D.O.B.: August 2, 1984
The Twins have been known to pluck some great talent from Australia, and Luke Hughes is another prospect from Down Under to become a star in the system. A utility guy who can play mostly everywhere, Hughes has really made a name for himself throughout the past two seasons, and is on the cusp of making it to the Major Leagues.
Injuries have plagued him throughout his career, but he has been a pretty steady performer throughout. He began his professional career as a member of the Gulf Coast League Twins, where he batted over .300 for the Twins' rookie club. He showed a good overall feel for the game, but struggled defensively playing shortstop and third base. He was named to the GCL All-Star team ahead of former Yankees t op prospect Eric Duncan
In 2004, Hughes would make the jump to Elizabethton, where he would also make the move to second base. He batted .284 for Elizabethton, collecting nearly a base hit per game. During the 2005 season, he would split time between Beloit and Fort Myers, though he had some struggles at the plate.
After a disappointing regular season with the Fort Myers Miracle in 2006, Hughes was at a crossroads of his career. It had been two years since he was productive offensively, and he continued to be a man without a position. However, he came to Spring Training in 2007 in great shape, and was ready for his promotion to Double-A New Britain.
Ever since he arrived in Connecticut, Hughes has been a different player, earning Eastern League All-Star honors in 2007 and 2008. In 2008, Hughes was given the Top Star Award of the All-Star Game, and also was the only Australian to play in the Futures Game. A veteran of two World Baseball Classics, Hughes has really etched a name for himself within the Twins organization.
At the end of the 2008 season, Hughes was promoted to AAA Rochester, where he batted a respectable .283 for the team. Protected on the team's 40-man roster, Hughes could be the best Twins prospect to come out of Australia since Grant Balfour, who pitched well for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008.
He is slated to open the 2009 season in Rochester, where he and top prospect Danny Valencia will battle for playing time at third. Expect him to play second, short, and some outfield as well.
Batting and Power. During the Futures Game, Hughes showed the kind of raw power that was second to none in the festivities. He has true plus power to all fields, and when he is going right, he can smash the ball out of any park. One thing he lacks in great plate discipline, which he has been working on the past couple of seasons. He is a .275-.290 hitter, and if could work on drawing some more walks, he would be a .300 hitter.
Baserunning and Speed. Hughes is not a fast runner, but he also is not slow. He is good for about five to ten stolen bases a year, but his injuries have made his a bit weary on the basepaths. He'll get the green light from time to time, but he is not look at as a threat by the other team's pitchers. He is a heady baserunner, who has already played in some huge games throughout his young career, so there really is no situation he has not encountered on the basepaths.
Defense. This would be Hughes' achilles' heel, as he has yet to truly define what position he will play at the next level. He played mostly second base and third base during the 2008 season, but he played 20+ games in the outfield during the 2007 season. I rate him as a utility player, because he has the ability to play nearly all the positions on the diamond. He does not have good hands, and could be moved to the outfield permanently at some point.
ETA. 2009. I believe that Hughes will make his Major League debut at some point during the 2009 season, though in what capacity is yet to be known. The Twins signed Joe Crede in the off-season to man third base, so if Hughes were to get the call, it would probably be to be a utility guy. The big league club already has a bunch of guys who fit that role, but he could be a September call up when they expand the rosters. Either way, expect him to make a big impact on the Rochester Red Wings in 2009.