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.
Scouting Report: The Rockies have a penchant for pitchers with heavy fastballs and devastating sliders and Hoffman is no exception to the rule. Possessing a fastball that sits 93-95 and touches 97 with power sink and bore, hitters struggle to barrel and lift the offering. His command of the fastball isn’t pinpoint at present but he shows the ability to move it around the zone and hit his spot when needed. The slider is his primary breaking ball with sharp, two-plane break with depth and swing and miss potential. The pitch flashes a 70 grade and he can throw it for strikes or bury it down in the zone. The curveball has tightened up lately with 11/5 shape and average rotation while the changeup lags behind the other offerings and is a little firm, but he repeats the arm speed well it has enough movement to keep hitters honest.
Immediate Big-League Future: The key for Hoffman will be his ability to throw quality strikes with his arsenal in Coors Field. The stuff has blow-you-away potential but Coors has the ability to humble any pitcher. He needs to focus on getting ahead in counts and allowing to let his fastball explode in the bottom of the zone so that when hitters don’t swing and miss on his slider, they’re grounding out to Nolan Arenado at the hot corner. The Rockies will give him every chance to start and you should be optimistic that he will stay in the rotation for the long-term. —James Fisher
Fantasy Take: Jeff Hoffman has strikeout stuff, but that might not be enough to give him roto value in standard leagues. He’ll be plying his trade in Colorado, which, in case you haven’t heard, is not a great place for pitchers. Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, the Rockies have been keeping his pitch counts well below 100, which will significantly limit his ability to earn wins in the majors. And his numbers in Triple-A are good but not great: a 4.02 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in 118.7 innings with 124 strikeouts and 44 walks.
But man, that stuff. Over the last few years, the Rockies seem to have pivoted towards a strategy that involves targeting pitchers with high-end velocity. Jon Gray is starting to have some success in the majors for Colorado with mid-90s heat. Hoffman sports a mid-90s fastball similar to Gray’s, although their repertoires don’t overlap much beyond the four seamer. In keeper leagues, the 24-year-old is an intriguing option if it turns out that the Rockies have finally found a pitching prospect profile that works in their park. In shallow and standard redraft leagues, though, Hoffman probably won’t provide much value outside of the strikeout category due to his pitch limits and his home park.
In deep NL-only leagues, the big Oklahoman might not get many wins due to the fact that he won’t make it through the fifth inning as frequently as most starters. He’ll still strike out more guys throwing 70-90 pitches every fifth day than most of the awful starters or low-inning middle relievers available in the free agent pool, though, making him worth a few FAAB dollars. Word of warning to those of you in tight races in rate categories: be cognizant of the sizable risk Hoffman poses to your ERA and WHIP. —Scooter Hotz
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