The Jays Journal staff returns with our yearly Top 30 prospect rankings. The #24 spot goes to a starting pitcher, Thomas Hatch.
2019 Organization Level: AA ETA: 2021
Hatch was drafted from Oklahoma State by the Chicago Cubs in the 3rd round of the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft. He missed the 2015 college season due to an elbow injury that was treated non-surgically. Hatch’s professional debut occurred in 2017 with Chicago’s Class A-Advanced affiliate. He moved up to AA in 2018 and remained there for the 2019 season. Table 1 contains key data from Hatch’s minor league career.
If we look at 2019, his return-season to AA, Hatch’s ranking among 41 AA-pitchers (minimum 80 innings pitched) in terms of K%-BB%, ERA, and FIP was 12th, 31st, and 32nd, respectively. That is not particularly impressive. However, The Athletic’s John Lott recently featured Hatch in an article and reported the following:
"Hatch was not exactly popping eyeballs at the trade deadline … But the Jays saw potential. The spin rate on Hatch’s fastball is unusually high, which means it gets on hitters with uncomfortable quickness. … He repeats his delivery well. And Jays’ scouts say he understands the mental side of pitching."
Notably, the Blue Jays encouraged Hatch to throw his change-up more than he had in the past. Hatch told Lott:
"… all of a sudden I’m comfortable with the change-up. It allowed me to pitch two different ways. I could pitch to swing-and-misses at times and I could pitch to weak contact at times. The key is not try to force one or the other. Just let it happen, because some days you have swing-and-miss stuff and some days you have aggressive teams that are going to put the ball in play."
Hatch pitched very well in his 35 1/3 innings with Toronto’s New Hampshire affiliate. He issued just two walks, posted a 25.0% K%-BB%, 2.80 ERA, and 3.43 FIP. Of the noted 41 pitchers, those K%-BB%, ERA, and FIP marks would have ranked #1, #12, and #15, respectively. Yes, fewer than 36 innings is a small sample size, but Hatch’s results with the increased change-up usage is encouraging. He will likely go to AAA in 2020.
Hatch was durable during the 2017-2019 period, as evidenced by averaging 134 innings per season. That 134 mark would have ranked 5th among 2019 AA-starters.
Hatch’s fastball was given a 55 grade, which is above-average, by both FanGraphs and MLB.com. The velocity is typically 93-94 mph and can touch 96 mph.
According to Baseball America’s 2019 report, Hatch rounds out his pitch arsenal with:
"…a low-80s slider that he can manipulate for called strikes or sharpen for chases. The pitch projects as a 55 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. He also throws an 80-82 mph change-up that is below-average now and projects to be a tick better with repetition."
As noted earlier, prospect Hatch began to throw more change-ups as a Blue Jay than he had as a Cub. FanGraphs most recent grade for Hatch’s change-up was 50.
Hatch’s command received a 55-grade from FanGraphs in their updated 2019 Prospects Report.
Both FanGraphs and MLB.com have assigned a value of 40 to Hatch. According to FanGraphs Future Value Chart, a 40-grade translates into a swing starter/spot starter/middle-reliever. If Hatch could hone his ability to effectively use the change-up, he may develop into a #5 starter/low, set-up reliever.
The last word
Hatch currently profiles as a future MLB pitcher, one who will be a swing/spot starter or middle-reliever. Pitching depth at the MLB level is valuable and Hatch appears presently to be a depth candidate.