Hard-throwing right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who was expected to be a top-four pick in the upcoming MLB Draft before needing Tommy John surgery, still could land in the 6-10 range, and there's numerical analysis to suggest why.
The Cubs looked to be a prime candidate to pounce at No. 4 after Cubs honchos Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer saw Hoffman pumping fastballs at 97 mph for East Carolina in a recent game, if Hoffman even lasted to that pick, and while some slippage is expected, it may not be nearly as much as some folks think.
Hoffman, whose surgery was performed Wednesday by noted doctor James Andrews, is still viewed as one of the four extraordinary arms in the draft, along with N.C. State pitcher Carlos Rodon plus high school pitchers Brady Aiken and Tyle Kolek.
"Someone will pick him high. It's a chance at a great arm," one GM said.
That's not just a guess, either. There's numerical reasoning to take a shot with Hoffman.
Consider that the top-5 picks, which Hoffman would have been without the surgery, produced an average 9.2 WAR over a recent 10-year period (2001-10), while picks 6-10 produced an average of 6.3 over the same period. If you factor in that Tommy John surgery has close to a 90-percent success ratio, the numbers suggest Hoffman may be worth a try at 6-10 since he's seen as a top-five talent.
Some execs might still prefer not to take any risk, especially if they have only one high pick. That is leading many to speculate that the Blue Jays, who have picks No. 9 and No. 11, could be the one to take that chance.
The former great high school prospect Lucas Giolito, a superb talent, fell to pick No. 16 by the Nationals in the 2012 draft due to needing Tommy John surgery, and Giolito has quickly risen to become one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. That fast rise may boost Hoffman's chances, as well.
As for Hoffman, he tweeted Wednesday under @hoff_23, "Surgery went well!"
The draft may go pretty well for him, too.