|Hammer, image- MiLB.com|
Acquired as part of the return from Colorado in last summer’s Pat Neshek trade, right-handed pitcher J.D. Hammer has stood out as a promising prospect that could prove valuable in the near future for the Phillies.
Originally a 24th round draft pick on the Rockies in 2016, Hammer made his professional debut that year in the Rookie level Pioneer League for Grand Junction. In 27 relief outings there, the Marshall product posted a 0-2 record with three saves, a 3.92 ERA while striking out 52 batters and walking 11 in 43 2/3 innings.
Following the 2016 season, Hammer, who had previously dealt with vision challenges and struggled with reading signals from his catchers, had an examination and was prescribed glasses, according to reports. In a short amount of time, the new frames have become what Hammer is known for and have helped him excel.
Last year, Hammer pitched at multiple levels during the regular season. Opening the season in the Class A Sally League with Asheville, Hammer dominated, posting a 4-1 record with seven saves, a 1.20 ERA while striking out 47 batters and walking only five in 30 innings of work. He was promoted in June to Class A Advanced Lancaster. As a member of the JetHawks’ bullpen, the six-foot-three 215-pounder posted a 0-1 record with six saves and a 5.25 ERA.
Following the trade to the Phillies, Hammer was assigned to Class A Advanced Clearwater. He was a stud for the Threshers bullpen, posting a 2-0 record with a 0.57 ERA while striking out 20 and walking two in 12 games (15 2/3 innings).
This off-season Hammer pitched in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. In 10 appearances for Glendale, he notched a 0.66 ERA with no decisions, three saves and a .093 batting average against.
Hammer features a fastball that usually sits around 96 MPH and can touch higher. He also offers a solid breaking pitch, a slider/curve hybrid with nice movement, and can pound the strike zone.
Primarily a third baseman and shortstop in high school, Hammer didn't take the mound until he was in junior college. The transition clearly worked well, as he's gotten pretty far as a hurler and couldn't muster much offense even at the JuCo level.
The 23-year-old will be among the crop of minor leaguers invited to big league spring training this year as a non-roster player. If he impresses in Grapefruit League play the same as he did in the Fall League, Hammer could be on the fast track to a spot in the big leagues.
Keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.