The Colorado Rockies have promoted right-hander Jeff Hoffman to the major league roster and he will make his debut against the Chicago Cubs this evening. Here's my take on what to expect.
First, how things looked pre-season from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 185 DOB: January 8, 1993
2015: Grade B
As you no doubt know, Hoffman was drafted in the first round by the Blue Jays in 2014 despite needing Tommy John surgery. He came back quickly, pitched well, then was traded to the Rockies in the Troy Tulowitzki blockbuster deal. The surgery hasn’t hurt his arm strength at all: he immediately regained his 93-96 MPH fastball with peaks at 98-99. Scouts rate his curveball as high as 70 on the 20-80 scale. The change-up isn’t as good as the fastball and curve but it is usable and should improve with more innings. Hoffman’s strikeout rate is not as high as you’d expect given his stuff and he’s probably a little less refined than the surface numbers and his reputation imply. Another year in the high minors to polish the change-up and build his stamina back up seems wise. Watch for any spike in K/IP, which would presage an accelerated timetable. Grade B+.
Hoffman made 24 starts for the Albuquerque Isotopes in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League this year, posting a 4.02 ERA with a 124/44 K/BB in 119 innings with 117 hits allowed. That's a fine season especially by PCL standards and the consensus from league observers is that he's ready for a major league trial. Scouting reports haven't changed much: he's in the mid-90s with peaks at 98, he has an excellent curveball, and has made slow but steady progress with his change-up. Eric Longenhagen at Fangraphs posted a detailed scouting report yesterday and his observations tally well with what other PCL sources have said.
Hoffman's strikeout rate is up this year, which lends credence to the report of improved secondary pitches and more polish. The main caution flag for Hoffman is, of course, Coors Field. On his own merits he projects as a number two starter if everything maxes out, but the environment will be difficult and cuts into his margin for error. Adjust your fantasy expectations accordingly, but in pure baseball terms he's one of the top young talents in the game. Grade-wise he is right on the edge between a B+ and A- for me.