Moving forward with our coverage of 2017 MLB rookies, we turn our attention to Minnesota Twins right-handed pitcher Justin Haley. Here’s a quick take.
Originally a sixth round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2012, the Fresno State University product had an impressive season in 2016, pitching well in both Double-A and Triple-A. The Red Sox, however, felt they did not have a spot for him on their 40-man roster and left him unprotected for the 2016 Rule 5 draft. He was selected 10th-overall by the Angels, then was traded to the Twins.
On Rule 5 day we filed the following report:
10. Angels: Justin Haley, RHP, Red Sox (traded to Twins): Haley was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the sixth round in 2012 from Fresno State University. He made 26 starts for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2016, posting a 3.01 ERA with a 126/45 K/BB and just 119 hits allowed. Age 25, the 6-5, 230 pound right-hander has a complete four-pitch arsenal with a 90 MPH fastball, slider, curve, and change-up. He’s not overpowering but is deceptive and throws strikes, giving him a chance as a fifth starter or long reliever.
Haley pitched 16.1 innings for the Twins in spring training, posting a mediocre 4.96 ERA with 19 hits allowed but with a sharp 13/4 K/BB. His stuff was as advertised: fastball in the 88-93 range, averaging right around 91, mixed with a curve, slider, and change-up. He doesn’t really have a plus pitch, the slider being the best of the lot, but he can locate to any part of the zone and mixes his pitches very well.
There was a large increase in his strikeout rate last year, his K/IP jumping from 6.9 K/9 in 2015 to 7.8 in 2016, apparently due to a sharper breaking ball than he previously showed. Physically Haley projects as a number five starter or long reliever, but occasionally someone like this can surprise us. I’d mark down Haley as a sleeper.