In George We Trust
A(nother) blog about the most storied franchise in sports
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Prospect Profile: Phil Hughes
Name: Philip J. Hughes
Position: RHP
Vitals: 6'5", 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Born: June 24, 1986
Hometown: Santa Ana, California
Drafted: 1st round (23rd overall) of 2004 draft (Yankees 1st selection). Received $1,400,000 bonus.

Background: It took 3 months, but I finally caved and profiled the Yankees gem of a pitching prospect. Not to be confused with the evil Phil Hughes, the Yankees prospect grew up a Red Sox fan and made frequent trips to visit family in Rhode Island. Heading into the 2004 draft, Hughes was highly regarded by the Yankees, who had him rated higher on their draft board than where they landed him at number 23 overall. Hughes made his first appearance on Baseball America's annual Top 100 prospects list this year, landing at number 39. He ranked number 1 on all Yankees prospects lists around the web (except mine) and figures to remain in the top spot for the foreseeable future.

Strengths: Hughes has a potent combination of stuff and command. His fastball sits anywhere from 92-94 mph and has reportedly reached 96. Both his curveball and changeup are above average pitches at this point, with the potential for improvement still abundant. Hughes' slider reportedly puts his other pitches to shame; it's a power pitch that breaks hard and late and induces plenty of swings and misses, however the Yankees made Hughes keep it in his pocket in an attempt to develop his other pitches. Hughes has impeccable command with all his pitches, and also sports a frame that is a scout's dream. His delivery is smooth, effortless and easily repeated, leading to Hughes being dubbed "Mark Prior Lite". Hughes also has a very good work ethic and excellent makeup.

Weaknesses: Only one thing is holding Hughes back: his durability. Hughes has spent time at 3 levels since being drafted, ending each stint with an injury. Mature beyond his years, Hughes needs to start accumulating some innings as he's only thrown 91.1 as a pro prior to this season.

Stats: Hughes made a seamless transition to pro ball from high school, and has consistently dominated the competition at every stop:

2004GCL Yankees0-00.00.803-35.040-008-0

Outlook: The Yankees have babied Hughes to this point - which I hate seeing done to any prospect (you treat'em like babies and you get babies) - but they're turning Hughes loose this season and will allow him to start throwing his slider again. With the graduation of elite pitching prospects Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Francisco Liriano, Joel Zumaya and Jonathan Papelbon, it's entirely possibly Hughes will become one of the top 3 pitching prospects in the game in 2007, with the distinction of being first an outside possibility. The history of high school righthanders taken in the first round of the draft isn't great, but Hughes has a chance to become the best first round selection the Yankees have made since Derek Jeter. If is health becomes a non-issue, Hughes has a high probability of reaching his ceiling as a top-of-the-rotation starter, and he figures to be in the Bronx for good by 2008, if not sooner.

You can watch Hughes' dominate some high schoolers in his scouting video here (first on the list).
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