We’re getting close to the end of our Colorado Rockies prospect countdown, and it’s time to take a look at the cream of the crop. Today, we take a look at a guy that will look to establish himself as a big league mainstay in 2017.
One Sentence Summary: Despite a rough MLB debut in 2016, Hoffman is an immensely talented young pitcher, which is good because the pressure on him to succeed is also immense.
By now, most Rockies fans are already familiar with Hoffman. After starring in the prestigious Cape Cod summer league, he was a candidate to be drafted first overall out of East Carolina University before forearm tightness led to Tommy John surgery.
Hoffman appeared in eight games, and Colorado lost all eight. He gave up seven home runs and walked 17 batters in just 31.1 innings, and was lucky to not have an ERA even higher than his mediocre 4.88 mark.
More often than not, Hoffman looked overwhelmed in his first go around the big leagues. The Rockies fan base, which had been so excited to see him in Denver, quickly grew frustrated with the poor results, and it’s not hard to see why. “I can’t believe we traded Tulowitzki for this guy” was a common frustration among fans in Colorado last year.
That’s not entirely true of course, but fair or not, that’s the pressure that’s on Hoffman. Rockies fans are always going to judge him from the perspective of “how good is he compared to Tulowitzki?”. It’s not right, but given how much Tulowitzki meant to this franchise, it’s understandable that the expectations for Hoffman are sky high.
The good news is, despite the numbers in the majors last season, there’s a lot to like about Hoffman. He’s got strong velocity on his fastball, which sits around 94 MPH but can reach as high as 96 or 97 at times. Watch as he makes Tuffy Gosewisch look like a little league player with an outside heater.
Hoffman also throws both a curveball and a slider, which can be difficult to tell apart at times. When he gets hitters into two-strike counts, Hoffman has the stuff to put them away, like he did on this nasty curve to get Derek Norris reaching.
If Hoffman is going to take the next step and seize control of a spot in the starting rotation, he has to start attacking the strike zone with more regularity. In terms of pure stuff, Jon Gray is the only guy in the entire organization that can compete with Hoffman. But when the count is constantly 2-0 or 3-1, like it seemed to be with Hoffman on the mound last season, hitters can ignore most of his weapons and lock in on the fastball.
In the minor leagues, Hoffman’s control wasn’t great, but it was certainly better than it was in majors. It’s not a stretch to believe that with another year of experience under his belt, and the nerves of his first big league season gone, Hoffman could have an easier time finding the strike zone in 2017.
Hoffman is likely never going to have outstanding control, but if he can ever be just average at throwing strikes, he can have a lot of success as a second or third starter. Whether that will be enough to satisfy Rockies fans missing Tulo remains to be seen.