays are going to really push the envelope with our tender young arms Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison.  Stroman has barely reached the 100 inning mark as a professional and Hutchison is still fairly fresh of his Tommy John surgery and I am not sure how far he can be pushed.

RA Dickey is definitely here to stay.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing if he can live up to his ZIPS (rest of season) projections of 90 inning, 4.21 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.  Perhaps his last start will jump-start him into the second half of the season.  The Blue Jays are certainly counting on him.

*Today’s hack job brought to you by Jerry Springer.

Leaked MLB Trade Chat: Blue Jays Were Willing to Move Marcus Stroman For Bud Norris?

Have you ever wondered how active today’s general managers are in terms of discussing potential trades?  Have you wanted to know exactly how they communicate with one another and what they are discussing?  Well thanks to a Julian Assange like leak in the Astro’s front office you can now get a pretty solid look.

Dave Cameron posted this story on Fangraphs today and it is well worth a look for yourself if curious.  The Toronto Blue Jays were front and centre in discussions/negotiations and it appears the reputation of Alex Anthopoulos frequently ‘checking’ in on players and gauging value might be true.

Here are all of the details involving the Toronto Blue Jays.

1) Blue Jays were willing to part with at least Marcus Stroman for Bud Norris.

7/19/2013 “AA texted JL and asked what it would take for Norris.  AA said Aaron Sanchez is off the table but might be willing to talk about anyone else.”

7/29/2013 “AA texted JL and asked what a package around Stroman might look like.  JL said Stroman + Gose would be in consideration.”

Well consider this a bullet dodged.  The Astros were apparently asking for the moon for league average starting pitcher Bud Norris last season.  They asked the Orioles for Dylan Bundy and the Red Sox for Xander Bogaerts before finally settling on the much less exciting package of L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader from the Baltimore Orioles.

Bud Norris was awful for the Orioles last season in only 50.2 IPs (4.80 ERA, 1.68 WHIP) and though he has actually been pretty serviceable for them this year (87 IPs, 3.62 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 4.49 FIP) he is certainly not amazing.

If the Blue Jays valued any type of veteran starting pitcher that highly it seems quite likely they would be willing to give up nearly anything for Jeff Samardzija or David Price.  Hopefully they don’t jettison Marcus Stroman to the Chicago Cubs for Jason Hammel though I think it’s safe to assume Stroman’s value is a lot higher now than it was last summer.

I wonder if the Blue Jays brain trust had questions about Marcus Stroman’s attitude or worries about his potential as a starting pitcher around this time last year?   It seems the Jays were more than willing to add his name to trade discussions.

2) Blue Jays asked about the price of catcher Jason Castro – desperately wanting to upgrade over JP Arencibia in the off-season.

10/18/2013 “TOR reached out on Jason Castro.  They said their #1 priority this offseason is to upgrade over Arencibia.  They want to get a sense for what the price would be on Castro.”

Alex Anthopoulos is rumored to be extremely thorough and is an avid window shopper, asking about nearly any player in the league to gauge value and price.  No details were discussed surrounding price but you can believe Marcus Stroman + + + would have been required.  This type of inquiry is still fairly easy to wrap your head around JP Arencibia had one of the worst seasons in baseball and Jason Castro would have been a huge upgrade.

3) Blue Jays still viewed Brett Lawrie as a cornerstone heading into the 2014 season.

11/13/2013 “AA said Lawrie is untouchable.  Sounded like they might consider a smaller deal for Stroman but later in off-season.”

Even after a bit of a rough season (compared to expectations) the Blue Jays front office were not panicking.  They still feel Brett Lawrie is a potential leader of this ball club.  Prior to his injury I have been quite satisfied with the player he has become.  Stellar defense at two infield positions along with solid power shown at the plate make him fairly indispensable at this stage.  In 69 games he has hit 12 HRs to go with a respectable .419 SLG% and has amassed a solid 1.5 fWAR.

It goes without saying that I am certain the Blue Jays (and all other teams included in this report) are likely furious this type of data was leaked.  While it was anonymously uploaded by a rogue employee this type of thing shouldn’t happen.  You can also bet that teams will be looking into their own information and data security protocols quite closely as we speak.

The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI. Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible. This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information. While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

It certainly made for some interesting reading and was exciting enough to force this lazy blogger to actually write a new piece!

Break From Baseball: Happy Father’s Day!

Do Blue Jays Have What it Takes to Keep Winning?

The Toronto Blue Jays just completed a very impressive three game sweep of the AL Central division leading Detroit Tigers with a 7-3 victory Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.  The Jays flexed their offensive muscles and really roughed up the suddenly terrible Justin Verlander – 7 innings, 5 earned, 4 walks and 4 strikeouts.

The Jays walked into Detroit and pretty much laid the smack down on a perennial powerhouse.  They earned the sweep with three straight victories against Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander.  The Jays got solid starting pitching, stellar bullpen work and their deep offensive attack continued its league leading performance.

With the sweep on the road in Detroit (did I mention they swept Detroit in Detroit?) and last night’s series opening victory over the St. Louis Cardinals the Blue Jays now sport a 38-24 record and lead the AL East by six full games.  The baseball season is brutally long and it is wise not to get too high or too low with any one series victory, or loss.

I was pretty excited when we took the first game and I texted my buddy who responded the same way he has all season “Good win.  Now let’s keep it up”.  In other words, relax, there is a long way to go.  Is the Blue Jays success sustainable with the currently assembled roster?

Let’s have a look at the offense and pitching staff to see if there are any major red flags in terms of impending regression.

OFFENSE:

The Blue Jays lineup has been an absolute beast to opposing pitchers all season.  They are tearing the cover off the ball and wearing out opponents pitching staffs.  When I looked at the Blue Jays in the preseason I thought the team had serious downside risk and also to the upside.  I think that most pundits while mostly concerned with starting pitching actually underrated the lineup a tad.

The Blue Jays have depth up and down the lineup and at first glance nothing really stands out and screams regression.  Let’s take a look at the starting lineup:

Catcher – Believe it or not but Erik Kratz leads the Blue Jays in WAR (0.2 fWAR) despite playing only about half the games of Dioner Navarro (0.0 fWAR).  The Blue Jays are not getting much production out of the catching position so the threat of regression at this time is low.

First base – Edwin Encarnacion (2.4 fWAR) and Adam Lind (1.1 fWAR) have both hit very well thus far.  Edwin Encarnacion responded to a sub-par April with a monstrous May but his overall stat line (273/361/606) is right around his career levels.  Adam Lind is only playing against righties for the most part (383/458/628) and has been aided slightly by an elevated BABIP so he could see a dip in overall production.

Second base – Brett Lawrie and Steve Tolleson have provided solid value.  Lawrie will shift to third base against righties and has given team solid pop and great defense.  Tolleson has hit lefties well in the past and can play an adequate second base.

Third base – Juan Francisco has actually been worth more (1.4 fWAR – 39 games) than Brett Lawrie (1.3 fWAR – 55 games) thanks to a stellar offensive start.  Francisco has slashed 262/343/579 and has been ever deadlier against right handed pitchers (298/381/654).  I wouldn’t expect Francisco to continue at such a torrid pace the rest of the season but I don’t think the power will suddenly disappear.

Short stop – Jose Reyes has actually underperformed his preseason ZIPS projections and has only slashed 259/330/400 thus far.  ZIPS projects 283/338/424 for the rest of the season and Blue Jays fans would be happy with that type of production.

Outfield – Jose Bautista has been his usual awesome self but probably even awesome-er to start this season.  He is currently slashing 318/444/565 and has absolutely destroyed lefties (434/531/849) so any regression there could be slightly offset against right handers.  ZIPS projects a solid 281/400/536 the rest of the way.

Melky Cabrera has bounced back very nicely and has added a new element of depth to the Blue Jays lineup.  He welcome prized rookie Mashiro Tanaka with a leadoff homerun early in April and has continued hitting all season.  He has slashed 305/345/490 and ZIPS projects 294/334/448 the rest of the way.

Anthony Gose has done a great job filling in for Colby Rasmus.  He has shown great speed, defense and an improved patience.  Kevin Pillar has done a great job in late game pinch running and defensive replacement situations.

Colby Rasmus has begun a rehab assignment and could return in the next few weeks from his hamstring injury.

PITCHING:

This is where things get a little dicier.  Let’s have a look at our rotation pitcher-by-pitcher.

RA Dickey – He has been about as expected – mid 4.00 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.  He has had his share of troubles when he hits the sixth inning but with a team with so many question marks in the back end of the rotation he will be a key component of any division title run.  Given the strength of the lineup the Blue Jays do not require Roy Halladay like precision on the mound.

ZIPS projects 122 IPs, 4.25 ERA, 7.47 K/9, 1.28 WHIP.

Mark Buerhle – I really expected to see career numbers across the board but I was actually relieved when I saw that his K/9, K/BB, WHIP and batting average against are not really that far from his career averages.  Yes his 2.10 ERA has been heavily aided by an 80% strand rate and 2.4 HR/FB% and it would be foolish to not expect regression.  However he will still eat innings and give our stellar lineup a chance to win ballgames.

ZIPS projects 109 IPs, 4.07 ERA, 5.71 K/9, 1.31 WHIP.

Drew Hutchison – In the preseason quiz I picked Hutch to ‘out-WAR’ Ervin Santana (for those curious Hutch leads 1.2 to 1.0).  He has been very consistent this season and looks like he could join the conversation of one of the division’s better young pitchers.

This is where I have serious concerns – innings pitched.  One year removed from Tommy John surgery will he have the stamina and team blessing to pitch the required 175-200 innings to actually finish the season?  The most innings he has thrown in his professional career was in 2011 when he tossed 149.1 IPs.

In 2012, one year after his surgery the Washington Nationals (also in pennant chase) limited their ace Stephen Strasburg to 159 innings and shut him down.  Will the Blue Jays risk injury to Hutch?  What if they actually make the playoffs?  It is hard to envision Hutchison finishing the year without being shut down.

JA Happ – I almost hate to mention him fearing I will jinx him but Happ has been pretty solid.  His value gets a slight bump as he is really a guy the Blue Jays will have no problem using and abusing if need be.  They have replacements in the system and free agency can always fill his spot for the next few years but milking his value this year will be crucial down the stretch.

Marcus Stroman – Watching him start got me pretty excited about his potential.  He has a very live arm, athletic build and delivery and I think size concerns are overblown.  But like Hutchison how many innings will the Blue Jays allow him to make in what is his first major league season?  He threw a total of 111.2 IPs in the minor leagues last season.

I didn’t include the ZIPS projections for 3 out 5 of the Jays rotation because the projections are either awful or don’t include much in the way of expected innings.  Which is sort of the point.  Alex Anthopoulos is no fool.  He knows the Toronto Blue Jays will require at least one or two veteran starting pitchers to complete this roster.  There are too many question marks surrounding age, experience and past performance.  The baseball world will be watching and Blue Jays fans will be hoping.

Toronto Blue Jays Select C Max Pentecost With #11 Pick in MLB Draft

The Toronto Blue Jays made their second selection in the first round shortly after making the #9 overall pick as the team owned the #11 selection also.  Normally a team that takes high school talent with upside the Jays used both of their early picks on premium college athletes and chose C Max Pentecost with the #11 selection in the first round.

Here are a few notes and scouting reports from around the web:

Minor League Ball:

Standing 6’2″, 191 LBS, Pentecost looks smaller than a typical stocky catcher and more in the atheltic mold of a Jason Kendall or Buster Posey. He is an adequate receiver behind the plate but won’t be a gold glove receiver. He’s the most likely collegiate catcher available this year that will play that position at the big league level. In other words, he should stick there, while others like Kyle Schwarber and Grayson Greiner are less likely to stick. His pop time is consistently MLB average or better and he is very agile and athletic. He has had Tommy John surgery already. Unlike most catchers, he is a solid runner. He is average to a tick above and should be able to maintain that for a while.

At the plate is where Pentecost shines. He is a professional hitter. He works counts well and makes the most of every pitch. He possesses a smooth, easy swing allowing him to rope line drives from line to line. He doesn’t have a ton of over the fence power but it will be average or a tick below as he matures. His line drive orientation, fast hands and good barrel awareness should allow him to be a high average hitter and situational hitter to help the team in ways the box score doesn’t show.

Players that do well in Cape Cod the summer before they are drafted usually go very high because the eyes of decision makers get to see them and remember what they saw on draft day. This will be the case for Pentecost who had a great Cape season. His bat is very good, his power will play as will his defense. His speed is more than you’d expect from a backstop so the tools, while not loud, are quite impressive. I can’t see a player with his set of skills lasting past the teens and could even go in the top 10 come draft day.

Baseball America:

Pick analysis: The Blue Jays, who typically target high school players, went with college players at the top of the draft with their first two picks. But Hoffman and Pentecost are premium athletes for their positions. Pentecost was rumored to be in play much higher in the draft and his athleticism and hitting ability give him a high baseline for performance at the next level.

Scouting report: The Rangers drafted Pentecost as a seventh-rounder in 2011 but couldn’t sign him away from Kennesaw State, due in part to a broken bone in his elbow joint that hampered him in high school. Pentecost’s athleticism stood out then and still does after catching for most of the last three seasons. Scouts consider him an above-average runner period, fairly exceptional for a catcher, and his 6-foot-1, 190-pound body could use more strength to hold up under the rigors of catching 100-plus games. The body and his speed earn him Jason Kendall comparisons. He’s an average receiver with average arm strength with inconsistent throwing mechanics and profiles as an offensive catcher. After two solid seasons as an everyday player, Pentecost took things up a notch last summer, earning Cape Cod League MVP honors by hitting .346/.424/.538. In 2014, he ranked among the national top 10 in batting and hits as the calendar turned to May, and scouts like his line-drive swing, which has improved over the course of his college career. Most scouts see him as a below-average power producer but some see enough feel for hitting for Pentecost to reach 12-15 homers eventually.

My MLB Draft:

Hit/On-base – Pentecost has a smooth, line-drive swing and has shown both a good idea of the strike zone and a willingness to go the other way with the pitch.

Power – Pentecost transfer’s his weight well and has good bat speed and strength, but his swing is more geared towards contact than big power totals. I could see a 15-18 homer type player but I wouldn’t expect a lot more.

Speed – Pentecost is a very good athlete for the position and will not be a liability on the bases like many backstops are.

Glove– Pentecost has really improved as a receiver since he was a 7th round pick by the Rangers three years ago, and looks like he’ll be able to stick behind the plate. He blocks pitches well and has above-average arm strength and a quick release. He’s not Yadier Molina, but he’s closer to that than he is Jesus Montero.

Toronto Blue Jays Select RHP Jeff Hoffman With #9 Pick in MLB Draft

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.

MLBTR:

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.

Present/Future Grades
Fastball: 65/70
Change: 50/65
Slider: 50/65
Curveball: 35/40
Control: 40/45
Command: 35/45
Overall Future Projection: 65/70 (No. 2 starter)


AL Eastbound On Twitter!

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