- Full name James Allen Hoover
- Born 08/13/1987 in Pittsburgh, PA
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 240 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Calhoun CC
- Debut 04/25/2012
Drafted in the 10th round (310th overall) by the Atlanta Braves in 2008 (signed for $400,000).
View Draft ReportHoover throws in the low to mid-90s. He is a strikeout pitcher, mixing his vastly improved slider, curve ball and changeup with his above-average fastball to create a solid four-pitch arsenal. Hoover has a pro body at 6-foot-4, and is committed to West Virginia.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Braves drafted 11 pitchers in the first 12 rounds of the 2008 draft. They have already released three of their first six choices, but they did get Craig Kimbrel (third round) and Hoover. Traded to Cincinnati for Juan Francisco at the end of spring training in 2012, he impressed the Reds so much during a September callup that they added him to their playoff roster. He made two scoreless appearances in the National League Division Series. The thick-bodied Hoover has been dominant ever since he moved to the bullpen early in 2011. His fastball velocity increased with the move, now sitting at 92-93 mph with plenty of sink. Because of his background as a starter, he has a varied repertoire. Hoover junked his slider last year in favor of a slow curveball that he can command better. His curve can handcuff hitters who are gearing up to catch up to his fastball. He also throws a useable changeup and has average control. Hoover already has demonstrated that he can pitch in a big league bullpen. He'll serve as a set-up man for Jonathan Broxton in 2013, and he could grow into the closer role if needed down the road.
Hoover progressed nicely as a starter in his first three-plus seasons in the minors, and he posted a 2.84 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 67 innings in the Mississippi rotation at the outset of 2011. But he also got bombed in a pair of starts at Gwinnett in mid-May, and a month later the Braves moved him to the bullpen. He took to the switch, compiling a 0.77 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 35 relief innings between the two clubs. A burly hurler with a thick and strong lower body, Hoover has workhorse capability as a starter and an aggressive approach as a reliever. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph when he starts and picks up 2-3 mph when he relieves. His heater has decent movement, though it flattens out and becomes hittable when he doesn't stay on top of it. His low-80s slider has good deception and complements his fastball well. He improved the depth and fade of his changeup last season but rarely threw it when he worked out of the bullpen. Scouts consider Hoover a below-average athlete with a maxed-out body. He tried hard to force Atlanta's hand with his strong performance, hoping it would result in a September callup, but instead received a trip to the Arizona Fall League to continue making the transition to relieving. His likely ceiling is as a No. 4 starter or a seventh-inning reliever. After getting added to Atlanta's 40-man roster in November, he'll likely open 2012 in Triple-A and make his major league debut at some point during the campaign.
Hoover joins Brett Oberholtzer as a junior college starter who has outshined more-heralded high school arms Brett DeVall, Tyler Stovall and Zeke Spruill from Atlanta's 2008 draft class. Hoover built on a strong developmental year in 2009 by leading the system with 14 wins last season while reaching Double-A. After making a mechanical adjustment with how he held his hands in his delivery in May, he finished on a tear, going 10-2, 2.17 with 93 strikeouts in 75 innings over the final two months. Hoover is a classic workhorse, possessing a strong body with thick thighs and a resilient arm. He pitches on a good downhill plane, generating a low-90s fastball with decent movement. He also throws an average curveball, slider and changeup--his curve may be his best secondary pitch--and commands all of his offerings well. The key for Hoover is staying on top of his pitches, because they flatten out and become hittable when he doesn't. Hoover projects as a potential No. 3 starter, but he has the mentality to work in relief if the Braves need bullpen help. He'll open 2011 back in the Mississippi rotation, with a promotion to Triple-A a strong possibility during the summer. His big league ETA is 2012.
Aside from Zeke Spruill, Hoover has had as much success as any pitcher the Braves took in the 2008 draft. He signed for $400,000 as a 10th-round pick after being selected out of Calhoun (Ala.) CC--the alma mater of Jorge Posada--and putting together an impressive showing in the Cape Cod League. He opened 2009 in the bullpen but looked at home after a move to the rotation in early May. He didn't let playing for a weak offensive team at Rome hinder his performance, and he was one of the most consistent hurlers in the South Atlantic League. A workhorse with thick, strong thighs, a la Tom Seaver and Roger Clemens, Hoover keeps his pitches down in the zone while challenging hitters. He throws his fastball in the low 90s and complements it with a good changeup and curveball, both of which could become plus pitches with added refinement. He possesses impressive control that helped him limit his walks to 1.7 per nine innings in his first full pro season. While he has shown signs of being an innings-eater, Hoover also has the mentality and repertoire to pitch late in games, possibly even as a closer. The progress of his secondary pitches will determine which route he eventually takes. He should begin the 2010 campaign in high Class A, with a midseason promotion likely if he continues to produce like he did last season.
The Braves convinced Hoover to bypass transferring to West Virginia by inking him for $400,000 at the signing deadline. His strong performance in the Cape Cod League, where he helped pitch Harwich to the league title, earned him an over-slot bonus. Hoover has a four-pitch arsenal, working off his low-90s fastball with good sink and some run. His curveball is a bit loopy and flashes good rotation, but it could be a plus pitch if he tightens it up. He also has a solid changeup and developed a hard slider during the spring at Calhoun (Ala.) CC. Hoover has a good overall feel for pitching and average command, so he should throw strikes at higher levels. He has a large, thick build with a pump delivery, and while he has a strong frame, he doesn't have much projectability remaining. He's still somewhat raw but has a solid foundation with four pitches and could be a potential workhorse in the middle of a rotation. He'll probably start his first full pro season in low Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Hoover topped Braves farmhands with 14 victories this season, and he was leading the CL in wins when he was promoted to Double-A in late August. He's a strong, competitive workhorse with solid stuff and command who projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter. Hoover is tough on hitters when he stays on top of his pitches. When he does, he throws his 88-92 mph fastball (which can reach 95) on a difficult angle and backs it up with an average curveball, slider and changeup. When he doesn't, his pitches flatten out and become more hittable.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Slider in the Atlanta Braves in 2012
Background: Other teams scouted Guillon more as a hitter, but the Reds signed him for $220,000 as a pitcher in 2008. When he was found to need Tommy John surgery, they voided his original deal and re-signed him at a significantly reduced rate. The renegotiation made him eligible for the Rule 5 draft if he wasn't on the 40-man roster, and while he went unpicked in 2010 and 2011, Cincinnati protected him this offseason. Scouting Report: Guillon's changeup is a true plus pitch. He throws it with the same arm speed as his fastball and is willing to double up on it, baffling even hitters who are looking for the pitch. The quality of his changeup helps his fastball play up. He usually works at 89-92 mph, touching 94 on some nights but struggling to top 90 on others. His curveball is well below average, but Guillon's biggest weakness is his control. He has smoothed out his delivery, reducing a pronounced wrap in the back, but he still needs to repeat his mechanics better. His delivery does give him some deception. The Future: While Guillon's 40-man roster spot means he'll head to big league spring training, he has a lot of development ahead of him. He'll open 2013 in low Class A after making four strong starts there to conclude last season.