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2022 Prospect Previews: Steven Hajjar


Twins Daily Contributor

In a new series at Twins Daily, JD Cameron looks at some of the Twins' early draft picks from 2021, what attracted the Twins to them, and storylines to watch for in 2022. Next up, number 61 overall pick, Steven Hajjar.

While the MLB lockout continues to stagnate the offseason, minor-league players are preparing to travel to Florida and Arizona to begin preparation for their seasons. In this series, I’ll look at some of the Twins' notable picks from the early rounds of the 2021 draft. I’ll dig into scouting reports and storylines to look for ahead of the 2022 season. Next up, Steven Hajjar, a left-handed pitcher drafted out of the University of Michigan.

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45  
(grades courtesy of MLB.com)

Signing and Scouting
The Twins selected left-handed pitcher Steven Hajjar with their second-round pick in the 2021 draft (61st overall) out of the University of Michigan. Hajjar signed for the exact slot-bonus of $1.13 million. Coming into the draft, Hajjar was ranked as the #60 overall prospect by Baseball America and #100 overall by MLB.com.

Hajjar was the first of two college left-handed pitchers selected by the Twins in the early rounds (ahead of Cade Povich in the third round). Hajjar, in line with other early picks outside the Twins first, has a strong all-around skill set and provides a solid floor as a prospect for the organization, who are continuing to add and develop a stable of pitching talent. It’s notable that Hajjar and Povich are the only left-handed starting pitchers who would feature in most evaluators' top Twins prospects lists.

At 6’5 and 215 pounds. the 21-year-old southpaw has a prototypical starting-pitcher's body, while still being a little on the lanky side. Interestingly, Hajjar had a significant draft pedigree from his high-school career, when his fastball was already in the low 90s and he had more projectability. Despite not being able to establish his previous velocity (mid-90s fastball) in his final year at Michigan, he had an excellent season. Hajjar put together a 3.09 ERA over 81 innings, striking out 110 and walking 29 batters. 

In terms of his arsenal, Hajjar has a four-pitch mix led by a fastball that sits around 91 mph. Knowing the tendencies of the Twins, it's likely they feel they can re-up Hajjar’s fastball velocity to the 93-95 mph range, which would be of significant impact. Indeed, reports from Twins instructs in Florida has Hajjar’s fastball clocked at 97 mph when working with the organization coaching staff after he was drafted. If this increase sticks, it will alter Hajjar’s ceiling and possibly his trajectory as a prospect. 

Hajjar’s fastball does not have a lot of spin but good vertical movement. One would imagine the organization will encourage the establishment of his fastball up in the strike zone when he makes his professional debut. Hajjar has an excellent changeup that sits in the low 80s and falls away late in its plane. He has a slow 12-6 curveball and a slider he used more intermittently. It’s possible the Twins encourage him to ditch one of his breaking pitches in favor of refining the other, particularly given the quality of his changeup.

Likely to Start At: Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (A) (with the ability to move quickly to Cedar Rapids (A+)
Hajjar has a strong floor as a rare left-handed starting pitcher in the Twins organization due to his size, excellent college career, and already well-developed pitching arsenal. Ultimately, his end-game will probably depend on the consistency with which he can increase his velocity as he develops, with the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.

Who is the most intriguing of the three draft picks discussed so far? What are your thoughts on Steven Hajjar ahead of his professional debut with the Twins?

Previous Prospect Previews
Twins Prospect Preview: Chase Petty
Twins Prospect Preview: Noah Miller

 


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Good information, Jamie.  It is interesting how many pitchers can pick up 2-3 mph or more on their fastball after working with coaches after the draft.  It seems like the Twins may be looking more at the quality of the secondary pitches when making draft picks thinking it is far easier to add some giddy up to a fastball than teach a changeup or slider to someone who has not shown the ability to throw good ones in the past.  I know the Twins love sliders, but boy I love these kids that have great changeups just as much.  I am enjoying this series.  Thank you.

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I liked this pick when the Twins made it. First thing I liked was he was a lefty with a solid build.  Second was most of the analysts thought it was a good pick mainly based on projection as a fair number of them felt he had a bit more in the tank than what he showed that year in college. I agree with everything the OP said.  I think the fastball will play at the top of the zone.  He needs to find a plus third pitch and he should be good.  Pretty excited to see how he does this year.

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1 hour ago, RJA said:

Good information, Jamie.  It is interesting how many pitchers can pick up 2-3 mph or more on their fastball after working with coaches after the draft.  It seems like the Twins may be looking more at the quality of the secondary pitches when making draft picks thinking it is far easier to add some giddy up to a fastball than teach a changeup or slider to someone who has not shown the ability to throw good ones in the past.  I know the Twins love sliders, but boy I love these kids that have great changeups just as much.  I am enjoying this series.  Thank you.

Great point and I agree. I think the Twins know they have the skill of adding velocity in the bank so secondaries are important to them. Appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment!

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34 minutes ago, terrydactyls said:

Two questions.

1.  The baseball card lists him at 240 pounds, but the article says 215.  Which is it?

2.   All his scouting grades are 50 or higher, but his overall is 45.  Are there other components that he sucks at?

Good questions. The weight is from pre-draft reporting so while I cant speak precisely to what it is, if I had to guess I'd say 240 is more accurate. I'd also add that the timing of this series is a little challenging. A lot of outlets have released top overall prospect list (top 100s) without having released team specific lists yet, so weights and heights may change, in addition to scouting grades.

The overall grade isn't usually just an average/sum/composite of the input grades (if that makes sense). I think when thinking about, the question which helps me consume it is 'what is the most likely outcome for a pitcher or hitter with these inputs'.

I'd add that the scouting grades were also pre-draft, so those will need to be updated. Fastball, for example, would be 55 if he's hitting 97 mph with control.

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1 hour ago, terrydactyls said:

Two questions.

1.  The baseball card lists him at 240 pounds, but the article says 215.  Which is it?

2.   All his scouting grades are 50 or higher, but his overall is 45.  Are there other components that he sucks at?

Always go with the heavier weight, lol. It's amazing how long some of the early weights stick on a guy.

He doesn't have an elite score on any of his scouting grades, which will almost always pull down the overall even if he doesn't have a bad one. Scouts will always prefer a prospect that has at least one elite tool over someone who is average to above-average in everything. And I understand that, because as a kid advances through the system, if you don't have something elite to fall back on it gets harder and harder for you to master more advanced competition.

Hajjar is interesting, and seems like a quality 2nd round pick. If they can up his velocity to the mid-90's consistently without destroying his arm and he can maintain control, then he could move up pretty darn fast. I love the fact that he's a lefty and if really does have a quality changeup that could be fun. It'll be interesting to see if the additional velocity on he fastball helps or hurts it (or had no effect at all, I suppose). The bit of deception in a great changeup is one of those things that's really hard to define, IMHO, and finding what the right differentiation between the velocity of the fastball and the change could be the difference between missing bats, especially if his fastball doesn't have a lot of spin.

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3 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

Always go with the heavier weight, lol. It's amazing how long some of the early weights stick on a guy.

He doesn't have an elite score on any of his scouting grades, which will almost always pull down the overall even if he doesn't have a bad one. Scouts will always prefer a prospect that has at least one elite tool over someone who is average to above-average in everything. And I understand that, because as a kid advances through the system, if you don't have something elite to fall back on it gets harder and harder for you to master more advanced competition.

Hajjar is interesting, and seems like a quality 2nd round pick. If they can up his velocity to the mid-90's consistently without destroying his arm and he can maintain control, then he could move up pretty darn fast. I love the fact that he's a lefty and if really does have a quality changeup that could be fun. It'll be interesting to see if the additional velocity on he fastball helps or hurts it (or had no effect at all, I suppose). The bit of deception in a great changeup is one of those things that's really hard to define, IMHO, and finding what the right differentiation between the velocity of the fastball and the change could be the difference between missing bats, especially if his fastball doesn't have a lot of spin.

It's hard to believe they added velocity just like that.  Could be a big jump in hos ceiling, especially given his best pitch is a change-up.  He would have Johan like velocity difference between the two.  I am going to be watch a lot of Milb games this year.

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42 minutes ago, Linus said:

Anybody else wonder about any correlation between the magic uptick in velocity and all the arm problems young pitchers everywhere are experiencing?

Increased torque in the delivery increases the speed of a fastball. That same torque also increases the stress on joints. Some arms can take it, some cannot. There will be those that say it is the increased sliders leading to the injuries. It may be due to the increased speed. Look up the PT who writes here

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14 hours ago, Linus said:

Anybody else wonder about any correlation between the magic uptick in velocity and all the arm problems young pitchers everywhere are experiencing?

18 second pitch clock. Velocity will come down across the board, and I suspect injuries as well. Not to mention more CONTACT!

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On 1/25/2022 at 8:20 AM, RJA said:

Good information, Jamie.  It is interesting how many pitchers can pick up 2-3 mph or more on their fastball after working with coaches after the draft.  It seems like the Twins may be looking more at the quality of the secondary pitches when making draft picks thinking it is far easier to add some giddy up to a fastball than teach a changeup or slider to someone who has not shown the ability to throw good ones in the past.  I know the Twins love sliders, but boy I love these kids that have great changeups just as much.  I am enjoying this series.  Thank you.

I think the Twins look at guys before drafting them and say, we can see some mechanical adjustment on this guy play A  but not this other guy, player B.  We will take plaer A and add velo with him,   maybe they miss or dont prioritize looking at the secondary stuff tweaks.

 

 I like the change up especially as a lefty and can better get away with a single breaking ball.  Maybe he will be able to combine the curveball and Slider like Taylor Rogers or Chris Sale did and be able to mix and match.  That slurve seems to be devistating to lefties. He will be another interesting one to follow in 22

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1 hour ago, Major League Ready said:

Wouldn't a 97mph FB with decent control rate 60?  Just asking.

Very possibly. Depends on consistency of the velocity and control. I said 55 as a floor as I don't have any evidence to know what his velo and command is, if that makes sense. Thanks for reading!

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