Blue Jays get timely dominant performance from Jeff Hoffman
With MLB scouts scouring the Blue Jays farm system ahead of the July 31st trade deadline, top prospect Jeff Hoffman gave one of the finest performances of his young career with AA New Hampshire. Over 5.1 shutout innings and 83 pitches, the highly sought-after commodity allowed just four hits while striking out five and walking two. His start was highlighted by striking out the side in the fifth.
This was Hoffman’s second AA start since being promoted by the Blue Jays. His first outing saw him last 6.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts. So far, Hoffman has risen to the challenge.
It hasn’t been all good news, though. A recent FanGraphs article from Kiley McDaniel detailed how Hoffman has made a noticeable change in his mechanics from an attack-first mentality to a “tall and fall” style, something Blue Jays fans may associate with the upright delivery of Aaron Sanchez. This change was likely made by the organization to protect Hoffman’s long-term health, but it left many questioning the impact on the right-hander’s potential ceiling.
On top of that, Keith Law recently left Hoffman off of his top-50 prospect list, though he did include both Daniel Norris and Anthony Alford. He noted that Hoffman’s fastball lacks movement and he has struggled to miss bats, but take this for what it’s worth. According to Law, Devon Travis was a “non-prospect”, and rushing to express doubts in high-ceiling prospects has almost become en vogue.
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The reported strength of Hoffman’s curveball tonight is especially encouraging, because that was the pitch I feared would initially suffer most from his change in mechanics. The Hoff can hit 98 MPH without much effort, but his violent curve profiles as the pitch that could truly set him apart at the MLB level.
With an established Major Leaguer, scouts in the stands is often a strange formality. For example, what is to be gained from live-scouting an arm like David Price, assuming he is at full health? With a commodity such as Hoffman, though, his health and mechanics do not have such a professional track record, which requires an up-to-date look in person. His most recent showing has a strong impact on his value in the eyes of other teams, making Thursday’s performance good news for the Blue Jays.
This is only in the situation that he is dangled as trade bait, which of course is a minority possibility. It’s important to recognize that life exists outside of the next eight days for the Blue Jays, and that Hoffman’s success could still have a Major League impact this season in Toronto.
The adjustments to Hoffman’s mechanics will still leave me uneasy until he strings together success with equally dynamic velocity, but this is a fantastic start. Whether it’s in another uniform, or in the more likely blue and white, Jeff Hoffman could be coming to a television near you sooner rather than later.
Next: Is Carlos Carrasco the perfect Blue Jays target?