Rox's No. 3 prospect Hoffman set for debut

Rox's No. 3 prospect Hoffman set for debut

DENVER -- The Rockies are about to unveil right-hander Jeff Hoffman, the No. 3 prospect in their system according to MLBPipeline.com, at the Major League level.

Hoffman, 23, the most celebrated piece of the deal that sent star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2015, will make his Major League debut on Saturday night in a start against the Cubs at Coors Field, manager Walt Weiss said.

"Right into the fire," Weiss said. "We feel like Jeff can handle it. He's got plenty of stuff. It's 'plus' stuff, even at the Major League level. He can navigate lineups with his stuff alone. I feel like he's ready for this. You've got to start your career at some point, and his is going to be tomorrow."

Hoffman will have to be added to the 40-man Major League roster.

In 22 starts at Triple-A Albuquerque, Hoffman is 6-9 with a 4.02 ERA, 124 strikeouts and 44 walks in 118 2/3 innings. In his last start, on Sunday at Colorado Springs, he went five innings -- he was limited to 66 pitches -- and gave up no runs on one hit, fanning nine.

Mark Wiley, the Rockies' director of pitching operations, who watched that start, said Hoffman corrected delivery issues early this season. Lately, Wiley said, Hoffman's aptitude for navigating a lineup has grown to the Major League level.

"He's a good athlete and he's intelligent," Wiley said. "Pitchers start to form opinions about what they're going to throw and why they're going to throw it. It's really important when you get to the big leagues, because it helps you become more invested in the pitch. You have your own opinion of what the pitch is going to do. That helps with the focus and concentration."

The Rockies considered selecting Hoffman eighth overall in the first round out of East Carolina in 2014, but he underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow a month before the Draft. The Rockies instead chose lefty Kyle Freeland, a Denver native from the University of Evansville, and the Blue Jays took Hoffman with the following pick.

Freeland is a combined 9-9 with a 4.15 ERA at Double-A Hartford and Albuquerque over 143 innings. He is a candidate to be called up to the Majors in September.

After recovering from his surgery, Hoffman made a combined 20 starts last season -- 13 for the Blue Jays' Class A and Double-A teams, the rest at Double-A New Britain for the Rockies -- and went 5-5 with a 3.03 ERA. He made his first Major League camp appearance with the Rockies this year.

The Rockies have been careful with Hoffman's workload in his first full and healthy professional season. He was allowed to work into the 100-pitch range through early July but has been limited to 65 to 75 pitches since. He comes to the Majors with 118 2/3 innings this year -- 14 2/3 more than last season.

Because his innings were tapered in recent outings, Hoffman will not have to be watched as closely as righty Jon Gray was last year, when he made an August debut in his second full pro season and third since he was drafted third overall in 2013. After Gray threw 114 1/3 innings at Albuquerque, the Rockies rationed him to 40 2/3 innings over nine starts. His 155 total innings represented a 30 2/3-inning increase over the previous year.

The Rockies are on a similar plan with Freeland, who had bone chips removed from his left elbow and dealt with shoulder fatigue and made just nine starts during the Minor League season. Freeland grabbed momentum by pitching well in 25 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League, going 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. Ben Weinrib contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.