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Hoffman solid in AA debut; banner night for pitching prospects

Northwest Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Northwest Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Minor Leaguer Photo

Last night was another one of those nights when the Blue Jay system showed off the tantalizing potential of its vast collection of arms. The headliner was obviously Jeff Hoffman making a successful AA debut, but several others at lower levels were not interested in being overshadowed in piling up whiffs and strikeouts.. Without further ado, let's go through the system:

In New Hampshire: Jeff Hoffman

Hoffman was making just his 12th professional start, and the first with a TV broadcast so I was looking forward to getting a look through Unfortunately, the video quality is pretty poor at the Fisher Cats home, and they don't stick with the CF camera which limited the ability to really get a good look.

Hoffman turned in a solid start as he pitched into the 7th inning, going 6.1 innings and giving up 2 runs on 5 hits with no walks and three strikeouts. The first inning was rocky, with a pair of hard hit doubles plating a run and requiring 20 pitches to get through. But he settled in nicely thereafter, twice retiring six straight batters and not needing more than 15 pitches in any other inning, and only giving up three relatively harmless singles.

On the night, Hoffman filled up the strike zone, with 55 strikes of his 82 pitches. I counted 5 whiffs, which is more pedestrian considering his raw stuff and that it was on 40 swings (87.5% contact rate). There were 20 balls in play, 40% of which were kept on the ground which is roughly average. There were a couple foulouts and pop outs, so a handful of those balls in the air were completely harmless.

A few quick, amateur observations on what I saw stuffwise. I thought the fastball command was okay overall, with more success hitting his spots later on after leaving some balls up in the first that got hit hard. The second double was off a fastball at 95 on the stadium gun that got crushed: welcome to AA. In the 4th inning he got up to 96 at one point, but was basically it in terms of velo readings.

He threw about 14 curveballs, his first being a beauty that froze Blake Swihart for a K. I was surprised by how much horizontal gloveside movement it generally had, almost too much it at times, pulling it off the corner. He mixed in some change-ups as well, a few good ones that got whiffs and a few that were just show-me pitches not well located. I saw one slider for sure, and it wasn't anything special.

One thing that Keith Law mentioned in leaving Hoffman off his midseason Top 50 prospect list was that his fastball was very straight. Again, last night was not ideal to get a really good feel, but overall I didn't think was as bad as what Law implied. There were some that were pretty straight, but also some with what looked like decent movement though his fastball's not going to be confused for Aaron Sanchez's any time soon.

Hoffman left trailing 2-0 but got a no decision after New Hampshire rallied to tie in the 8th, if you care about that sort of thing. All in all, a good debut, if more on the solid side than dominating.

In Port St. Lucie: Jairo Labourt and co.

Jairo Labourt was the lone Toronto representative at the Futures Game last Sunday, striking out two in his inning of work. That carried over to his first start back with Dunedin, as he struck out 7 of the 14 batters he faced last night. In fact, he only recorded two outs in balls in play as he didn't finish the third inning. Though he was overpowering he was not efficient either, frequently working into deep counts.

His final line on the night was 2.2 innings, 2 runs on 3 hits, 2 walks, and the aforementioned 7 strikeouts (one reached on a wild pitch). His fastball ranged from 91-94 on the stadium gun, fading a little later in the outing in the oppressive Florida climate (mind you, considering his struggles with the cool northern spring in Lansing last year, he's probably not complaining). He threw about 80 pitches and 50 strikes. He piled up 11 whiffs on 32 swings, an excellent 67% contact rate.

After Labourt left, Alonzo Gonzalez has a goof outing of his own. The 2012 18th rounder went 4.1 innings, 2 hits, no runs  or walks and 2 K. He was not as overpowering, but also much more efficient needing just over 50 pitches to do that and working at 90-93. Arik Sikula finshed off the 9th with two strikeouts of his own.

In Bluefield: Angel Perdomo

Coming into last night, Perdomo's first four starts in the Appalachian League were pretty pedestrian: 6 walks against 11 strikeouts in 22 innings. Not exactly befitting of a 6'6" lefty who can apparently touch the mid-90s and who struck out 57 in 46 innings in the GCL last year.

But last night was a different story, as Perdomo completely dominated the Johnson City Cardinals, piling up 9 strikeouts in 6 shutout innings, with just one walk and 4 hits (though three were line drives). Perdomo notched 16 swinging strikes from the second inning on, which is just ridiculous, working mostly 90-92 on the stadium gun and touching 94. He mixed on some offspeed stuff in the low-80s that accounted for a few of those whiffs. I'll be interested to see if this is a turning point in his season and if he can carry this dominance over.

Miguel Burgos came in after Perdomo and finished off the shutout with three no hit innings, getting a save in the process. He struck out four but also walked three, keeping five of six balls in play on the ground.

Other Bits and Bites

  • Miguel Castro is back in Buffalo and pitched one scoreless inning with a walk and a strikeout. Prior to this outing, he hadn't been used in 10 days, which seems odd. At this point, it seems to me it's been amostly lost season developmentally between the usage and injuries. Gregory Infante followed that up with a labourious ining of his own, needing 25 pitches for four batters, one of whom walked.
  • Chase Mallard, last year's 14th rounder, has been moved into the rotation in Lansing with Sean Reid-Foley and Connor Greene vacating rotation spots upon promotion. His start last night was an interesting dichotomy, as he followed suit with some of the above performances in striking out eight batters in five innings, but also gave up eight hits including two home runs and allowing six runs in total. It makes sense to give him the opportunity to start and see if it works out, but he's struggled pretty badly and with him turning 24 later this year it's probably not far from the point where you convert him to a full time reliever and see if there's something there.