The Situation: Tyler Chatwood has gone on the disabled list with a lower back strain and the Rockies are calling up another big-time arm, Jeff Hoffman, to fill the void.
Background: Originally from upstate New York, Hoffman went undrafted out of high school because teams were scared away by a commitment to East Carolina and large bonus demands. His first two years on campus were unspectacular but he ventured to the Cape the summer before his Junior year and took a major step forward, striking out 33 in just 24 1/3 innings for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. Hoffman continued to improve during his draft year (2014) showing big-time velocity and feel for the breaking ball before succumbing to forearm tightness and eventually Tommy John in May. Teams continued to salivate over his potential and despite being on the shelf, the Toronto Blue Jays took him with their first of two picks in the first round. Almost exactly a year later, Hoffman made his debut in the Florida State League and was quickly promoted to Double-A. The Blue Jays then included him in the Troy Tulowitzki deal and Hoffman got to take his talents to the Rockies. Fast forward to 2016, fresh off a Futures Game appearance and in the midst of striking out 124 in 118 innings Hoffman gets the call and his first assignment is the Chicago Cubs.
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A look at what we're talking about when we talk about the fastball.
Going back to our formative baseball years, the fastball is where it all begins. Every pitcher has a fastball, even those quirky knuckleballers, and the velocity of the pitch has been on a steady incline for years now. Velocity is fun and easily identifiable to the most casual fan, but it is only one piece of the fastball equation. The velocity gives you a baseline grade for the fastball, but then you must take into account the movement of the pitch, how the pitcher controls or commands it, and how hitters react to it. I will delve into each aspect of the fastball below, as well as give you examples of grades 40, 50, and 60 so that you can start building your fastball library.
Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
The Dodgers’ first-rounder in 2014, Holmes picked a gnarly, damp night for his California League debut. That context may have contributed to a longer loosening than he’s used to, as he came out sitting 91-92 with his four-seam fastball and struggled to locate it in the first inning. He also hung a pair of curveballs at 82 and 83, costing himself a run. He quickly settled in, however, bumping up to 92-94 for the rest of his five innings and topping out at 95. The fastball has a tick of arm-side run and plenty of late life from his high-three-quarters slot thanks to premium arm speed. He worked in a two-seam complement at 87-90 mph with greater frequency as the outing wore on, and the pitch showed strong sinking action with greater arm-side run off the same plane. Holmes’ curveball wandered between 79-85 with consistent arm speed and action. He tunnels it well off his fastball, and the pitch shows 11-5 action with depth and hard break at the upper end of the velocity spectrum. He only threw a couple 86 mph changeups in this outing.
One of the top collegiate arms squared off with one of the nation's best squads last weekend; here are eyewitness accounts of players who stood out.
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)