It took a while, way too long for his liking. He knew he had a chance, but all he could do was wait. He watched his peers pass him and it couldn’t be more frustrating. He wondered whether he would ever have a chance to catch up. The waiting finally ended and he saw his opportunity materialize.
Jesse Hahn struggled through his first two years at Virginia Tech before finally putting it all together as a junior. He flashed tremendous stuff, throwing a mid-90’s fastball, an 11-to-5 curveball that was downright nasty at its best, and a passable changeup, and he looked to be a first round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. But then Hahn suffered an elbow injury late in the season, and his draft stock plummeted. 5 rounds and 190 picks passed before Hahn was finally selected by the Rays in the 6th round. He signed for $525,000, second round money, but it was less than half what he could have gotten had he not gotten injured. Hahn underwent Tommy John Surgery soon after signing. Since then, it’s been a waiting game as he has eagerly anticipated his professional debut.
In 2012, his time has finally come. Hahn made his professional debut with the Short Season-A Hudson Valley Renegades and tossed 3 shutout innings in his first start. His second start was nearly as good as he allowed 7 runs, 6 earned, and he was inconsistent throughout his next few outings. But Hahn has allowed just 1 run in 8 innings over the course of his last two starts as he has appeared to finally hit a groove. On the year, Hahn has gone 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA in 7 starts and 20.1 IP. But his peripherals stats are encouraging. He has struck out 18, 8.0 per 9 innings, although he has walked 10, a 4.4 BB/9. But what has stood out the most is that Hahn has not allowed a home run all season and it has not been much of a fluke as he has forced a 62.5% groundball rate, tops in the New York-Penn League minimum 20 IP. Hahn has been victimized quite a bit by players behind him defensively that still need a ton of work, but his extreme groundball tendencies will serve him well as his career continues.
Hahn is a thin 6’5″, 182 pounds and will turn 23 on July 30th. His fastball ranges in just the low-90’s right now, but it features great late sink along with run away from right-handed hitters leading to tons of weak contact on the ground. He complements it with two different curveballs from the same arm slot on his fastball, a mid-70’s curveball with big break and a low-80’s offering with sharper downward break that at its best is an excellent swing and miss pitch. He also continues to work on his changeup, which has shown nice arm action and sink when everything has gone right. Hahn struggles somewhat with control at this point, at least partially because of the great movement he gets on his pitches, but he keeps the ball down and forces groundballs. Hahn got off to a late start to his professional career because of his injury, but if he continues to progress he still has a chance to be an impact major league starting pitcher. When he was pitching so well as a senior at Virginia Tech, Hahn had to envision himself much farther along as a professional at this point in time over two years after the 2010 Draft. But the Rays see the same upside in Hahn that was going to make him a first round pick and if he can continue to sharpen up his arsenal, it won’t matter how his career started. Hahn came out for his first professional season ready to give everything he has, and we’ll see what he can do moving forward.
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