Blue Jays Prospects: Jeff Hoffman scheduled to make professional debut

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Ever since the June 2014 draft, fans have been waiting for this moment. All the hype and the winter trade talk have only added to the excitement and anticipation. Finally, that wait appears to be over.

Jeff Hoffman, the top pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, will finally make his professional debut.

According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has confirmed to the media that Jeff Hoffman will officially report to Single-A Dunedin on Wednesday, May 20th. Hoffman will make one final rehab appearance in extended Spring Training on Thursday. If all goes well, he’ll be slated to pitch five innings in his professional debut.

For the Blue Jays, this is a huge development. Many considered Jeff Hoffman a top-5 pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, with the potential to be the top selection due to his advanced repertoire. However, a torn ulnar collateral ligament required Tommy John surgery and Hoffman slid to the ninth pick in the draft. The Blue Jays were all too eager to pluck him off the board at that point, willing to wait out the recovery time. Even with the inability to throw a single pitch in a game since being drafted, Hoffman still managed to place 4th on MLB.com’s list of top Blue Jays prospects, slotting in behind Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez, and Dalton Pompey to start the season.

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That wait is now over.

As noted by Davidi, the Blue Jays do not intend to use kid gloves on Hoffman once he is turned loose. The reports from his rehab work have been outstanding and Toronto feels that he can resume following the normal developmental path for prospects his age.  Given the note from Anthopoulos that his first start will constitute five innings of work, that means no worries about piggy-backing or early pitch limits. It also means there is potential for Hoffman to progress quickly through the Blue Jays system if his performance can match his potential.

Jeff Hoffman features above three pitches that can be considered above average to plus. He throws a solid fastball that sits in the mid-90’s, but can be dialed up to 97-98 with ease. He complements that well with an advanced curve, a pitch that MLB.com grade out at 65 on the 80 scale, and also features a change-up (55 on the 80) that could be a plus pitch if he develops more consistency with it.

In three years at East Carolina, Hoffman made 44 appearances (35 starts) and put up a record of 12-12 with a 3.26 ERA, a 2.87 BB/9 ratio, and a 7.57 K/9 mark. Hoffman also spent two years playing in the Cape Cod Summer League, making 10 appearances (9 starts), and put up a 2.98 ERA and a 10.98 K/9 ratio in 54.1 innings of work.

The potential is there for Jeff Hoffman to become a front of the rotation starter in the Major Leagues, and given his pedigree, he could potentially be with the Blue Jays at some point in 2016 if things shake out well. His potential was one of the reasons his name came up numerous times this winter in trade talks, most notably in the failed negotiations to land Baltimore Orioles general manager Dan Duquette to be the team’s next president.

The Blue Jays luckily passed on those deals, as dreams of a rotation built around Hoffman, Daniel Norris, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Drew Hutchison swirls in our heads.

Next: 4 pitchers the Blue Jays should target in trade talks

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