Jeff Hoffman | RHP
Hoffman is a semi-local kid from Latham, a suburb just outside Albany. He was not drafted out of Shaker High School and followed through on his commitment to East Carolina, where he stepped right into the rotation and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 139/60 K/BB in 183.1 innings as a freshman and sophomore. This spring he has a 2.94 ERA with a 72/20 K/BB in 67.1 innings. Hoffman missed a start with shoulder inflammation a few weeks ago and earlier today Keith Law reported he needs Tommy John surgery and is done for the year.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 192 lbs., Hoffman has drawn (unfair) Justin Verlander comparisons because of his big mid-90s fastball, upper-70s hammer curveball, and fading mid-80s changeup. The curveball and changeup still need consistency, but, on his best days, Hoffman shows mid-90s gas and two put-away offspeed pitches. It’s ace stuff. No doubt about it. Despite very good athleticism, his delivery can fall out of whack and his command is spotty. That was especially true this spring, though that could be the result of the arm issues. Hoffman draws praise for having a bit of a mean streak on the mound and pitching aggressively.
MLB.com, Baseball America, and Law (subs. req’d) ranked Hoffman as the fourth, fifth, and sixth best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, respectively. He was very much in the conversation for the first overall pick before blowing out his elbow, and the injury figures to end his chances of going that high. There is too much quality pitching in this draft for a team drafting that high to take an injured player.
The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) and having a top talent like Hoffman fall into their laps would be a dream, injury or not. They never get a shot at players like this. Andrew Brackman and Lucas Giolito (16th overall in 2012) are recent examples of top five talents who fell due to elbow concerns, though both had Tommy John surgery after signing, not a month before the draft. The late Nick Adenhart blew out his elbow in his final high school start and fell from likely first rounder to the 14th round. The draft has changed quite a bit since then, however.
My guess is the Yankees would jump all over Hoffman if he fell to that 55th pick and worry about how to pay him later. I assume he would still look for top five money, which is $3.5M+. The Yankees are slotted for only $3.2M for the top ten rounds. There’s too much talent to pass up though, and failing to sign a second round pick wouldn’t sting as much as failing to sign a first rounder. I bet a team with extra picks (Blue Jays, Red Sox, Cardinals, Royals) rolls the dice before the Yankees even get a chance to take him.