Sports Outside the Beltway

Baseball Prospectus unveils its Yankee prospect list

Here’s their take on Yankee prospects. #1 is some guy name Phil Hughes. The scouting report -

The Good: The total package, making him the best pitching prospect in the game. His 92-96 mph fastball has good movement to go along with outstanding location, and his hard curveball gives him a second major-league-quality out pitch. His change-up is at least average, and has nice fade and deception. His size is ideal and his mechanics are nearly flawless.
The Bad: 2006 was Hughes’ first season with no health problems, and he was treated with kid gloves at the end of the season. He’s yet to prove that he can hold up under a full-season workload, although he was as dominant as ever at the end of the year.
The Irrelevant: In the first inning of games, opposing hitters facing Hughes hit .125 (11-for-88) with 34 strikeouts.
In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An absolute ace–a legitimate No. 1 on any team.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low – The Yankees insist that they want Hughes to begin the year in Triple-A, but if he’s lights-out in spring training, it will be hard to send him down. No matter what happens in March, he should be up before the All-Star break.

As I was reading this a thought occurred to me. What was it? I’m glad you asked. Well, Phil Hughes is considered by most the top pitching prospect in baseball (occasionally getting edged by Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey), and I thought, ‘What year did the Yanks draft Hughes?’ I looked it up: 2004. Then I remembered that was the draft after Andy Pettitte was lost to Houston via free agency. Since the Yanks offered arbitration to Pettitte (something that should have been done with the ‘retiring’ Clemens), and he was a type A free agent, they received Houston’s 1st round pick (#23) in the amateur draft (it was also the Yanks only 1st round pick that year). You can guess who that pick was used for: one Mr. Hughes.

Now the strange part. Andy Pettitte has rejoined the Yankees, and quite possibly will be teammates with Hughes sometime this season. So a pitcher the Yanks lost, and the pitcher they gained because of it will both be pitching for the Yanks this season. Life is funny…

Of course, the question is: would you have let Pettitte walk knowing how good the compensation would be? It’s impossible to say right now, since Hughes hasn’t throw a single major league pitch, but he’s basically a ‘can’t-miss’ prospect, who should be at worst a #3 starter in MLB for years. He’s one of only four ‘uber-prospects’ currently in baseball. So at this point, I’d have to say yes. Hughes could join the Yanks and stink (knock on wood), but the odds are well against it. Most Yankee fans were upset when Pettitte left, but with the imminent arrival of a phenom, and the ‘re-arrival’ of Pettitte, things are looking good in Yankee-land.

Some Hughes comparisons -

Hughes vs. Verlander
Hughes vs. Prior & Beckett

But these articles don’t tell the whole story.

Minors career stats:
(age 22) Verlander
1.29 era, 118.2 ip, 136 k, 26 bb (5.2 k/bb), .91 whip, .30 HR/9, 10.36 k/9

(ages 20-23) Beckett
1.75 era, 216.1 ip, 295 k, 51 bb (5.8 k/bb), .89 whip, .54 HR/9, 12.29 k/9

(ages 21-25 due to rehab stints, but primarily 21) Prior
2.96 era, 88.1 ip, 131 k, 24 bb (5.5 k/bb), 1.04 whip, .51 HR/9, 13.38 k/9

(ages 18-20) Hughes
2.13 era, 237.1 ip, 269 k, 54 bb (5.0 k/bb), .86 whip, .23 HR/9, 10.21 k/9

Ranking each of these categories:
Verlander: age – 4, era – 1, ip – 3, k/bb – 3, whip – 3, HR/9 – 2, k/9 – 3 = 19 (16)
Beckett: age – 3, era – 2, ip – 2, k/bb – 1, whip – 2, HR/9 – 4, k/9 – 2 = 16 (14)
Prior: age – 2, era – 4, ip – 4, k/bb – 2, whip – 4, HR/9 – 3, k/9 – 1 = 18 (14)
Hughes: age – 1, era – 3, ip – 1, k/bb – 4, whip – 1, HR/9 – 1, k/9 – 4 = 15 (14)

Wow. So adding up the rankings of age, innings pitched (‘experience’), ERA, K/BB, WHIP, Homers per 9 ip and Ks per 9 ip, Hughes comes out on top (he’s superior in WHIP, HR rate, innings pitched, and all while doing it at the youngest age). Even if you discount innings pitched, Hughes is still tied with Beckett and Prior. While Beckett and Prior are the pure power pitcher, strikeout/flyball guys, Hughes is more of a strikeout/groundball guy. ERA, K/9 and K/BB are the only stats where Hughes is below Beckett. But he excels in WHIP (he doesn’t walk anyone), and HR rate (due to great groundball tendencies). Project Prospect only looked at BB/9 and K/9, but didn’t mention how Beckett and Prior gave up over twice as many HRs per 9 than Hughes has. That’s big. Hughes also has better BB/9 than Beckett or Prior, but slightly worse than Verlander. And Hughes already has more minor league innings than any of the others, a testament to his durability (knock on more wood), experience, and adaptability.

- In other prospect news: TPA did a write up on Staten Island’s Tim Norton -

A 7th Round pick of the New York Yankees in the 2006 Draft, pitching prospect Tim Norton got his career off to an impressive start and is another quality young arm to keep an eye on in the Pinstripers talented farm system. The 6’5″ righthander was signed following his senior season at UCONN where he posted a 7-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 92.2 innings of work during his senior season. Norton continued his fine pitching as a pro going 3-3 with a 2.60 ERA and a New York-Penn League runner up 83 strikeouts in 72.2 innings at Staten Island. He held opposing hitters to a .222 batting average, allowed only one homerun on the year, and walked just 14 batters. Expect Norton, who turns 23 in May to begin 2007 at either Low-A Charleston or possibly even High-A Tampa due to his four years of collegiate experience.

And Pete Abraham reports -
Jorge Posada and Kei Igawa, as well as top prospects Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Dellin Betances, Jose Tabata and Jesus Montero have already reported to the Yanks training facility in Tampa. Good to see that work ethic.

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