The wait is over.
The Colorado Rockies are calling up right handed pitcher and No. 2 PuRP Jeff Hoffman to make his Major League debut Saturday night against the Chicago Cubs, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com. Hoffman will join shortstop Trevor Story, outfielder David Dahl, catcher Tony Wolters, relievers Carlos Estevez and Matt Carasiti, and starter Tyler Anderson on the list of Rockies rookies who have made their debut this year. He will be filling Tyler Chatwood’s spot in the rotation for now while Chatwood recovers from a lower back strain.
Hoffman, who was acquired last July as the centerpiece prospect in the deal that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto, has spent the year in Triple-A Albuquerque. In 22 starts he has a 4.02 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 124 strikeouts and 44 walks in 118 2⁄3 innings. That may seem like a lot for a top pitching prospect but when you consider the average ERA in the Pacific Coast League is 4.51 you start to see that Hoffman has been excellent for the Isotopes (against players who are on average 3.8 years older).
He is widely considered to be one of the Top 50 prospects in the minor leagues due to his “plus-plus” mid-90’s fastball (which has a lot of sink on it), a “plus-plus” low-80’s curveball, and an average change up. He turned heads at the 2016 MLB Futures Game in San Diego thanks to his 97.3 mph fastball with an average spin rate of 2,519 RPM. According to Mike Petriello, “that’s a big deal -- high-spin fastballs defy gravity for slightly longer, and are positively correlated to swinging strikeouts.”
Considered by many to be the top pitching prospect headed into the 2014 amateur draft, Hoffman slid down draft boards after undergoing Tommy John surgery during his junior year at East Carolina. The Toronto Blue Jays liked him so much they still made him the ninth overall pick in that year’s draft. He made his professional debut in 2015, putting up a 2.92 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks 67 2⁄3 innings across two levels before being traded to the Rockies on July 28 along with Jose Reyes, Simon Castro, and Jesus Tinoco in exchange for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins. He made seven starts after the trade, striking out 29 and walking 10 for the New Britain Rock Cats in 36 1⁄3 innings.
There have been hints that the Rockies would be limiting Hoffman’s workload this season, and he hasn’t thrown any more than 76 pitches in a start since July 5 (before the All-Star break). When the Rockies called up Jon Gray last year, he made his debut on August 4 against the Seattle Mariners and threw just 77 pitches in four innings. He didn’t appear after the sixth inning in any of his nine starts, throwing a maximum of 92 pitches in his penultimate start of the season on September 14. It’s probably reasonable to expect the Rockies will have Jeff Hoffman on a similar restriction.
A corresponding roster move has not yet been announced. Hoffman is not on the 40-man roster so the Rockies would not only have to demote someone, they would also need to either designate someone for assignment (DFA) or move an injured player (such as Mark Reynolds or Trevor Story) to the 60-day disabled list.