Phil Hughes: Buy Low Candidate?
Remember when Phil Hughes was a top-5 prospect in all of Major League Baseball? Or when he was the future ace of the Yankees staff? Just six years ago, the newest member of the Minnesota Twins pitching staff was destined to be a superstar in pinstripes.
Hughes had an 18-win season and made an All-Star appearance, but injuries have plagued the right-hander. After a messy 2013 including a 4-14 record and 5.19 ERA, his three-year pact with the Twins affords Hughes the opportunity to rebuild value and aim for one huge contract after his age-30 season.
If things break right, moving to a smaller market team with weak divisional opponents will afford Hughes a real opportunity to right the ship if one believes the New York market was just too much for him. After all, being labeled the second coming and underachieving is never an easy thing to recover from.
With Hughes being an extreme fly ball pitcher with a high HR/FB rate, the first thing to examine is the park factor of his new home stadium. Target Field was the fourth toughest environment to hit home runs in 2013. What about the rest of the division? The other parks he’ll frequently pitch in are ranked 11th, 12th, 13th and 22nd respectively.
Yankee Stadium ranked as the ninth easiest park to hit one out. Worse than Minnesota, obviously. Even better, the rest of the division ranks 3rd, 4th, 14th and 23rd respectively. Hughes signing with Minnesota means instead of making approximately 22 of his starts in homer heaven, he’ll make 24 in parks outside of the top-10.
In Hughes’ best season, his HR/9 was 1.28. Current Steamer projections have him at 1.19 in 96 innings. I’m not really sure why the innings projection is so low, but if Hughes throws 185 innings, he’s a 2-3 win pitcher.
As an aside, pitching in more forgiving parks may also cause a drop in walk rate and allow him to throw more innings. Is there a scenario where Hughes attacks hitters more and it leads to a jump in performance? Common sense would say yes.
What holds me back from predicting a real surge in performance is the simple fact he’s never logged a 200 inning season. Now 27, it’s difficult to project one now given his track record and short arm delivery. Just like some pitchers appear destined to log 200+ in their sleep, others aren’t. Hughes is one of those guys.
Another hindrance is the Twins stink offensively. I expect Hughes to be a pitcher who racks up the quality starts at home while driving 5×5 owners crazy because he rarely earns a win.
If you are willing to accept Hughes’ limitations, he’s a great pitcher to start at home, or within his own division. I’ll be looking to add him on the cheap come auction. As a starter who does everything to limit damage except allow home runs, the added help of Target Field will do the rest.
4 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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