East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman, who had missed his last two starts, will have season-ending Tommy John surgery, coach Billy Godwin said Wednesday.
The last time Hoffman took the mound was April 17, arguably his best outing of the season in front of many key evaluators picking in the first five overall picks. His fastball sat 94-96 mph, touching 97 in a 16-strikout performance. But his velocity briefly dipped to 89-90 at the end of the outing.
Hoffman then went on the shelf after having arm soreness in a midweek bullpen following the start. He consulted Monday with Dr. James Andrews, and the surgery is scheduled for next week.
“It was disappointing for all of us to hear the news regarding Jeff,” Godwin said. “After speaking with Jeff, he and his family have decided this is the best thing for him to do at this time. We are hopeful he will have a quick recovery and be back on the mound very soon. Jeff is one of our leaders on the field, inside the clubhouse and is a tremendous competitor who will definitely be missed.”
The righthander has easy mid-90s velocity and two offspeed pitches that show at least plus potential in addition to above-average control. In 67 innings this season, Hoffman struck out 9.6 per nine against 2.7 walks per nine.
Because of his immense talent and the track record of pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery, Hoffman could still factor prominently in the draft, playing the role of wild card.
The top prep righthander in the 2012 draft class, Lucas Giolito, strained his ulnar collateral ligament that March, ending his season (although he was able to throw). Giolito went to the Nationals with the 16th overall pick and signed for $2.93 million before having Tommy John surgery.
Last year, Indiana State lefthander Sean Manaea entered the season as a potential top three pick, much like Hoffman. But he had an injury-marred season and had a torn labrum in his hip entering the draft that clouded his status. Manaea went to the Royals with the first supplemental pick after the first round (No. 34 overall) and signed for $3.55 million, the fifth-largest bonus of any 2013 draftee, after the Royals signed Hunter Dozier to a below-slot deal with their first pick (No. 8 overall).
A similar template remains a possibility for Hoffman, as several teams have the obvious assets to take such a gamble: extra picks and money to spend. Of the five teams with the largest signing bonus pools, four have additional picks:
Marlins, $14.19 million signing bonus pool (largest pool): Miami has the second overall pick and four of the top 43, with three between Nos. 36-43.
Astros, $13.36 million pool (second-largest): Houston has the first pick and three of the top 42. The Astros have experience spreading their money around, saving money on the first overall pick in 2012 (Carlos Correa, who signed for $2.4 million below slot) and using the savings to sign the No. 41 pick (Lance McCullers Jr.), who received nearly double the slot value at $2.5 million, and fourth-rounder Rio Ruiz, who received nearly a million and a half more than slot value with a $1.85 million signing bonus.
Blue Jays, $9.46 million pool (fourth-largest): Toronto has the Nos. 9 and 11 picks, with a third selection at No. 49. No team has valued discount selections in the first 10 rounds of the last two drafts more than the Blue Jays have. In 2012, when they had seven selections in the first three rounds, they drafted college seniors from rounds 4-10, the most of any team, and used the money to sign their premium selections.
Royals, $8.60 million pool (fifth-largest): Kansas City’s first pick is No. 17 overall, one of three in the top 40 and four in the top 56. All have pick values of more than $1 million, and as the Royals showed last year they are willing to roll the dice on a player with upside.