Another promising young arm went down Wednesday, as it was announced that East Carolina University right-hander Jeff Hoffman will undergo Tommy John surgery, per Frankie Piliere of Perfect Game. Before the injury, Hoffman was considered to be one of the best pitchers available in the upcoming MLB draft, with some touting him as a candidate to go first overall.
As Piliere writes, the 21-year-old Hoffman has been dealing with elbow problems for a few weeks now, and was shut down by East Carolina a couple weeks ago. A recent visit to Dr. James Andrew diagnosed Hoffman with a tear in his right elbow, leading to a recommendation for Tommy John. The surgery will be performed (by Dr. Andrews) sometime next week.
ECU right-hander Jeff Hoffman will have season ending Tommy John surgery next week. Visited Dr. Andrews on Monday— Frankie Piliere (@FPilierePG) May 7, 2014
Hoffman displays outstanding physical tools, and has shot up draft boards since his breakout performance last summer in the Cape Cod League. Undrafted out of high school in 2011, Hoffman can now hit 98 MPH on his fastball (he sits in the mid-90's), and demonstrates a plus-plus curve that reminds some of the 12-6 hammer that Adam Wainwright employs. He also throws a changeup which flashes plus, though it is rather inconsistent. Arguably his biggest flaw is a lack of command, though he has shown strong control tendencies. Hoffman has a 2.94 ERA in 67.1 innings this season.
Hoffman started off the year as one of the top two prospects on a majority of draft boards (along with North Carolina State southpaw Carlos Rodon), but inconsistent performances this season had damaged his stock to the point that many were seeing him as a potential 3-10 candidate before the injury, rather than a one-one guy.
While Hoffman will certainly go lower now than if he were healthy, he may still be a top 10 selection, as Piliere points out that teams are still considering him in the 5-10 range. The Twins, who have the fifth pick, won't consider Hoffman at that spot (via Darren Wolfson), so that does eliminate one team. The Cubs, at pick four, were among the teams that were heavily linked to Hoffman prior to today's news.
Hoffman is not the first potential top-five pitching selection to go down with a major injury just months before the draft. High-school right-hander Lucas Giolito was considered a possible first overall pick before spraining his UCL in March of 2012. Sidelined for the remainder of the season, Giolito was still selected 16th overall by the Washington Nationals. He underwent Tommy John surgery immediately after signing. Just last year, Sean Manaea (who burst out in the Cape Cod League much like Hoffman) fell to the 34th overall pick, despite being touted as a possible top selection entering the season, because of a hip injury and shoulder concerns. Fortunately for him, he still got a $3.55 million payday from the Royals.
The MLB draft begins on June 5th, and runs through June 7th. It can be watched on both MLB Network and MLB.com. The selection order can be found here.