Position: Left-handed Pitcher
The Tigers gave Hoffman $175,000 as a 26th round pick in 2007, buying him away from a college commitment. He signed too late to make his pro debut that summer but saw time at two levels in 2008.
Between short-season Oneonta and Low-A West Michigan, Hoffman appeared in 17 games (12 starts) and posted a 3.39 ERA. His peripherals showed well with only 68 hits allowed in 71.2 innings while walking 38 and striking out 64 hitters. For a 19-year old his performance against older competition was very encouraging.
Hoffman saw two levels again in 2009, splitting his season between West Michigan and High-A Lakeland. He eclipsed one hundred innings for the first time in his career and posted a 4.56 ERA as his strikeout rate plummeted to just 5.6 per nine innings.
In 2010 the Tigers shifted Hoffman to the bullpen and he began to put things together and show more viable big league potential. He dominated with a 1.59 ERA at Lakeland to start the season and was then promoted two additional levels throughout the rest of the year.
With Erie, Hoffman was knocked around as his control escaped him. He finished with a 7.42 ERA in 26 outings. He had similar trouble in a brief trial at Triple-A with a 10.38 ERA in three games.
Hoffman's breakout came in the Arizona Fall League following the 2010 season, not in terms of numbers but in terms of the quality of his raw stuff. During the AFL, scouts reported seeing him dial his fastball up to 98 mph and that type of velocity created plenty of buzz entering the 2011 season.
Hoffman spent all but one game with Toledo in 2011 and he showed much better than the prior year. In 49 relief outings Hoffman allowed 60 hits in 62 1/3 innings with just 23 walks and 46 strikeouts.
After working in the mid-90s during the AFL in 2010, Hoffman's velocity fluctuated wildly this past year. Scouts reported seeing him in the 89-91 mph range during some outings and sitting 92-94 mph in other outings.
He commands the ball much better when working with an average fastball as he often loses the strike zone when dialing it up toward 93-94 mph.
Most scouts see Hoffman settling in with an average fastball long term both so he can throw quality strikes and because of the way his arm works in his delivery. He has a quick arm that helps generate his velocity but his arm frequently gets ahead of his lower body causing much of his wildness.
Hoffman has flashed a plus curveball at times and he generally throws a solid-average pitch that works well to keep hitters off his fastball. The pitch has solid 1-7 break and shows tight spin.
He threw a change-up as a starter but has largely scrapped the pitch out of the bullpen. Without even a below-average change-up he does have some trouble keeping right-handers at bat.
As a two-pitch reliever with an average to slightly above-average fastball and solid breaking ball, Hoffman projects as a sixth or seventh inning arm as the second lefty in a big league bullpen.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP WHIP AAA
Hoffman has had few problems with injury throughout his career, missing only a couple of weeks in 2009 with some shoulder soreness/stiffness. His arm as handled the transition to the bullpen well.
Hoffman was added to the 40-man roster this off-season and he will enter spring training with an outside chance to claim a spot in a crowded bullpen that includes lefties Daniel Schlereth and possibly Duane Below.
Hoffman is still just 23-years old and another year to polish his command and gain consistency with his velocity and curveball may be a benefit to him. He could see big league time in 2012 and as Daniel Schlereth approaches his arbitration years Hoffman could find himself with more opportunities to crack the big league roster.
Long term Hoffman will need to perform quickly upon getting a big league shot, as he lacks the raw stuff and pedigree to get second and third chances. If he can settle into a big league role he should be a solid multi-use reliever, seeing time as a high leverage lefty as well as a middle man that can eat two to three innings.
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