After losing Wayne Lyons, Alex Carter, and Jordan Richards this offseason, it's hard to think it could get worse for the Cardinal secondary. But when the Arizona Diamondbacks plucked safety Zach Hoffpauir out of the unit by selecting him in the 22nd round of the MLB Draft last week and signing him Tuesday, it just did.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The Diamondbacks signed 22nd round pick Zach Hoffpauir for $100k. Athletic Stanford OF with tools, had minor injuries this spring. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/mlbdraft?src=hash">#mlbdraft</a></p>— Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky) <a href="https://twitter.com/hudsonbelinsky/status/611364312284823552">June 18, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Hoffpauir told Do-Hyoung Park at the Stanford Daily back in May that if he got the money he wanted, he would leave Palo Alto to pursue his dreams as a baseball player:
"I'd say that if I wanted to play pro baseball, this would be the year to do it," Hoffpauir said. "I'm very solid — I'm 100 percent signable, and I want to sign this year. If I get what I want, then I'll go."
On paper, signing for just $100K doesn't really make sense for the junior two sport athlete because of how late he was drafted. Picks this late in the draft rarely ever make the major leagues, and if they do, rarely make a solid career in baseball. Pay is very low in the minor leagues, to the point of exploitation, especially for someone with the academic opportunities Hoffpauir has.
It's not like he's the Joaquin Arias of college baseball though. He has a silky, smooth swing, and the results back it up. Even though he missed time with a wrist injury, one that can sap a hitter's power, he hit .289 in limited action, launching four home runs. That's an especially impressive feat when take into account that he plays half of his games at spacious Sunken Diamond, where home runs come to die. I did color commentary for a game on KZSU this season, and he was by far the best player on the field.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hKdvh5-ASFA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
With his strength and speed, he has all of the physical tools to succeed at the next level in baseball. But a lot of players do. There has to be a reason 645 guys were taken before him.
For this reason, leaving a year early for such an uncertain future, before earning his Stanford degree, seems like a strange career choice.
But since he did leave: how will his absence affect the Cardinal football team?
He was the most accomplished defensive back Stanford has. His absence would leave a huge void in a secondary already gaping with holes. His experience would be invaluable for such a young, albeit very talented, defense. Kodi Whitfield could fill in at his position, but he's only played on defense for one season at the college level, and saw very little action, at that.
Hoffpauir is a very gritty, smash mouth player, a quality that will be very hard for Stanford to replace. He flew under the radar last season with Jordan Richards anchoring the secondary, but his value to this team shouldn't be understated. He made great tackles in space, and had the ability to physically take over games like he did against Washington State, making 15 hard fought tackles.
Stanford will only return two starters on defense, including none from the defensive line or secondary. I would want to worry, but David Shaw's teams always have a way of silencing doubters and overcoming adversity. Buckle up, Stanford fans. We're going to see some fireworks this season. If you like Arena Football, the 2015 Stanford football team will be your thing, especially without Hoffpauir.