The Rule 5 draft is a bit of a crapshoot. The Yankees (essentially) had the first pick in today’s draft and took Jamie Hoffmann, a guy who was generating absolutely no media buzz until 15 minutes before the selection. I talked to another executive who said his team didn’t even have Hoffmann on its list of targets. Baseball America didn’t list him among its top 20 candidates. But that’s not unusual. This is all about teams going after a specific need. Maybe that’s a left-handed pitcher or a utility infielder or a speed guy off the bench. It’s often high-ceiling, not quite ready talent for a team that doesn’t expect to contend. For the Yankees, it was a right-handed outfielder who can hit lefties.
25 years old
6-3, 235 lbs
Drafted: He was never taken in baseball’s amateur draft — that’s the Rule 4 draft, by the way — but he was an eighth-round pick in the NHL. The Dodgers signed him out of high school as a non-drafted free agent.
Career: Hoffman’s power numbers have actually gotten better as he’s advanced through the minor leagues. Just a guess, but that might be the result of him improving by playing more baseball and less hockey. Last year he opened in Double-A, went to Triple-A after 29 games and went to the big leagues eight games later. He stayed in Los Angeles for a month, got just 22 at-bats, and finished with solid numbers in the Pacific Coast League.
Defense: Baseball America rated Hoffmann as the best defensive player in the Dodgers system, above average across the board. He’s played 325 minor league games in center field, 258 in right and 13 in left. He was primarily a center fielder during his time in Triple-A. Baseball America notes that he “gets good jumps and runs good routes.”
Offense: Hoffmann is a career .283 hitter with a .401 slugging percentage, but his slugging was .455 in Triple-A this year. He’s not a huge strikeout guy either. He had 37 strikeouts and 32 walks in 257 Triple-A at-bats this season. While his power has improved, he’s never hit more than 11 home runs in a season. That was this year. He hit 10 in 2008 and nine in 2007. He’s reached double digit steals every season, but he’s only gone above 20 steals once.
Why he was available: When the Dodgers made their September call-ups this year, they took Hoffmann off the 40-man roster, but the story is a bit more complicated than that, at least according to Brian Cashman. “The Dodgers last year reduced him from their roster, and teams put claims on him throughout the game,” Cashman said. “But (the Dodgers) had a deal with him of signing him back. They gave him a $25,000 signing bonus, so he rejected the claims and went to Triple-A for them. It was a smart deal by the Dodgers to try to protect their assets when they got into a roster crunch. They knew he wouldn’t get through the outright, and he didn’t.” I honestly had no idea a player could reject a claim, but there you have it.
Where he fits for the Yankees: He’ll have a chance to win a bench role in spring training. “He’s got a lot of talent,” Cashman said. “Right-handed hitter. We’ll see what he does. He has great makeup. He’s got ability. We project him, in the future, as an everyday-type player. We’ve got all those left-handed bats, we’ll see how he mixes in.”