Onetime potential No. 1 overall pick Jeff Hoffman will have season-ending Tommy John surgery next week. MLB.com has learned. Hoffman, who was shut down with what was called arm soreness for the past two weeks, will have the procedure performed by Dr. James Andrews, leaving the East Carolina right-hander's Draft status very much up in the air.
When the amateur season began, many saw Hoffman, ranked No. 4 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Draft Prospects list, as a potential top-of-the-Draft selection, one who might challenge North Carolina State lefty Carlos Rodon for the honor of being the top pick on June 5.
A sluggish start to his season dropped Hoffman's value, according to some. He looked poised to start reclaiming his spot near the top, though, when he struck out 16 against Middle Tennessee State on April 17. But that would be the last time scouts would see the 6-foot-4 right-hander, as Hoffman was shut down, initially for eight to 10 days. That raised more questions about where he should go on Draft boards. News of Hoffman's impending surgery will make it even more difficult for teams to figure out what to do.
"He's a tough one," said one team's scouting executive. "He wasn't performing, then he had one big outing, and then this happened after the one big outing. "Until he had that 16-K game, he had pitched himself out of the top part of the Draft. That put him back in the mix.
"With this news, he's going to become that guy that a team is going to have to decide if they want to risk using the pick on. It's disappointing for that kid."
If healthy, Hoffman very well could have been part of a quartet of pitchers taken with the first four selections, joining Rodon from the college ranks and high schoolers Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek. How far he slides now remains to be seen, but there undoubtedly will be teams interested in rolling the dice and taking Hoffman, thus allowing him to rehab with a professional staff.
In 2012, the Nationals took high school right-hander Lucas Giolito No. 16 overall, despite the fact he had missed nearly his entire senior season with an elbow problem that eventually resulted in Tommy John surgery. He is now pitching in the South Atlantic League. With the success rate of the surgery, and given Hoffman's stuff when healthy, there are likely many teams picking later on in the opening round who will be deciding whether they want to take a chance on a potential front-line starter they never thought would get to them.
"I think he's talented enough that he still will get selected in the first round," the scouting executive said. "I don't know where that's going to be. Because of what he showed in the Cape, pushing Rodon for who would be No. 1, then that one outing when he was showing top-of-the-Draft type of stuff. Teams will have to scramble now, having more discussions with their medical staff, to see where that risk factor lies."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. Jim Callis contributed to this report. He is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.