Prospect #33 - Jamie Hoffman

Latest in a series on top Dodger prospects as we count down to the very best. While Bill Shelley is on medical leave, take a look at Prospect #33, Infielder Jamie Hoffman.

When baseball scouts come together at the end of a long day, they tell tales, sometimes tall ones, such as the scout that stopped to ask directions of a lad plowing a field behind a mule. When the lad picked up the plow and pointed "that way" he was immediately inked to a contract. Jamie Hoffman's signing was, while not as spectacular, certainly unusual.

In August 2003, then-Dodger scout Jeff Schugel attended a 25th reunion of his championship American Legion team. Schugel went, relived old memories with his former teammates and watched a Legion entry from that area play. There, he saw a player -- the aforesaid Hoffman -- and talked him into signing with the Dodgers.

Hoffmann was a total unknown. He had been named the state's Class AAA Player of the Year after leading New Ulm to the state title. It's just that, as good as he was on the diamond, it seemed clear to most that hockey was Hoffmann's game.

However, hockey and baseball seem to go hand in hand. Orel Hershiser and Eric Gagné both stood out on the ice before switching to the summer game.

So although he had been so prominent a bruising defenseman that he had been drafted by the Caroline Hurricanes of the NHL, and had decided to accept a scholarship to Colorado College, an NCAA ice powerhouse, the Dodgers won out.

Hoffman debuted in 2004 in the Gulf Coast League in which he promptly became one of the league's best. At 6-3, 205, he was a powerhouse third baseman with a stroke that was somewhat long but still quick to the ball and produced solid numbers.

When the season was over he had hit .310, leading the league in hits (71), triples (7), RBI (36) and runs (40). He was also among the leaders in stolen bases (14 out of 19 tries) and that plus those triples is what surprised the Dodgers the most for they didn't believe at first that someone of his size (6-3, 205) could move so quickly.

"We had a 40-yard dash in spring training, " Jamie told Bill Shelley. "When I won they looked at me and said, 'What's going on here?'"

Hoffman has been a third baseman, with more than acceptable skills at that post. But the Dodgers, looking down the road, know well that they have two excellent prospects at that position -- Andy LaRoche and Blake DeWitt. So with his other skills, Hoffmann was converted into an outfielder.

He's an aggressive player who battled back after a late-season slump dropped his average. He moves well and is quick on the bases, stealing 14.

Moving to Columbus in 2005, he was moved into the leadoff slot, and switched from third base to the outfield. Not only to the outfield but to center where swiftness is absolutely required.

In his rookie season he was the Gulf Coast team's mainstays, a middle-of-the-order man that they loved to see come up with men on. He batted .308 and drove in 24 in 46 games so it was hardly that he failed at his task.

Despite that size, he managed only one home run and though the thought was that as he grows into the game, the long balls will be more frequent. Late in the season at Vero he was moved around in the order and wound up with a .241 mark.

Opening in Vero Beach in 2006, he was ranked by Baseball America as the best defensive outfielder in the Dodger system, and although his average took a hit, slipping to .252, he had a career high in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in and stolen bases.

He got a cup of coffee with Las Vegas and slapped out three hits in 10 trips to the plate, not a bad AAA debut.

He stayed in High-A in 2007, this time with Inland Empire, and picked up momentum as the season moved along. He finished hitting .309 with 134 hits, 22 doubles, seven triples and nine homers, knocking in a career-high 81 runs.

And although the Sixty-Sixers lost a three game playoff with Lake Elsinore, he came into his own. He went 6-for-15 and is RBI double drove in the winning run in the 14th inning in the 4-3 opener; He went 4-for-5 with a solo homer, two runs scored and two RBIs for Inland Empire before being held hitless in the final game, an 8-2 loss. Overall he was 10-for-24 (.417).

He will probably start the 2008 season in Jacksonville.

His record:
Jamie Hoffman     br  tr  6-3  221
Born-August 20, 1984
Obtained-Signed as a non-drafted free agent 2004

year	team     ave   obp   gm   ab   r  h   2b 3b hr  bi  sb
2004	GCLg	.310  .374   60  229  40  71   8  7  4  36  14
2005	Colum   .308  .383   79  321  53  99  13  9  1  24  10
	VBeach  .241  .287   46  166  26  40   6  2  1  10   3
2006	VBeach  .252  .309  121  133  50 109  16  0  5  29  15	  	
	LVegas  .300  .417    4   10   0   3   0  0  0   0   1
2007	IEmp    .309  .378  116  433  67 134  22  7  9  81  19

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