Hoffman signs record deal with Jays

* The Blue Jays didn't fool around when it came to signing their top two picks from the June draft: RHP Jeff Hoffman chosen ninth over-all from the East Carolina Pirates was given a club record $3.080,800 US bonus. And then the Jays signed C Max Pentecost the 11th over-all pick for $2,888,300 million. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent


By Bob Elliott Pitching coach Dan Roszel, 37 was crushed.

East Carolina head athletic trainer Zac Womack, 35, was upset.

Their prized pitching prospect had been told he was headed for Toooommy John elbow surgery in mid-May, less than a month before the June draft. “We were down in the dirt, didn’t want to talk to anyone,” said Roszel. “We pride ourselves on keeping guys healthy. The 21-year-old handled the news better than the two grown adults.”

The mature youngster became a mature, rich, youngster Wednesday morn when the Blue Jays gave East Carolina Pirates right-hander Jeff Hoffman a club record $3,080,800 US signing bonus. Hoffman signed for the assigned slot for the ninth over-all pick in North America despite the fact he won’t throw a pitch until May of 2015.

“He took the news better than Zach and myself,” said Roszel. “He ingested the details, listened to the information, the plan of action ... it was like its ‘behind me now.’”

Of course cross checkers and scouting directors didn’t know that and so the East Carolina switchboard exploded. Roszel, who recruited Hoffman from Latham, N.Y., handled plenty of phone calls.

“Over the years I’ve seen red flags on kids, like ‘you wonder how this guy would handle an injury,’” said Roszel. “Jeff has always been a guy dedicated to detail and he has to stay on top of every minute detail.

“They asked about his desire and discipline. If anyone can over come this and overcome it quickly it is Jeff.”

The Jays also signed Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost for $2,888,300, the second highest bonus that they've given a





pentecostdrafted player. International free agent Adeiny Hechavarria ($4 million) received a larger bonus.

Interesting that a player can haveTommy John operation and organizations now regard the elbow problems as roughly the same as having a pimple. The operation is that wide spread from big league clubhouses to sandlots.

Trade publications indicated that a club drafting Hoffman would be able to sign him for a lesser amount than slot.

“I get that Hoffman’s ceiling is high,” said one evaluator, “but he’s damaged. You sell me a tire with a patched hole, it still may be a functional and a very good tire, but it’s not the same as the original tire.”


* * * The surgery is almost a rite of passage with these pitchers now,

“Kids aren’t playing other sports any more,” said Roszel, “they’re told from an early age that they have to dedicate their time to one sport and one sport only. I played basketball and soccer when I wasn’t playing ball. Now, they play summer ball, fall ball. There’s no time to rest their arm and pitching is an unnatural act.

“It was sad to see Jose Fernandez of the Marlins go down with the surgery. There are not too many guys like Nolan Ryan who can maintain velocity at age 40.”

He started on Tuesday nights and by the end of the year started against St. John in the NCAA regional at Chappel Hill.

This spring on April 17, in his final start he struck out 16 against Middle Tennessee Tech. In the seventh inning Roszel noticed Hoffman take more time and stretch on the mound. The pitching coach admitted “it freaked me.”

He headed to the mound.

“I’m fine, I’m good,” Hoffman said.

“You sure?” Roszel asked.

Hoffman finished the inning throwing 94-95 MPH, struck out a couple of hitters in the eighth, hit 117 pitches and was finished, the closer came in to ice a 1-0 East Carolina win.

“The next couple of days when it came time for him to do his lifting and long toss he never felt comfortable,” said Roszel, “but there was never a moment of a pop, like you hear some guys talk about.”

Roszel says, as others have said, it’s almost as if parents want to take a gun out and get a reading on their child when he’s a toddler.

“Now don’t get me wrong, it was the gun readings that got Jeff drafted,” he admits.

The circle continues.


* * * Roszel gives credit to his friend Elon University Phoenix associate coach Greg Starbuck, who had seen Hoffman, had seen him pitch, knew Elon probably wouldn’t recruit him and told Roszel that the righthander was a “must see.” East Carolina recruiters saw Hoffman pitch at a showcase and then at a Perfect Game showcase in Jupiter four years ago this October.

“It was a short recruiting period: see and go, we trusted that athletic ability you had to dream on him a little bit,” said Roszel. “He was throwing in the mid 80s, maybe a little bit higher. Someone is lying if they tell you they knew that the 96-98 MPH was going to come.

“I’m 6-foot-3, he’s taller than I am. We look for the rangy skinny body. Plus he had an easy arm.”


* * * At Shaker High he was a five-time letter men (baseball three, basketball two) for the Blue Bison and a two-time team captain. Despite going 7-2 record with one save and a 1.56 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 18 walks in 63 innings as a senior he was not drafted.

He led Shaker to its first N.Y. State title tossing a complete game shutout earning First-Team N.Y. All-State, Suburban Council Pitcher-of-the-Year, Albany Times Union Pitcher-of-the-Year and Troy Record Player-of-the-Year. He closed out career as Blue Bison’s all-time wins leader (14), while ranking second in strikeouts (101) and ERA (1.73).

Hoffman pitched for the South Troy Dodgers where he went 5-1 with one save striking out 54 and walking 15 with a 1.83 ERA Then he was off to the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M. facing the host Farmington Strike Zone Cardinals as the Dodgers lost 3-2 in nine innings.

After he pitched so well clubs came a calling.

“We fought at the end with the pro clubs, all these guys who had their chance now wanted him to sign as a free agent,” said Roszel. “They made offers, we said ‘come here for three years, enjoy the college experience, we’ll get you more than that.’ Work with me for three years we’ll get it done. You say it, but you hope kids will get it.”


* * * As a freshman ...  in 2012 he opened the season in the bullpen making his collegiate debut against Milwaukee working a scoreless inning with one strikeout and earned first collegiate save against No. 20-ranked Louisville to win the DRASH Alabama Classic title.

Jharel Cotton, who was drafted in the 20th round that June by the Los Angeles Dodgers, started against Louisville. Hoffman was clocked at 95 and had a four-inning hitless outing against Louisville and everyone’s widened and asked “who is this Jeff Hoffman guy?” He threw four scoreless, hitless innings with one strike out.

His first collegiate start was against No. 11 NC State when he allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits with two strikeouts in a no-decision and his first win at UNC Wilmington tossing 6 1/3 scoreless with seven strikeouts in the Pirates 5-0 win. He also won in relief against the Marshall Thundering Herd pitching 2 1/3 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on a pair of hits with one strikeout.

And his final win of the season was in the Conference-USA Tournament against UAB allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings with two strikeouts in a 10-3 victory.

He was promoted to the weekend rotation at Southern Miss allowing two runs on three hits in six innings with five strikeouts.

And at the Chapel Hill regional the boy from upstate New York faced St. John’s Red Storm surrendering four runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. He led the Pirates with a 2.49 ERA in six games against nationally-ranked opponents, while tying Cotton with 25 1/3 innings.

He earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors after appearing in 19 games making 10 starts. He had a 3-2 record with one save .and in 73 2/3 innings struck out 55 while walking 21. He earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors appearing in 19 games making 10 starts going 3-2 record with one save. He walked 21 and struck out 55 in 73 2/3 innings.


* * * As a sophomore ... Hoffman led Pirates in quality starts (11), innings pitched (109 2/3) and strikeouts (84) earning C-USA Pitcher-of-the-Week honours for the second time in his career after a complete game, one-hit shutout against N.C. Central. He became the 13th pitcher in conference history to work nine-plus innings in a game (9 2/3 innings at Tulane. He picked up wins against UAB, Southern Miss and Marshall, while his other wins were over Illinois, St. John’s and NCCU.

He lost to Houston in Conference USA tournament allowing six runs (all earned) on nine hits with three strikeouts and two walks in 5 1/3 innings As a sophomore he earned Second-Team All-Conference USA selection going 6-7 mark in 15 starts with a 3.20 ERA.

Last summer he excelled on Cape Cod with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks for a second-straight summer earning the Robert A. McNeese award as the Outstanding Pro Prospect in CCBL

Hoffman made four starts posting a 2-0 record with a 3.69 ERA fanned 33 batters, held opposing hitters to a .217 composite average.


* * * This spring as a junior ... he surrendered three or less earned runs in seven of 10 starts while racking up double-digit strikeouts against Western Kentucky (14) and a career-high 16 against Middle Tennessee (tied for fifth most in school history). He earned first C-USA and Louisville Slugger Player-of-the-Week honor after allowing one run (unearned) on five hits in eight innings with 14 strikeouts against WKU.

He tossed eight scoreless frames surrendering three hits and one walk to go with a career-high 16 punch-outs against MTSU which earned him C-USA and NCBWA Pitcher-of-the-Week accolades as well as his second Louisville Slugger National Player-of-the-Week honor. That was his final start of the year.

“It was in the upper 60s at first pitch and later in the game it was the low 50s,” said Roszel. “His change up was great, his breaking ball was filthy and his command was impeccable.”

He earned preseason All-America honours by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game, was a Golden Spikes Award Watch List candidate and was named to three preseason All-America squads: First-Team/Baseball America, First-Team/Perfect Game and Third-Team/Collegiate Baseball).

Appeared in 10 starts posting a 3-3 record with a 2.94 ERA finishing with 72 strikeouts and 20 walks in 67 1/3 innings. He was ECU’s highest draft pick of the four major American sports.


* * * The first time we ever remember writing about someone with the same elbow surgery was former No. 1 pick Billy Koch. He lit up the board at the SkyDome at 100 MPH.

Did he throw that hard in college?

“No, far from it,” Koch said, “but when they wrapped the tendon around my arm it was so long they wrapped it around twice. I highly recommend the surgery -- but not the rehab.”

Roszel listens to the story of Koch’s rebirth post-surgery and says: “well, they triple banded Jeff, he was so long and loose.”

More velocity?

And now Hoffman experiences the loneliness of a long distance runner/rehabbing pitcher. Instead of throwing bullpens he lifts weights increasing in small increments until he gets to play catch: with a trainer.

“No one is ever going to question his work ethic,” said Roszel. “Even after the surgery he believed he was the No. 1 over-all pick. “If you could see me now -- I have an ear to ear grin -- I’ll be even happier when he makes it.

“I gave him a big hug when he signed and told him to get me some Blue Jays gear ... it looks pretty sharp.”


* * * Top signing bonuses: given to Blue Jays June draft picks:

RHP Jeff Hoffman 2014 1st (9th) $3.0808 M US C Max Pentecost 2014 1st (11th) $2,888,3 M LHP Ricky Romero, 2005 1st (6th) $2.4 M SS Felipe Lopez 1998 1st (8th) $2 M RHP Deck McGuire, 2010 1st (11th) $2 M

LHP Daniel Norris, 2011 2nd (74th) $2 M LHP Matt Smoral, 2012 1st (50th) $2 M OF Gabe Gross 2001 1st (17th) $1.865 M SS Russ Adams 2002 1st (14th) $1.785 M OF D.J. Davis 2012 1st (17th) $1.75 M

OF Travis Snider 2006 1st (14th) $1.7 M SS Aaron Hill 2003 1st (13th) $1.675 M RHP Kevin Comer 2011 1st (57th) $1.65 M OF Vernon Wells 1997 1st (5th) $1.6 M LHP David Purcey 2004 1st (16th) $1.6 M

1B David Cooper 2008 1st (18th) $1.5 M SS Dickie Joe Thon 2010 5th (156th) $1.5 M RHP Billy Koch 1996 1st (4th) $1.45 M 3B Kevin Ahrens 2007 1st (16th) $1,440,000 RHP Chad Jenkins 2009 1st (20th) $1.359 M

C J.P.  Arencibia 2007 1st (21st) $1.3275 M LHP Zach Jackson 2004 1st (32nd) $1.017 M OF Jake Marisnick 2009 3rd (104) $1 M OF Jacob Anderson 2011 1st (35th) $990,000 RHP Roy Halladay 1995 1st (17th) $975,000

* * * Canada Day: Mississauga centre fielder Dalton Pompey tripled and right fielder Mike Crouse of Port Moody, B.C., singled for double-A New Hampshire in a 6-2 win over Reading on Tuesday ... Reliever Andrew Case of Saint John, N.B. allowed a run working the ninth inning as the Vancouver Canadians beat the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 8-4 before 5,157 fans at Nat Bailey Stadium. Case allowed a home run to former San Francisco Giants No. 1 pick Christian Arroyo. His ERA is now 1.42.

* * *

E-I-E-I-O on the farm ...

At Buffalo: Aaron Sanchez had his best start working seven innings and allowing three runs on seven innings in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to Syracuse on Sunday. He’s pitched 86 1/3 innings this season ... Liam Hendriks was tagged with the loss, his first, in a 7-0 setback to Syracuse on Sunday, allowing four earned runs in six innings. He’s now 6-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) walking five and striking out 62 in 80 1/3 innings

At N.H.: Casey Lawrence came within an our of a perfect game in an 8-0 win over New Britain in a seven-inning game. He retired the first hitters he faced in the final inning, before allowing a single to pinch-hitter Mike Kvasnicka. Lawrence has walked 14 and struck out 47 in 78 1/3 innings ... Daniel Norris is 1-0 with a 3.31 ERA in three starts since being promoted with six walks and 25 strikeouts.

At Dunedin: Kendall Gravemen put up six zeros in a 1-0 win over Clearwater and first rounder Aaron Nola on Tuesday. Neither were involved in the decision. Dwight Smith double in the only run in the eighth ... Jorge Saez is hitting .235 with a .616 OPS after being promoted.

At Lansing: Chase De Jong fell to 0-5 as Lansing lost 12-4 to West Michigan. He allowed seven hits and six runs in a 12-4 loss to West Michigan and now has a 5.34 ERA ... Langley B.C.’s Justin Atkinson is hitting .323 but no longer leads the organization in average. Vancouver’s Franklin Barreto is hitting .333.

At Vancouver: Tim Locastro and Chris Carlson each had two hits in a 10-2 win over Salem-Kaizer on Monday. Carlson also doubled and knocked in five ... Ryan McBroom won player of the week honours. He’s hitting .340 with five doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs in his first 13 games.

At Bluefield: Trent Miller is hitting .323 with a homer, five RBIs and an .805 OPS ... LHP Matt Smoral has 13 strikeouts and seven walks his four outings (5 1/3 innings).

At Gulf Coast: Conner Greene first innings of pro ball were 10 scoreless before he was promoted to Bluefield ... Juan Tejada has three homers, eight RBIs and 24 games with a .956 OPS.