Hard-throwing right-handed pitching prospect Jeff Hoffman lost his chance to be a top-four pick in next month's MLB draft of amateurs, after news hit that Hoffman needed Tommy John surgery. However, scouting directors still suggest it's possible he could be a first-round pick, and possibly even a top-10-15 pick.
Scouting directors also suggested that teams with multiple high picks might be more likely to use a pick on Hoffman, who still is seen as having a high ceiling but will come with the small question of surgery results. The situation is akin to highly-regarded right-hander Lucas Giolito, who was picked No. 16 overall as a prep pitcher two drafts ago by the Nationals. There were concerns with him over a UCL that required Tommy John surgery as well.
Hoffman, who has been clocked at 98 mph and features an excellent changeup and two curveballs, had a 2.94 at East Carolina University. He previously was considered to be among the top four draft prospects, along with North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon and high school pitchers Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek, before being sidelined for the year. Keith Law of ESPN first reported the necessity of the surgery.
Now instead, some mid-round opportunists may be eyeing Hoffman, a 21-year-old from the Albany, N.Y., area, though he could fall to later in the first round or possibly the second round..
“A team that really liked him and wouldn't have had a chance to get him may jump on this. They may look at as a chance for a big positive or win,” one NL scouting director said.
"He's very talented. He should not fall much," another talent evaluator said.
Two scouting directors speculated that teams with two or more top picks might be more inclined to take the small chance (and also have the extra draft dollars to spend). While Tommy John surgery has become extremely commonplace and is assumed to carry a low risk, one scouting director mentioned that a couple pitchers had some loss of command after the operation, though typically pitchers return without complication after a first Tommy John surgery.
“Tommy John surgery is good, but still a risk,” one AL scouting director said.
While a couple scouting directors didn't rule out Hoffman being picked in the top 15 in the June 5-7 first-year draft, one guessed that he might fall to pick 25-35 with the news of surgery. Giolito is back throwing in the high 90s in the Nats minors and is seen as a possible future top-of-the-rotation starter.
Giolito's positive result can only help Hoffman's chances to be picked in the middle of the first round.
Hoffman has a reasonable expectation to be back on a mound for someone by next spring training based on the usual Tommy John timetable.