Blue Jays prospect Adam Kloffenstein has re-entered the depth conversation

Mar 1, 2021; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays Adam Kloffenstein #84 poses during media day at TD
Mar 1, 2021; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays Adam Kloffenstein #84 poses during media day at TD / USA TODAY NETWORK

As the calendar turned on a dismal May, where the team posted an 11-17 win/loss record, things have started to look up for the Toronto Blue Jays. They’d gone 7-2 after a closed door, players-only meeting after a 6-3 loss in Tampa Bay on May 25th, and returned home this week to face the Houston Astros coming off a weekend sweep of the New York Mets.

However, a fresh new start in June was not to be for struggling starter Alek Manoah, who went 0-5 in May with a 6.15 ERA and 21 walks against 20 strikeouts in only 26.1 innings. The 2022 Cy Young finalist couldn’t even make it out of the first inning at home on Monday night against Houston, allowing seven hits and a walk, which led to six earned runs before he got the hook from John Schneider after only one out.

His season ERA has now ballooned to 6.36, which would be fifth worst in MLB if he was a qualified starter; unfortunately he’s only pitched 58 innings this season, which is less than the 61 games the Jays have played, meaning he’s not even a qualified starter.

So with serious MLB-ready pitching depth concerns, where can the Blue Jays front office turn if they need to send Manoah back to minor leagues to work on his craft and overcome his demons? Simply put, there aren’t many good options in terms of potential rotation replacements on the 26-man roster. 40-man roster pitchers include Thomas Hatch, Zach Thompson and Yosver Zulueta. Hyun Jin Ryu has yet to start the 30-day clock on his rehab assignment, so unfortunately isn’t an immediate solution.

King Kloff Re-Enters The Conversation

There may be an emerging solution at Double-A New Hampshire, and it’s not top prospect Ricky Tiedemann who remains sideline with left biceps inflammation. Instead, 2018 3rd round draft pick Adam Kloffenstein is flashing some of the form that made him a top ten Blue Jays prospect after a very strong 2019 season with the Blue Jays A-ball affiliate in Vancouver, where he overlapped with Manoah. He was part of “the waves of very, very talented pitchers coming through our system” that General Manager Ross Atkins referred to after trading starter Marcus Stroman in 2019.

After being promoted to Double-A New Hampshire last year, the 6-foot-5 righty has found his groove again this season, with a 4-2 record to go with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts covering 52.0 innings pitched. Impressively, Kloffenstein has now pitched at least five innings in eight consecutive starts and was tied for first in the Eastern League in strikeouts with 64 after another 5 Ks Sunday, against only 21 walks and a .231 opponents’ batting average.

Remember Kloffenstein went at No. 88 overall, 76 picks after his high school teammate, Jordan Groshans. The high schooler then made 15 starts over his first two professional seasons in rookie ball with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays and what was then s short season for Vancouver, pitching to a 2.17 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 66.1 innings by the end of 2019. Then the wheels fell off, and he struggled mightily in 2021 and 2022 after no minor league baseball in 2020.

After ranking as high as the Blue Jays 5th best prospect ahead of 2020, Kloffenstein has since tumbled out of the rankings and no longer even features in the Blue Jays top 30. But likely that’s about to change in the midseason prospect rankings, as he’s only 22-years old and won’t turn 23 until August 25th. Here’s a great chat with him from his days in Vancouver if you want more.

For a guy who’s Twitter handle is @KingKloff, the origin story of his nickname might also be of interest to Jays fans. According to Adam here,

“The King Kloff came about was when I was actually a sophomore in high school. I played basketball throughout my whole life, through high school too. I was in the locker room one day and… [somebody] just kind of out of the blue called me ‘King Kloff’. Maybe it was a younger guy said something about me being a king or something like that which was totally outrageous especially when I was like 14 or 15. But then that same day, this is going to sound weird but literally that same day in my basketball locker at the top of my locker was a King of Spades playing card sitting in my locker and it was the only card.”

Of course the Blue Jays would have to purchase his contract and add Kloffenstein to the 40-man roster before calling him up, but there are pitchers who could be DFA’d to make room, including Zach Thompson and Trent Thornton. Is it time to think differently here Jays fans?