The 2021 MLB Draft will begin on July 11, 2021. We take a look at Steven Hajjar, a left-handed pitcher with an impressive four-pitch repertoire and intriguing gyro slider.
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Steven Hajjar, Left-Handed Pitcher, Michigan
Weight: 215 lbs.
2020: 4GS, 20 IP, 3-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 6 ER, 1 HR, 11 BB, 24 K
2021: 14GS, 81.2 IP, 4-2, 3.09 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 28 ER, 8 HR, 29 BB, 110 K
Hajjar has a decent fastball and loopy curveball, but his best pitch is his changeup, which comes in with a lethal delivery and just fades at the end to baffle batters. He also employs a slider that can be lethal, though he opted to use it less in 2021; this could have been his best pitch if he used it more.
As alluded to, Hajjar’s changeup is his best pitch. As MLB Pipeline explains, Hajjar “sells [his changeup] with fastball arm speed,” meaning that hitters have even less time to locate his pitch and determine that it’s a changeup rather than a heater. The pitch also finishes well, fading once it reaches the batter. Hajjar throws his changeup in the low-80s.
Although he used it less frequently this past season, Hajjar’s slider must be talked about, too. The pitch is a gyro, similar to those used by Luis Castillo or Luke Jackson. This allows him to get sharp, late movement on his breaking ball. The pitch’s break is one-of-a-kind, though its usage is similar to his changeup because it is intended to break late and fool batters at the last second. (You can find a really great explanation of gyro sliders here.)
Hajjar is also able to use his height to efficiently deliver his fastball, which clocks in around the low-90s and tops out at 95 mph. The pitch evidently doesn’t have extreme velocity, but it reaches batters with a decent sinking action.
Hajjar didn’t have an incredible 2021 season, pitching to just a 4-2 record and 3.09 ERA. His velocity has yet to look dominant, too, which is somewhat disappointing when talking about a tall pitcher like Hajjar.
The southpaw’s curveball is also another weakness right now, though the hope is that this develops into a much more lethal pitch down the road. At present, it comes in around the mid-70s and lacks much break outside of the generic vertical drop. This is a pitch that will definitely require more development before Hajjar can deploy it in the way he wants to: as a nasty offering that will baffle batters late in counts.
Pro Comparison: Austin Gomber
Initially, I attempted to find another gyroball pitcher with a similar profile as Hajjar, but most were either right-handers or, as this Wikipedia article so bluntly put it, pitchers who “cannot do so on a consistent basis,” “throw it unconsciously,” and “throw it accidentally.” So, instead, we’ll compare Hajjar to Gomber, which in all fairness isn’t a horrible comparison anyways. Both have the same four-pitch repertoire of low-90s fastball, mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball. They’re both southpaws, too, and they measure in at 6-foot-5. Gomber is just five pounds heavier than Hajjar, though the latter could catch up to him in weight as he develops more. Further, Gomber’s slider falls low and in to right-handers, so while it is not a gyro, its break is similar to that of Hajjar.
One major concern about Hajjar has been his lack of projectability. He’s tough to figure out, but we could compare him to Gomber, who was a former fourth-round pick and is now 13-8 with a 3.70 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over three big-league seasons.
Draft Projection: Second-Round Pick
I’m admittedly not as high on Hajjar on others (I would take him as a mid- to late-third-round pick), but the general consensus is that Hajjar will go somewhere in the second round. To his credit, he already has a really solid repertoire with three developed pitched and the potential for his curveball to be the fourth. He has the makeup of a mid-rotation started but now just needs to work on finding the zone more. It will be interesting to see how teams view Hajjar and just how far they’re willing to go to get him on their team this July.