Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Future Shock

Brian Cashman has made the decision that now is the time for Phillip Hughes to make his debut for the Yankees. They gave Chase Wright two starts and decided that they'd seen enough. The Yankees now turn to their number one prospect (who has been called the #1 pitching prospect in baseball by many) to see if they can restore some order to their battered pitching staff. The last time the Yankees went through an early season malaise, they called on Chen Ming Wang and Robinson Cano to jump start the team. That was 2005 and the Yankees were struggling to just get above the .500 mark at the end of June. The rookies provided a big spark, along with a miracle season by Aaron Small and an MVP season by Arod, and the Yankees went on to win 95 games and the division.

Will the addition of Hughes have a similar effect this year? I'm not one to be a pessimist, but I've seen Hughes pitch in spring training and I really have yet to see what all the fuss is about. From what I've seen, he doesn't have the devastating stuff that everyone talks about. His fastball is good, topping out at about 95, but it's straight and doesn't appear to have the late movement that will elude major league bats. His breaking stuff is average and he doesn't have a put away pitch. He is only 20 years old and despite his meteoric rise through the minor league system, he simply doesn't have a wealth of experience. So besides those reservations, I'm sure he'll do fine. Seriously, he is going to have to combat his nerves in order to have any semblance of success in his first trip to the majors. The biggest problem for young pitchers is control. If he walks a lot of people, then his fastball is going to be hit all over the park. Thankfully, he isn't making his first start against the Red Sox. I do believe that he has the ability to develop into a pretty good pitcher, I'm just not sure that he's really ready to handle major league hitters at this point.

In the 90's the Yankees brought up a string of triple A pitching stars who simply could not make the transition to the majors. It would be a shame if Hughes is rushed to the majors and loses his confidence because of a lack of success. Last year I said that perhaps the best thing the Yankees could do would be to trade Hughes because his value is never going to be higher than it is right now. That will change after a few starts, however. His deficiencies will become more evident and there is the chance that he will join the likes of Jeff Johnson and Sam Millitello on the scrap heap of Yankee prospects. I have heard that he has a great curveball, but that the Yankees told him to limit the use of it because they didn't want him to damage his arm in the minors. It's possible that he has been held down somewhat in the minors and that he has been waiting patiently to unleash his full repertoire. I certainly hope that's the case. he could rely on blowing away minor league hitters with his 93MPH fastball, but in the show, hitters eat those for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I guess I could be wrong about this and Phillip Hughes really could be the second coming of Roger Clemens. But even the great Roger Clemens had an ERA of over 4 his first year in the majors. I would hope that Yankee fans will keep the expectations fairly low for Hughes. It will probably take him a little while to figure out how to get major leaguers out consistently. Let's hope that the Yankees allow him the time to learn how to do his job. However, Yankee Stadium isn't usually the kind of place where you get the luxury of learning on the job.

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