A look at potential O’s trade target Jeff Hoffman

There are a lot of ifs at work here. But if the Orioles acquired pitcher Jeff Hoffman from Toronto, and if we then re-ranked the list of the Orioles’ top prospects, then Hoffman might rank behind only one player.

He is a hard-throwing right-hander that just turned 22 and, if added, might immediately be the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect behind only Dylan Bundy.

ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this yesterday:

The Orioles now appear to be open to trading an executive for a player or players. Dan Duquette could be dealt to Toronto and Hoffman could be coming to Baltimore.

A 6-foot-4, 192-pounder, Hoffman was one of the top players in the First-Year Player Draft last June and Toronto selected him with the ninth overall pick. Hoffman was selected that high even after he had Tommy John surgery early last May. In his last college start for East Carolina in April, he struck out a career-high 16 batters over eight one-hit innings against Middle Tennessee State.

I asked Baseball America editor-in-chief John Manuel to provide a scouting report on Hoffman, who has yet to throw a pro pitch, but could return to game action in the middle of the 2015 season.

“Like Dylan Bundy, he has had Tommy John surgery, but they are similar in age, both 2011 high school graduates,” Manuel said.

“Jeff Hoffman has a chance to be elite. He has a pitcher’s body with athleticism. He’s not just a tall non-athletic pitcher. He’s an athlete.

“The Tommy John was a bit of a surprise. He wasn’t a big strikeout, high pitch count guy in college, but he did have a 16-strikeout game and the surgery happened soon after that.

“The only real question for him coming into his junior season was his strikeout rate was around seven per nine innings. He never dominated in college from a strikeout perspective and was more of a groundball, early count guy. But he had a great summer in the Cape (Cod League) in 2013 and was the No. 1 prospect there that summer and had a real strong start to the 2014 college season.”

The Orioles would need to acquire Hoffman as a player to be named since he cannot be traded until a year after he was signed. The clubs could make a deal where the Orioles get the PTBN, which would turn out to be Hoffman.

If the O’s added Hoffman, Manuel feels he would become the club’s second-ranked prospect, behind only Bundy and ahead of current No. 2 Hunter Harvey.

“I think that is how I would rank it,” he said. “I like Hunter Harvey, don’t get me wrong. I like his raw talent. But there is still some rawness there and pure stuff-wise, he’s not that much better than Jeff Hoffman.

“A thing to like is Hoffman has that body and athleticism. He was a raw upstate New York kid, but within two years he was the No. 1 guy on the Cape. That tells you a lot about his aptitude.

“Couple of other outlets felt Hoffman could have even been the No. 1 pick in the draft. We thought he might go as high as No. 4. In late April, the Cubs brass went into Greenville (N.C.) to see Hoffman. They were very interested in him at four. This is an elite guy. He’s a big-time prospect.”

In ranking Hoffman No. 3 on the list of Toronto’s top prospects in November, Baseball America’s Clint Longenecker wrote this scouting report:

Hoffman is a premium athlete with the stuff, body and athleticism to profile in the front half of a rotation. His fastball sits 93-96 mph, touching 98 with the ball jumping from his hand. Hoffman’s two-seamer has at least plus life with heavy, bat-breaking sink and arm-side run to get ground balls. His drop-and-drive delivery works easy with natural fluidity and a loose arm.

He offers a true downer curveball with at least plus potential that flashes plus-plus. Hoffman offers feel for a changeup that improved significantly over the last year and also has at least plus potential, flashing a full grade better. He also mixed in a mid-80s slider with at least average potential. Hoffman has a long, lean and projectable body that scouts can dream on despite coming from college. He fills up the zone and projects to have at least plus control. Hoffman’s plus athleticism enables him to field his position exceptionally well and make highlight-reel defensive plays.

After the draft, Toronto signed Hoffman to a $3,080,800 bonus. Baseball America’s latest top 100 list is still weeks away from being released, but Manuel projected Hoffman at No. 80 on his personal preliminary top 100.

“He was the ninth overall pick in the draft, even after Tommy John surgery. Showed a fastball up to 97 (mph) and the ability to spin a breaking ball,” Manuel said. “He was starting to learn how to pitch as a college junior, but there is a lot to like there. That would be a significant payment for Duquette, higher than I would have thought.

“If the Orioles get him you’d really know what you have in 2016. I wouldn’t want to be judged on my first year back from surgery. He tweeted recently that he has thrown off flat ground so I think he’s on schedule in his rehab.”

If the Orioles get Hoffman, is that proper compensation for losing Duquette to Toronto?

Meanwhile in Toronto: The feeling is that the price for Duquette may be too high. Check out this story.

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