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February 25, 2014

Draft Ten Pack

Scouting Jeff Hoffman and the University of Virginia

by Nick J. Faleris


I was down in Charlottesville this weekend for the highly anticipated matchup between Virginia and East Carolina, featuring one of the top arms in the draft class, Jeff Hoffman (East Carolina), and one of the deepest teams in the country in UVA. While there were plenty of 2014 draft eligibles on display, Virginia’s impact talent stretches to the 2015 and 2016 classes, as well. We’ll have some additional notes on ECU players, as well as further collegiate and prep updates, in next Monday’s extended Draft Ten Pack.

Player Spotlight: Jeff Hoffman (RHP, East Carolina)

Hoffman entered the year as the top collegiate right-hander in the draft class, and through two weeks he’s reinforced that standing on stuff, if not production. On Friday, Hoffman was saddled with an umpire that simultaneously would not call the low strike and could not figure out how to call Hoffman’s breaker as a strike in the zone. The result was the curve being all but a non-factor outside of a two-strike chase pitch (Hoffman stopped going to it once it became apparent it was not going to be a useful pitch in the zone). It’s useful for evaluators to see pitchers faced with situations like this, as you get to measure a prospect’s ability to work without his full arsenal at his disposal, and by extension his ability to think outside the box. Hoffman’s focus for the evening centered on mixing an 86-89 mph changeup with good late fade and a plus-plus fastball that reached as high as 98 mph, settling in the 94 to 96 mph range for much of the evening. Brandon Downes accounted for two of Virginia’s runs via solo homers—one a high fly ball off a 96-mph fastball that was carried out by a strong wind to left; the other also a pull-side round-tripper off of a changeup hung waist-high and over the plate. Hoffman wasn’t in mid-season form, but the quality of his arsenal and his athleticism on the mound certainly were readily apparent. He remains one of the top arms in the class with a high likelihood of selection in the first few picks come June.

UVA STANDOUTS FOR 2014

Brandon Downes (OF, Virginia)
Scouting Video
Downes was not the most highly touted position prospect on the Virginia squad, but a two-home-run effort against one of the best arms in college baseball has a way of forcing a name into the mouths of scouts. The UVA center fielder has solid bat speed and keeps his swing path on line for an extended time, though there’s some swoop to his transition from load to delivery and his hands get started a little late. It doesn’t inhibit him right now, but could later on once he’s working with wood against more advanced arms. He displays a solid approach, but lagging hands lead to soft contact and choppy mid-swing adjustments a number of times throughout the series against arms that were solid but did not standout. He probably maxes out as a 5/5 hit/power guy, with a bump in value due to his chance to stick up-the-middle. For teams that view him as a center fielder, Downes could fit anywhere from the second to fourth round, depending on whether the evaluator fully buys into the bat. –Nick J. Faleris

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