Las Vegas, Nevada —— Over the weekend in Las Vegas, Baseball Census observed Colorado Rockies top right-handed pitching prospect Jeff Hoffman in a start for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s Albuquerque Isotopes in a road game against the Las Vegas 51s.
In that April 28 start, Hoffman went seven full innings, allowing no runs and just one hit with three walks against eight strikeouts. He threw 90 pitches (55 strikes) and earned his first win of the season for the ‘Topes on the road at Las Vegas’ Cashman Field.
Jeff Hoffman scouting report notes
Jeff Hoffman will always be measured as the guy the Colorado Rockies wanted in their Troy Tulowitzki trade, and so big expectations are likely to follow him at least for the next few seasons as he’s sat atop everybody’s prospect lists and been one of the highest-profile pitchers in an organization with a surprisingly deep talent pool on the mound. That’s all well and fine, but Hoffman may end up becoming less Jon Gray and more Chad Bettis, to reference two Rockies starters that may one day soon man a rotation with the East Carolina University product.
Even in his brilliant one-hit start on the 28th of April, Hoffman showed control but not command—which has been his big bugaboo, especially as it relates to his ability to strike out hitters, the consistency of his secondary pitches, and his deception to the batter. On the 28th, Hoffman sat 92-95 mph with his fastball, which is as advertised, and he showed off the two breaking balls for which he is now so well known: a curve that registered 79-81 mph, and a slider that was 82-85 mph with surprisingly good late breaking bite. That pitch has come a long way in a short time, and Hoffman will need it to survive at Coors Field with a fastball that’s relatively straight and flat and command issues that leave him less than perfectly precise.
Hoffman walked three batters agains the Las Vegas 51s on April 28, and struggled to get ahead of others, though he ended up throwing 61% of his pitches for strikes. His control is fine within the strike zone itself, but his command—especially with off-speed pitches—is imprecise unless he’s trying to go down and away with a wipeout breaking ball for strike three. Nevertheless, a major shortcoming in Hoffman’s otherwise impressive minor league career has been a relative inability to consistently miss bats, and that wasn’t anything he struggled with against the 51s at Cashman Field. It was undoubtedly the best start of his 2017 season to date, and might be a nice springboard off which Hoffman can build as he prepares for another inevitable shot at Coors Field and the big leagues with the Colorado Rockies.
Going forward, Hoffman’s projection is still up in the air to a great deal. Jon Gray struggled mightily early in his big league career, as has Hoffman, and then eventually turned things around to the present day where he looks like he’ll become a very impactful front-end rotation arm for the Rockies. That could still well be in Hoffman’s future, too, though it’s probably a riskier proposition considering his stuff isn’t quite as biting and tough to square up as Gray; to that end, even with this stellar one-hitter under his belt in the PCL, smart money is probably still on Hoffman filling out a mid-rotation role in the big leagues with that much-needed and much-improved slider a welcome wrinkle that could help him stick in Denver by the end of this year.
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Jeff Hoffman scouting report: 140 characters or less
Jeff Hoffman has the arm & stuff to be a good big leaguer, though lack of deception & imprecise command may limit his ceiling in the Majors.
In this Colorado Rockies / Jeff Hoffman scouting report: