Rounding Third: Draft prospect latest Tommy John victim

By The Sports NetworkMay 9, 2014 at 12:41 PM
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While the rest of the world is talking about the NFL Draft, a bit of news came out on Thursday that may have shaken up the top of the upcoming MLB Draft.

By the way, if are one of those people who think these networks overdo it with regards to analyzing the NFL Draft, take a gander at the overnight ratings from ESPN.

The NFL is King. Period.

At this point the NFL could put players' vacation videos on TV and people will watch. Actually that might not be a good idea considering the amount of offseason arrests in the league, but I digress.

There has been no bigger story in Major League Baseball this season than the rash of elbow injuries amongst pitchers that have required Tommy John surgery. It's hard to find a team who hasn't been affected in one way or another. Heck, even position players have fallen victim to it, as Minnesota third baseman Miguel Sano can attest.

Actually people in Baltimore were holding their breath this week thinking catcher Matt Wieters was headed down that same path.

But now it's starting to trickle down to draft prospects and a big one at that, as East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman was the latest to be felled by a dreaded torn elbow ligament.

"It was disappointing for all of us to hear the news regarding Jeff," ECU head coach Billy Godwin said. "After speaking with Jeff, he and his family have decided this is the best thing for him to do at this time. We are hopeful he will have a quick recovery and be back on the mound very soon. Jeff is one of our leaders on the field, inside the clubhouse and is a tremendous competitor who will definitely be missed."

Hoffman was 3-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 10 starts for the Pirates this season, including double-digit strikeout totals against Western Kentucky (14) and a season-high 16 punch-outs against Middle Tennessee.

It was after that stellar outing against Middle Tennessee that the Latham, N.Y., standout started to jump up draft boards. But it was also after that outing that he began to experience some soreness in his elbow. After missing two starts, he was examined by Dr. James Andrews, who recommended he have surgery.

These days, though, Tommy John surgery is nowhere near the death knell it once was. Hoffman probably would have been taken in the top five before the injury, but even with surgery scheduled, most experts feel he still could go in the first round.

It also helps that he is 21. He was already as close to being MLB ready as any pitcher in the draft. Now, perhaps a team picking in the second half who would have had no shot at getting him before takes a chance.

There are six clubs that have two picks in the first round. Why wouldn't one of them take a chance on a guy. Yes, they will probably have to pay above slot to nail him down, but wouldn't you do that for a guy, when healthy, could have been the top right-handed pitcher in this class.

Also helping Hoffman's chances is what happened with Washington Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito. The top prep right-hander in the 2012 draft class, Giolito strained his ulnar collateral ligament that March. Although, he could still throw, teams knew he needed surgery. The Nats took a chance on him at No. 16 and signed him to an above slot $2.93 million deal before sending him out for the Tommy John procedure.

How's Giolito doing now? Well, he's back to throwing in the high-90s and some in the Washington organization think he may be a better prospect at this point than Stephen Strasburg.

In case anyone wants to start planning, the MLB Draft takes place from June 5-7 with the Houston Astros holding the first overall pick for the third straight season. Rounds 1 and 2 will take place on June 5, 3-10 on June 6 and then the festivities conclude on June 7 with Rounds 11-50.

Fun stuff.

Now back to the NFL Draft.


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