Via Joel Sherman –
Last off season the Yankees refused to include Phil Hughes in a package for Johan Santana. Hughes made that decision look horrendous during the season, and isn’t stopping now.
It is not just that two of his four starts in the Arizona Fall League have been poor, including Friday night’s Rising Stars showcase game. But scouts who have watched him in the AFL say Hughes’ delivery, command and array of stuff have not been impressive.
He started the Rising Stars game and permitted four runs (one earned) in three innings, allowing two homers and walking two. One scout who has seen multiple starts in the AFL by Hughes offered this report from the Rising Stars game:
“His velocity was fine. He threw some at 93-94 (mph), but mostly he was in the low 90s, but the problem was that they were straight. He gave up two bombs and even the outs were mostly hard hit. He couldn’t command his fastball to the corners at all. Only about half his curves were good and only about one in four were in the strike zone. He is working to add that changeup (to use against lefties), threw three and all were up and out of the zone.
“I think the problem is that his elbow is too low so he is not commanding because he is not throwing downhill. His command stinks because his motion stinks. For example, his curve has good rotation and break, but I think because of that delivery it breaks early and so hitters pick it up.”
There were many reasons that Yankees GM Brian Cashman advised against making a Santana deal last season, notably having to give up prospects and award Santana a record contract. But central to his thinking was that he did not want to surrender Hughes, whom he has envisioned being a cost-effective, homegrown, top-of-the-rotation stalwart.
But Hughes has not been able to stay consistently healthy, and this season when he did pitch it was not particularly well: 0-4, 6.62 ERA in the majors; 1-0, 5.90 ERA in six Triple-A starts; and now the AFL issues.
…he threw some at 93-94 (mph), but mostly he was in the low 90s, but the problem was that they were straight. He gave up two bombs and even the outs were mostly hard hit. He couldn’t command his fastball to the corners at all. Only about half his curves were good and only about one in four were in the strike zone…
Sounds just like the Phil Hughes that we saw in the Bronx this summer.
If the kid doesn’t perfect that third pitch – albeit a cutter, slider, or change – he’s going to remain being meat. With just two pitches, and him not being able to throw the curve (his second pitch) for strikes consistently, batters can sit on the fastball. And, when that “heater” is 91 MPH and straight as an arrow, big league hitters can crush it.
Sure, he’s still young. But, how long do you wait?