Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Hoffman was the Tigers 26th round pick in the 2007 draft out of Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma. That is the same high school that produced former Tiger pitching prospect Dallas Trahern, and St. Louis shortstop prospect Peter Kozma.
As a senior at Owasso, Hoffman finished the year 8-1 and capped it off with a three-hit shutout in the state championship game, as his team won 1-0 on a first inning home run by Kozma.
The Tigers pried Hoffman out of a baseball scholarship to the University of Oklahoma with a $175,000 signing bonus; well over slot for the 26th round. Hoffman signed too late to make his pro debut in 2007.
Starting the 2008 season in extended spring training, Hoffman impressed and was challenged with an assignment to West Michigan when the ‘Caps needed an extra arm. In five appearances for the Whitecaps, Hoffman held his own as a 19-year old, posting a 4.60 ERA with 20 strikeouts in just 15 2/3 inning of work, though he did walk 14.
The Tigers re-assigned Hoffman to the New York-Penn League once the short-season started, and he flourished against more polished competition; posting a 3.05 ERA in 12 games (ten starts). Over 56 innings of work, Hoffman allowed only 49 hits, walked 24, and struck out 44.
The 2009 season saw a return to West Michigan for Matt, and he dominated with a 5-0 start to the season and a 1.12 ERA in seven games. Over 40 1/3 innings, Hoffman walked only eight and struck out 33; totaling just a 0.79 WHIP. The Tigers quickly promoted the young left-hander to high-A Lakeland, and while there were struggles along the way, Hoffman did show signs of light at times as well. Hoffman finished the Florida State League season with a 6.79 ERA in 62 1/3 innings.
Hoffman is a good athlete that was better known for his work as a center fielder prior to his senior season in high school. He runs well and his athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery with ease. He has a long, loose arm that some scouts feel could generate plus velocity with regularity. As it stands, Hoffman routinely sits at 88-90 from the left side, and he regularly touches 91-92 in his starts. He is strong and carries his velocity into the middle and later innings well.
With a curveball and change-up that both regularly show as above-average, Hoffman has a solid three-pitch mix that keeps hitters off balance. He uses his curveball well, and can work it to both sides of the plate, while also recognizing there are times where he needs to bury it in the dirt as a chase pitch. His change-up flashes plus at times, and it is quickly developing into a reliable weapon against right-handed hitters.
Hoffman's command can slip at times, but he has improved his strike throwing ability over the last two years. Most scouts feel he will have above-average command when all is said and done. He has good presence and makeup on the mound, and he tends to be aggressive with opposing hitters. Some scouts would like to see him challenge right-handed hitters inside more with his fastball; further setting up his rapidly improving change-up.
Still young and still maturing physically, there is plenty of improvement remaining for Hoffman. He projects to have the ceiling of a solid number three starter, but he will need his command and the consistency with his curveball to continue improving to reach that ceiling.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A
Hoffman hit the disabled list at Lakeland in August with some minor soreness/stiffness in his left arm. He was only on the DL about two weeks, and when he returned, reports indicated his arm felt fine, and his velocity was in its normal range. He continued to pitch during the Fall Instructional League, and all reports continued to indicate there were no further problems with his arm. Hoffman has a durable pitcher's frame and good work habits.
After finishing his second professional season in high-A as a 21-year old, Hoffman is likely destined for a return trip to Lakeland and the Florida State League for the 2010 season. Scouts and coaches throughout the circuit liked his stuff and his makeup in 2009, and felt he just needed to develop it a bit more and gain consistency; a good sign despite the statistical ugliness of his season.
The Tigers are being rewarded for their efforts to sign him, as he continues to improve and move quickly through the minor league system. With a strong return trip to Lakeland this season, Hoffman could be on track to make his Major League debut sometime during the 2012 season.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.