The Yankees went with an interesting choice in the Rule 5 Draft. Instead of going for the high-risk, high-reward player that most teams want, they went for the 'middle-of-the-road' guy. As a perennial contender, the Yanks don't have many chances to 'audition' youngsters (like the Nats and Pirates do). He has a better chance to stick on a major league roster all year than a younger, 'rawer' player. The Yanks wanted a player who would stay on the team the entire season. If Hoffmann doesn't, they will have lost Brian Bruney for nothing.
(That's the rules of the Rule 5 Draft. The drafted player has to stay on the major league team all year. If he can't, he can be offered back to his original organization for $25,000. If they decline that, then he can get sent to the minors.)
Since Austin Jackson was traded yesterday, the Yanks acquired a player eerily similar to him.
Ajax has more steals, and is two years younger, but Hoffmann actually looks to be the better defensive player. He has a better Range Factor in centerfield and overall outfield (for what it's worth in the minors), and a much better assist rate (twice as good in fact: one in every 13 games vs. one in every 26 games for Ajax). And as LoHud pointed out, Baseball America rated his defense above average across the board (and the best in the Dodgers' system):
"He's a big, physical outfielder with big league experience," said Yankees pro scouting director Billy Eppler. "Our scouts saw some good things in him, including good defensive ability and a good arm. He runs well for his size, we've got him as a 55 runner at 6-foot-3, 235. Kevin Long, our hitting coordinator, looked at him on video and thinks there's a foundation there hitting-wise."
Hoffmann also had a much better 2009 in Triple-A: 68 games, .285/.360/.455, 37 K, 32 BB, 10 SB, 8 CS for Albuquerque vs. 123 games, .300/.354/.405, 123 K, 40 BB, 24 SB, 4 CS for Ajax in Scranton. However, Albuquerque is a notorious hitter's park. When neutralized for park effects, it drops his stats precipitously: .261/.331/.395. (FYI, Scranton is a perfectly neutral park.) His best asset is his ability to hit lefties: .974 OPS against southpaws in '09. We may see him start against lefties in place of Melky/Gardner.
When he was promoted to the Dodgers in May, Marc Hulet gave some great analysis on the rookie:
He turned down the opportunity to play U.S. college hockey for a good program at Colorado College (he was also an eighth-round selection by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003).
So obviously, we know Hoffmann has some athletic skill despite being signed as a non-drafted amateur free agent out of a Minnesota high school. Hoffmann... is a player that does a little bit of everything well. He lacks that one tool that really makes him stand out, though. He can play all three outfield positions well. He can hit for a respectable average, but he's not going to hit .300 consistently. Hoffmann is also probably good for 10-15 home runs in a full season, as well as 15-20 stolen bases.
... the right-handed hitter is a good complementary player, who will not be a star. That said, he has the potential to grit-out a few above-average MLB seasons if given the opportunity. Hoffmann could also be a good platoon partner with [Juan] Pierre...
Brett Gardner has been called 'Juan Pierre with patience.' It looks like one of our '09 centerfielders will be traded.
(PS: video highlights of Hoffmann.)