After a stellar season as Georgetown University baseball’s ace pitcher, graduate student Jake Bloss rocketed through prospect rankings to eventually land in Space City.
Bloss became the Hoyas’ highest drafted player when the Houston Astros selected him with the 99th pick of the 2023 MLB draft. Bloss turned in an 8-4 record and a 2.58 ERA across 76 and 2/3 innings with 96 strikeouts, earning Big East Pitcher of the Year and ABCA/Rawlings Third-Team All-American honors. He is second in Georgetown’s all-time single-season strikeout leaderboard and is the first Hoya to be drafted since 2019.
After a successful senior year at Lafayette College that resulted in first-team all-Patriot League honors, Bloss transferred to Georgetown for his master’s degree and began working with Head Coach Edwin Thompson and Pitching Coach George Capen to improve his pitch selection.
Bloss told The Hoya that his main focus heading into the season was differentiating his breaking pitches into two distinct offerings.
“For me, it was more working on off-speed,” Bloss said. “The velo ticked up a little, which is just kind of natural, I think, as you just get older and put on a little more muscle. But Cape and I really hammered the off-speed pitches in the fall.”
Bloss features a slider and a curveball as his secondary offerings, in addition to a power four-seam fastball and an occasional changeup. While both pitches flashed swing-and-miss potential throughout his college career, their average velocities sat 4.6 mph apart at 79.3 mph and 74.7 mph, respectively. To stop the two pitches from bleeding into one another, Bloss was not allowed to throw his curveball until his slider became a fully distinguishable offering. By the end of the season, his slider and curveball had distinct movement profiles and averaged 81.9 mph and 75.5 mph, respectively, for a considerable 6.4 mph difference.
Bloss’ fastball also became a far more lethal weapon throughout the season. His average four-seam velocity rose from 90.1 mph in 2022 to 92.7 mph in 2023. In his last month with the team in May, he averaged 93.8 mph, suggesting even more room for growth as a professional. Bloss’ top-end fastball velocity showed similar upticks — while he only threw 4 pitches above 95 mph in 2022, he logged 117 such pitches in 2023 and touched 97 mph towards the end of the season.
In addition to gaining velocity, Bloss focused on using Georgetown’s Rapsodo pitch tracking system to monitor changes to his four-seam fastball’s pure spin and spin efficiency. Given his naturally high spin rates, Bloss sought to maximize such characteristics in order to generate more carry on his fastball, giving it the illusion of rising up the strike zone to the hitter. Bloss’ background in data analytics did not hurt, either — he double majored in mathematics and economics at Lafayette and is in the process of completing his master’s degree in finance.
The combination of offseason pitch design work and significant velocity gains helped Bloss unlock new potential as he cruised to his most successful season yet, allowing a mere .210 batting average (AVG) and .573 on-base plus slugging (OPS) across the year. In particular, Bloss saw the most significant improvement from 2022 to 2023 in breaking balls, as he decreased opponents’ production against his slider and curveball from a .250 AVG and .732 OPS to a paltry .169 AVG and .481 OPS.
Bloss’ more advanced peripherals paint a similar picture, suggesting an increased willingness to challenge hitters directly with his repertoire. While his strikeouts per nine innings rate increased from 10.6 to 11.3, he dramatically slashed his walks per nine innings rate from 4.3 to 2.8 along with a similarly precipitous drop in his hits per nine innings rate from 9.5 to 6.8. All these changes have culminated in his dominance this year, even as he still has room for improvement with his command.
As his strong performance continued throughout the year, Bloss said he started to attract more attention leading up to draft day.
“It was kind of slow in the fall, I started to get a couple of looks, and then early in the spring, I started to see a few more scouts,” Bloss said. “Then I kept improving, kept getting some solid results and turned in quality starts, and more guys started to show up. And then it just took off.”
By the end of May, Bloss went from an unranked player to a nationally touted prospect in most major publications. Major League Baseball ranked him as the 178th best prospect in the nation, Prospects Live placed him at 121st place and minor league writer Joe Doyle highlighted him as a riser in 105th place. Still, Bloss caught the attention of a specific organization that had even larger plans for him.
The Houston Astros are one of the most successful teams of the last decade and have consistently boasted a deep rotation with strong top-line starters and formidable depth. Even with their big-dollar signings, the Astros’ biggest weapon is their pitching infrastructure, which has produced quality pitchers such as Framber Valdez, Bryan Abreu and Hunter Brown in recent years. The team’s draft history follows a similar trajectory, with the front brass generally skewing toward pitchers in the first few rounds.
Bloss said the Astros’ emphasis on pitcher acquisition and development was a major bright spot throughout his negotiations with the team leading up to the draft.
“Obviously, you want to maximize what you can get, but it was also very important for us to go to a team that develops pitchers,” Bloss said. “The Astros are one of them. At the end of the day, they drafted me, so it’s not like I have much say in it, but it’s definitely a bonus to go to a team who has a good track record for developing arms.”
Eventually, the Astros thought they had the right man in Bloss and chose him with their third-round pick. When asked about the moment he got drafted, Bloss chuckled and attributed much of his success to the support system around him, who accompanied him up until draft day.
“It’s pretty cool. I didn’t have a ton of people there, it’s just close family, but definitely cool,” Bloss said. “Lots of hugs going around, because if they weren’t as involved as they were, who knows? They were huge.”
Bloss represents the first MLB draft pick under Thompson and looks to join Sean Maloney and Tim Adleman as the third Hoya to reach the major leagues since 1960. While the Hoyas have not produced many draft picks historically, Bloss said he believes there to be professional-worthy talent on the team right now.
“Honestly, there’s probably three, four, maybe even five professional-ready guys who I think, given their chance, would thrive. The team, as a whole, has a great work ethic.”
“I would say, work as hard as you can. Keep on keeping on, because I think they’re doing the right thing, and it seems like so many guys have a lot of talent,” Bloss added.
Typically, players do not see action immediately after the draft in order to sign contracts, finish physicals and continue development under a new infrastructure, all the while having their workload managed to prevent avoidable injuries. Bloss initially expected to begin play starting around Sept. 15, but he has already seen 11 innings of professional action across rookie ball and Low-A. His most recent game was a 6-strikeout, no earned run effort across 3 and 1/3 innings with the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, posting up the same high strikeout numbers that made him an intriguing player in the first place.
Even with the pressure of having to perform in a new environment combined with the flurry of professional obligations with the Astros, Bloss said he was prepared for what was ahead.
“The first couple of days you get acclimated. You start building up over a week, sign your contract and do a medical evaluation.” Bloss said. “I talked to Cape today. He was like, ‘congratulations, that’s awesome.’ All positive, but ‘just so you know, you’re not done yet. You got a long way to go. It gets moving fast.’”
“I definitely am looking forward to it and getting acclimated, but I think it happens quickly. So I’m ready to go.”