In the 2014 draft, the Blue Jays were fortunate to have Jeff Hoffman fall to the 9th pick. But, the reason behind their good fortune is also the same reason was passed up 8 other times. His Tommy John surgery not only left a scar on his elbow, but it also painted a giant question mark there. Both marks were ones that the Blue Jays were willing to take a risk on. And so, all of Blue Jays land has been on the edge of their seats waiting and watching the progress of Hoffman to see if he’d live up to the billing of ‘best pitcher in his draft group’.
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The mystique has grown. Before he even threw a pitch in the Blue Jays system, he was the target of trade speculation as his name was included in the asking price for a new club president. The Blue Jays refused. Now that the big league club needs starting pitching, his name is being thrown around as the going rate (at least) to acquire a quality starting pitcher. This always brings up the question: Do you sacrifice what could be for what is? Because with Jeff Hoffman, what could be is extremely tantalizing. According to Kylie McDaniel at Fangraphs.com, we should be thinking “peak Adam Wainwright or Justin Verlander“! Hello! IF that is the potential Jeff Hoffman brings, you can see why some are saying he’s untouchable.
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But, that is the issue. No one can predict the future. So, he’s a strong maybe at this point. Until he shows that he can live up to the above billing.
And this is why Jeff Hoffman’s AA debut is so interesting. The 22 year old started the year in Dunedin and didn’t exactly dominate everyone. He went 3-3, 3.21 with 38 56 K/ 15 BB in 56 innings. He was then promoted to New Hampshire. This caused some to wonder if he was being promoted because he’d earned the promotion a la Daniel Norris last season, or if he were being showcased for a potential deal.
Regardless, he made his AA debut on Saturday night and was impressive! He went a career high 6.1 innings, which is a good sign in and of itself. Over those 6 innings, he gave up 5 hits, 2 earned runs and no walks. He struck out 3. He took a no decision in a game where his team would end up winning (5-4) in the 11th inning. Hoffman threw 55 of 82 pitches for strikes and of his 23 batters faced, 5 grounded out, while 8 flew out.
It would appear that the promotion did not phase the youngster at all. He got off to a rocky start in the first after giving up a double and a single, which allowed one run to score. But, he didn’t give up another run until the 6th inning. He scattered a few hits here and there in between, but it was largely a great outing for Hoffman.
So, what happens now? Will the Blue Jays allow him a couple more starts in AA? Will they bring him up to AAA in short order? Do they have an eye to a September call up? Was that the plan all along? Or, are we going to have to face an ugly truth; that Jeff Hoffman might be trade bait?
Of all the names being thrown around as potential pieces to bring in proven talent to help with a playoff run, Jeff Hoffman might be the most expensive piece. He might be the one that hurts the most for the next few years if he’s used in a trade. Or, in a couple years, he might be the one that we look to the fancy boxes in Rogers Centre, close our eyes and say, “Thank you Alex Anthopoulos. Thank you for Jeff Hoffman!”