Projected top five draft selection Jeff Hoffman, a right-hander out of East Carolina University, is done for the year, as the university announcing that he will undergo season-ending surgery, and coach Billy Godwin confirming that it will be a Tommy John procedure, per Josh Graham of Scout.com.
Hoffman missed some time earlier this year due to shoulder soreness, so while this is a devastating blow, that the injury is to his elbow rather than his shoulder is something of a silver lining. While he was previously seen as a top-five talent in the draft, it is unknown how the injury will affect his overall draft stock.
Video courtesy of Kendall Rogers and Perfect Game
We need only look back to 2012, when the Nationals selected right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito, who had missed most of the season with an injury, at 16th overall. It's a slightly different situation for Hoffman, as Giolito was able to throw off flat ground for teams prior to the draft and only required Tommy John surgery after blowing out the elbow after signing as a pro. Hoffman won't have that luxury, nor will teams have the luxury of choosing who they want to do the surgery and guide him through the first steps of the rehabilitation process.
Complicating matters is the (relatively) new draft system that assigns teams draft allotments based on the placement and quantity of draft picks. In this set up a certain dollar figure is assigned to each pick throughout the first 10 rounds. If a team wants to sign a player for an amount above that "slot value," it has to come out of the amount assigned to another pick. Penalties are rather severe for exceeding the overall bonus pool:
|% Over Budget||Penalties Leveled|
|Up to 5%||75% tax on overage|
|Up to 10%|
|Up to 15%|
With the success rate of pitchers returning from Tommy John, Hoffman might not be so keen to reduce his asking price, making this a complicated decision for any team that might select him. First, they have to have enough money elsewhere in their budget that they're willing to sacrifice to sign Hoffman. Then they have to be willing to pay full price (or close to it) for what is currently damaged goods. Finally, they have to be sure they can sign him because, under the current system, if a team does not sign a player they not only don't get that player, but they lose the dollar amount associated with that pick from their draft pool, as opposed to being able to redirect it somewhere else.
Hoffman made 10 starts this season, producing a 2.94 ERA and 72 strikeouts against 20 walks in 67⅓ innings. He attacks hitters with three pitches that flash plus, including a big fastball that sits 94-96 MPH and can reach 98. His change up can be a bit firm at times, but features nice fade when it's on. He'll manipulate the breaking ball two give hitters two looks, one a slider that features two-plane movement that comes in the high 70s/low 80s and the other, a more vertical pitch that he throws in the mid 70s. The former is a swing-and-miss offering that he knows how to throw for strikes and backdoor for swings and misses while the latter is more of a show me pitch.
It's a package that is sure to entice teams, even with the injury.