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?