No. 45: Matt Hoffman, LHP
Hoffman was drafted in the 26th round of the 2007 draft out of high school in Oklahoma, and the Tigers offered him enough of a signing bonus for his to forgo his college commitment and sign with the team. He signed late, and debuted in 2008, beginning his professional career as a starting pitcher. He was converted full time to the bullpen beginning in 2010, and this was when his prospect stock really began to take off, especially when he got sent to the Arizona Fall League following the 2010 season. There are reports of scouts having him touch as high as 98 with his fastball while in the AFL, but that velocity is not sustainable with his mechanics, combined with his lack of command when he reaches that far back. Hoffman spent all of 2012 with Triple A-Toledo, posting solid numbers across the board (although I'd like to see a decrease in hits and increase in strikeouts). He also went to the Arizona Fall League again, where he was pretty good with the exception of a couple bad outings that bloated his ERA. We should see Hoffman in Detroit at some point in 2013.
At this point, Hoffman is a two pitch lefty reliever, but both of his pitches have above average potential. His fastball usually sits in the 90-92 MPH range, and scouts have reported that he can touch 94-95 at times. His command does slip a bit when he reaches back for increased velocity, but he commands the fastball pretty well when he throws it with average velocity. Hoffman's curveball flashes plus potential at times, but I see him settling in with an above average pitch that has the ability to miss bats. He throws from a very low 3/4 arm slot, and when he's on, he has the ability to absolutely dominate left handed hitters, while still being at least moderately effective against right handers.
Like I said above, I expect to see Hoffman in Detroit at some point in 2013, probably as soon as the need for another lefty in the bullpen arises. Right now, Phil Coke, Darin Downs, Adam Wilk, and Duane Below (and maybe Andy Oliver) are all ahead of him on the lefty reliever depth chart, but with Wilk and Below profiling more as long relievers rather than LOOGY-types, and Oliver's obscene lack of command/control, Hoffman may surprise some in spring training. For me, he has the ceiling of a 7th inning reliever, with the more likely landing spot of a 2nd bullpen lefty/LOOGY. I expect he'll start 2013 back at Triple A-Toledo, with a call up to Detroit all but assured barring a total loss of ability or injury.