Whither Phil Hughes?


In a Monday Morning Ten-Pack that features a glowing review of Jose Tabata and a guarded report on Jeremy Bleich, Kevin Goldsmith at Baseball Prospectus questions Phil Hughes. Since a BP subscription is required for the whole piece, I’ll excerpt:

At this point, Hughes is just massively confusing. His 2007 looked to be his breakout campaign, but then he severely pulled a hamstring while going for a no-hitter against Texas. This year, it was a strained oblique that hampered him, and since his return from it, he’s been either awesome or awful, depending on the day, and we have no real reason why he’s just one or the other. That trend has continued so far in the Arizona Fall League. In his first start for Peoria, he walked five in five innings, but also allowed just one hit while striking out seven and left scouts drooling. On Saturday, he allowed eight runs on seven hits while failing to get out of the third inning, and left scouts confused as to whether this was even the same pitcher they’d seen 11 days before. It’s hard to find somebody with more varied reports on him at this point.

Hughes is still just 22 and still has stuff that ranks him up with the pitching prospects in the Majors. However, he’s going to have to put it together soon.

Next season will be his fifth in professional baseball, and his Minor League numbers are off the charts. He now has to put it together at the Big League level while staying healthy. There’s no reason to think he can’t do that, and there’s no reason to think that his start on Saturday was simply an aberration. But as time ticks on, the Yanks’ patience will wane.

Categories : Pitching


  1. Mike A. says:

    If Hughes went to college instead of turning pro out of high school, he would have been a 2007 draft pick and would have finished 2008 in Double-A at best. The Joba’s, Price’s and Prior’s are a rare breed. Not everyone makes an immediate impact like that.

    • ceciguante says:

      exactly, mike. which is why i’ve said all along that hughes was rushed, and cashman was a fool to trust both him and ipk as 40% of the ’08 rotation.

      let’s all remember how green hughes is, stop pretending he has a polished MLB starter’s arsenal, and stop pretending that just b/c he invented a cutter 2 months ago, that he’s ready to tackle MLB. he has at most 2 trustworthy pitches, so he should probably be considered a #6 starter for 2009. maybe a #5, if things are going well through spring. if he ever becomes a force, it will probably be in 2010 or 2011.

  2. UWS says:

    Ooooh this one will bring some good…ahem…”discussion.”

  3. John Leach says:

    I happen to live in a National League town (Houston) and as a result virtually never get to see the Yanks/Sox on saturday afternoon. Instead I get the Cubs/Cardinals, or the Mets/Braves.
    Have you ever tried to watch the Cubs/Cardinals while the Yanks are playing the Red Socks? It’s excruciating.
    Why do we need a “national” game? The MLB package has damn near every game now.

  4. Ivan says:

    Well with Hughes it’s just consistentcy right now with him. He inconsistent with alot things right and obviously that’s the problem. The stuff is there to be a front-line guy and he won’t turn 23 til June. The guy is very young and it would be foolish to give up on the guy.

    First step with Hughes is to be healthy for an entire season at the MLB level, that’s key. We haven’t see Hughes at the MLB level at full strength/healthy and hopefully the 09 season would be that season.

    Just gotta give the kid some time, for all we know, he might be the best pitcher on the yanks staff next season. Guys, like Garza who we were in awe, struggled in the beginning of their careers, same with Ben Sheets, James Shields, Jon Lester and etc. Next season, if Hughes is healthy can be a dynamite starter and no that is not wishful thinking here.

    • Reggie C. says:

      I disagree. The stuff isn’t there to be a front-line guy. Hughes doesn’t have the arsenal or command apparently. Hughes is a 2 plus pitch guy, and if he’s toast if his curve isn’t on. Everyone mentions the cutter that Hughes has incorporated, but its still untested against ML hitters.

      If the Yanks decide to chase 2 free agent pitchers and are successful in that endeavor, the decision should be made to leave hughes in triple-A the entire season.

      Hughes should never have been bombed like he was a few days ago. That was straight embarrassment.

      • Mike A. says:

        Hughes should never have been bombed like he was a few days ago. That was straight embarrassment.

        Every pitcher gets bombed once in while, it’s part of life. The O’s tattooed Moose earlier in the year. Billingsley and Moyer got their asses handed to them in the NLCS. It was just one start after he looked pretty strong in his previous three outings. Don’t read too much into it.

        • Reggie C. says:

          You’re talking about ML hitters and the ML playoffs!! I’m talking about AA/AAA hitters that Hughes has long dominated over 2 seasons. C’mon Mike. That was a shocking display of ineptitude especially for a pitcher with his alleged arsenal.

          Does it read like i’ve given up on him. Yes. Which is why Hughes shouldn’t be pencilled into any rotation, and which is why he’s expendable.

          • Ivan says:

            That’s ridiculous. You gonna give up on a guy who barely has over 100IP at the MLB level? So young pitchers are not allowed to struggled? Seriously, the guy went through some rough times and hopefully he fix that and I know he will.

            • Jay says:

              For every Joba, there is a Todd Van Poppel. It is amazing how young he is though because we have all heard his name for so long. I think if the Yanks lock up two big pitchers, Hughes should be dangled for a top flight hitter if his value hasn’t dropped too far, otherwise you need to just continue grooming him.

            • Reggie C. says:

              Struggle? A struggle denotes a fight. hughes has NO fight. he gets lit up like the sky on the 4th when things aren’t working pristine.

              • Ivan says:

                So Hughes has no fight now. He just gives and quits and just say to himself I can’t do it. Where do you get these opinions from? Seriously that makes little sense.

                So when Eli struggled, you were saying he had no fight either. Or when Mike Pelfrey struggled, you said he had not fight also or wasn’t “gritty” enough. Please.

              • Accent Shallow says:

                How many young, inexperienced pitchers are able to pitch successfully when their stuff isn’t completely on that day? I was under the impression that the ability to succeed without your best stuff is something that develops with age and experience.

              • CLT_JR says:

                Can the site please develop an Ignore user funtion??

          • Old Ranger says:

            Reggie, right on…
            Phil isn’t one of the chosen few…what we need is a good lefty that can’t get the ball down in the strike zone…oh hell, I forgot we have one, Kei Igawa! 27/09.

          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

            “Does it read like i’ve given up on him. Yes. Which is why Hughes shouldn’t be pencilled into any rotation, and which is why he’s expendable.”

            Your opinion is the word of God Mo?

            • Reggie C. says:

              Of course not. But i’m not going to allow any Hughes love-fest to go on uninterrupted.

              • Of course not. But i’m not going to allow any Hughes love-fest to go on uninterrupted….

                …without interjecting my own definitive, ironclad, incontrovertible belief that Hughes is a bum, a belief that flies in the face of the entire intelligent baseball community as well as virtually all of the past 150 years of American history.

                You’re not going to let facts, well settled and repeatedly proven theories, and mountains of statistical and anecdotal evidence get in the way of your singular layman’s opinion. Bully for you.

                • Reggie C. says:


                  I’m not saying he’s a bum. I’m saying he’s not a #1. I’m saying he’s not ready for an extended stay in the majors and he requires additional time in the minors squaring off against inferior competition.

                • And you have the right to say that statement, which is reasoned and has perspective, and time may prove you right.

                  Just making sure I didn’t have to lump you in with the cadre of “Hughes is a bum he can’t throw 95″ idiots and trolls who think they’re smarter than all of us and everyone who’s eve been in baseball.

            • Slugger27 says:

              well played

        • Phil McCracken says:

          Reggie has a pretty valid point.

          It shouldn’t be happening to a polished prospect who is supposed to be ML ready.

          Hughes has a huge problem. He is still a two pitch pitcher and hasn’t progressed at all since 2007. Its still a curve and fastball.

          That won’t be enough to cut it, especially since he couldn’t locate that fastball at all prior to his injury in 2008.

      • I agree with Reggie. Phil Hughes is not Chinese.

      • Ivan says:

        How is that straight embarrasment? He got socked, big deal shit happens. Second, he does have the stuff to be a front-line guy. He has a good fastball, a tremendous curve and of course if he can work on the cutter/change and sharpen the command, that’s a front-line guy.

        Again, it’s just inconsistentcy and not being healthy hasn’t really helped him.

        Plus, why send him to AAA? Let em learn at the highest of levels and let him get acclimated at the MLB level. AAA really doesn’t really help all that much. Plus, as I said before guys like Garza, and Lester, and Pelfrey and etc took some heavy lumps in their careers at the same age as Hughes.

        Plus, I don’t like the idea of signing two starters when guys like Hughes or IPK can step up at the fifth spot and pitch well.

        The Worst thing that could happen to Hughes and IPK happen this season. I think 09 would bring something much more different.

        • Jay says:

          There does come a time when you have to think that IPK may not make it. It is HIGHLY unlikely that “The Big 3″ all become dominate, and Kennedy has shown nothing outside of a September callup for a couple of games before he got hurt. I would hold Hughes and Joba (obviously) and look to shop IPK, he won’t cut it in the tough AL East, but thats just my opinion

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

          “Plus, why send him to AAA? Let em learn at the highest of levels and let him get acclimated at the MLB level. AAA really doesn’t really help all that much.”

          I’m a Hughes-backer, but I disagree with this point. I don’t have a problem with Hughes in the MLB rotation if he is healthy and has a good offseason/Spring Training, but I also don’t have any problem at all with the Yanks starting Hughes in AAA in 2009. The guy is very young and he cracked the MLB rotation at a younger age than the vast majority of pitchers (or high-level prospects, even). I don’t really even take issue with the argument to keep him in MLB, I just don’t think the conversation about Hughes’ potential/talent should hinge, at all, on whether he’s in the MLB rotation in April 2009. Let’s just let the kid develop/mature, whether he’s in AAA or the minors. It’s not like this is a 26 yr. old guy who is being held back when he’s pretty much done developing – he’s not mature and closing in on his ceiling. Even if he’s better than the level of competition in the minors, I don’t have a problem with having him pitch down there, build up his strength after losing time due to injuries, and just continue to mature and develop.

      • Hitman says:

        Actually he has one plus pitch. His curveball. His fastball is nothing to write home about. It’s a straight 92 mph pitch with very little movement. Is it any wonder why he’s inconsistent and gets knocked around in the majors when he only has two pitches and one of them isn’t even that good?

  5. Accent Shallow says:

    It’d be interesting to see some scouting reports from these AzFL games. It’s hard to read too much into the numbers if we don’t know how he’s pitching — is he trying to throw up zeroes, or is he working on secondary pitches?

    If his stuff varies greatly from start to start, that is definitely an issue, but wouldn’t that likely be caused by youth/time off?

    I’m not too concerned about Hughes, and I’m confident that with he’ll put it together soon. He has too much talent and he’s done too much not to, right?

  6. Slugger27 says:

    he sucks, we need more DH/1B hit for power type guys…. trade him for matt stairs

    • Hughes for Shin-Soo Choo, straight up. Choo is a Type B, so res ipsa loquitur, he’s better than Hughes and Jason Giambi combined.

      • KW says:

        choo actually had a pretty good year and a blazing end to 2008

      • Slugger27 says:

        we set our expectations too high, no way are we getting stairs or choo for hughes… either we throw in joba, or we turn our sights to moises alou

        side thought… would the As part with frank thomas?

          • ceciguante says:

            are you nuts??!?!

            dude, rob deer is probably 55, and he SUCKED. i think he set a record for strikeouts in a season. fine, the guy hit like 30 or so homers a season, but he hit about .200 and struck out about 170x. no THANKS. check your meds.

            i’d only settle for one of the following: pete incaviglia or mel hall.

              • ceciguante says:

                no, i have this terrible memory of a 9th inning 320 ft game winning HR downing hit off of us one time in the dark years.

                but i am flexible here. i could live with jeffrey leonard, the hack man. or dave henderson, who arguably killed donnie moore. either one would bring the intensity back.

                if those guys are gone, i would be willing to discuss george foster on an incentivized deal. i’m telling you, there is value out there, you just have to be willing to find it.

                • How about a Jack Clark/Will Clark/Tony Clark super-platoon?

                • UWS says:

                  No love for Clark Kent?

                • ceciguante says:

                  if i’m cashman, and i can’t get hendu, that platoon thing is done.

                  then i sign an endorsement and concession deal with clark candy bars to recoup their salaries. fans could relive the infamous reggie bar stadium moment with a rain of clark bars every time they get a walkoff hit. you ever get hit with a clark bar? like a brick. opposing outfielders would be checking the bleachers more than melky.

        • Mike A. says:

          I think Thomas is already a free agent. That means the Yanks can sign Thomas, and still trade Hughes for Stairs!

  7. MJ says:

    What did the report say about Jose Tabata? I had a feeling we were selling low on the guy. Pity…

  8. Chris says:

    How much credibility does this report have when he doesn’t even get Hughes’ injury correct?

  9. jsbrendog says:

    i had a nightmare last night. i saw joba phil and kennedy standing there in a row on a baseball card and the backs of their uniforms said wilson, pulsipher and isringhausen.

    i woke up screaming.

  10. Accent Shallow says:

    Seeing some scouting reports would be instructive here. Him getting bombed doesn’t matter; why he’s getting bombed does.

    • Mike A. says:

      What? That ludicrous! Stats are the be-all, end-all. What does process have to do with anything, it’s all about results results results.

      • What? Thats ludicrous! Stats are Velocity is the be-all, end-all. What does process have to do with anything, it’s all about results results results MPH MPH MPH.


      • Accent Shallow says:

        Seriously though, I’m curious. What’s the difference between his stuff in this start and the previous starts?

        Seems the only sites that would have that info are subscription only.

  11. Baseballnation says:

    What is this…”we can’t expect Hughes to be like Price?” What the hell has Price done….Was great in game seven, especially slammin the door in that eigth…but he only threw 14 freaking innings in the season for the Rays…Will not Koufax like…Hughes threw 77 last year and was solid to good. And I remember he had quite a moment in the playoffs last year relieving some geezer

    • Haven’t you learned yet that all Yankee players and prospects suck and are overrated egotistical jerks, and all non-Yankee players and prospects are supertalented, gritty, future HoF’ers, and good to their mothers?

    • Phil McCracken says:

      Price also has a pretty impressive college career.

      I think you’ll see him as a big factor in the Rays rotation next season. And since he’ll be a back end starter there won’t be any pressure on him. Unlike Alfred E Kennedy and Hughes who were completely out of place in the rotation this year as 3 and 4 starters.

    • Ivan says:

      Well your looking for the word fickle.

  12. Relaunch says:

    I’m just glad we are having realistic conversations about players with potential (Hughes), rather than palyers with over blown potential (IPSuk).

    • Only time will tell. For both of them.

      • Relaunch says:

        I agree. But the expectations for IPSuk have been so overblown here from day 1 that he shouldn’t even be in the Hughes, future top potential conversations.

        • Jay says:

          Kennedy did well against September call ups from a couple of teams and that earned him a seat in “Generation Trey.” Cashman dropped the ball by not moving him when he had the chance. I actually think Kennedy can be a league average #3 in the NL, but that does not translate to the AL East.

  13. Bo says:

    Why is anyone caring about results from the Ari fall league? What if hes trying out new pitches? Working on dif things? Relax. The goal of this time isn’t to throw no hitters.

  14. reality check says:

    Eleven days. Why did he wait 11 days to pitch again in the AFL? could that be part of the explanation?

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