2004 MLB Draft Preview: RHP, Philip Hughes

The 2004 MLB Amateur Draft is rapidly approaching while scouts and front office officials around baseball have already begun to pick and choose who will be the cream of their draft crop. There are attractive options for every team to fill their needs from Colleges and High Schools in a very pitching heavy draft class. One High School pitcher that will get a long look and have a strong opportunity to go as a first rounder in 2004 is Foothill High School pitcher, Philip Hughes.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Philip Hughes
Position: Pitcher
Age: 17
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 220
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Place of Residence: Santa Ana, California
High School: Foothill, California

Philip Hughes has been opening eyes of major league scouts since his Junior year at Foothill High School in which he went 12-0. The young right hander is expected to be one of the few High School players, let alone pitchers to go in the 1st round of the 2004 Amateur Draft. It has become more and more of a rarity for Major League teams to pursue players straight out of high school as they tend to, especially for pitchers, go for the "more polished" college players. However, the fact that so many teams have shown a strong interest in Hughes is a great testament to his abilities. Even though he has already signed a letter of intent to attend college at Santa Clara University, it is speculated that he would easily take the opportunity to sign on with an MLB team.

Some people tend to scoff at the idea of taking a pitcher directly out of High School and they may even look at Hughes and ask, why? Well, scouts have repeatedly been dazzled with Hughes's amazing stuff and talent for pitching but what sets him apart is his mental makeup. In his four years at Foothill High School, he has had to face very little adversity on the mound considering his usually dominance but scouts claim that he is as composed and as focused as they come at the age of only 17 years old. He has even been called as "calm and cool as Southern California's Pacific Ocean breeze." With the mental makeup on the mound of a seasoned veteran, his nasty stuff becomes all the more effective. Since his junior year at high school in which he sprouted from 5' 10" to 6' 5, Phil Hughes has possessed a dominating heater that can top out at 98MPH and averaging in the mid-90's. That alone is enough to dominate at the high school level but factored in with a wicked slider in the high-80's it makes him even better. So with this devastating repertoire and his imposing physique on the mound, this 17 year old can be a very intimidating man to face for a batter.

After having only a so-so year in his sophomore year on the varsity team at Foothill in which he went 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA, Hughes came back in his junior year in 2003 to become the pitcher that scouts are salivating over today. The young righty had a monster year in which he set the school record for wins in a season going 12-0. In that season, Hughes posted an 0.78 ERA while striking out 85 and walking 19 batters in 72 innings pitched. Scouts upon scouts have now come to attend the games in which he takes the hill for Foothill as he is off to another outstanding start with a 9-1 record here in 2004. But, his one impressive statistic this year is that he has harnessed freakishly outstanding control and he has only walked three batters all year long.

Even though his win/loss statistics won't match those of his 2003 season, Hughes's pitching coach at Foothill says the young right hander is even better than he was last year. Says Coach Iran Novick, "he's so much better this year". "He has a better understanding of how to get hitters out." He also reiterated what scouts have concluded in that "He is as mentally tough as any pitcher I've coached". In the past two seasons, Novick has called every one of Hughes's pitches and has helped him to acquire a changeup to solidify his repertoire. Speaking of his excellent control these past two years, Hughes says in reference to walks "Coach Novick says they are not allowed" as he attributes much of his success to his pitching coach. Head coach at Foothill, Gary Fishel, speaking of his 17 year old ace's demeanor on the mound said "is better than any high school pitcher I've seen." What is also important is that not once has Hughes missed any time with injuries which could mostly be due to the fact that the Foothill coaching staff limits their pitchers to only 70 pitches per game. They were confident enough in his talent to say "scouts will find him". "They don't need to parade him on the mound".

There is no doubt that Phil Hughes will find himself in a high spot in this year's MLB Amateur draft and could even go fairly early in the first round. Scouts have found it very difficult to find flaws with Hughes. Baseball America has recently put him as a Top 5 High School Prospect in the entire nation. He has even drawn comparisons to his all-time favorite pitcher, Curt Schilling. For obvious reasons, the whole idea of being drafted is a great feeling for him as he stated "I'm excited" and people are starting to believe that the odds of him actually electing to attend college at Santa Clara University are slim to none. In regards to the possibility of skipping college to sign with an MLB team, Hughes said "It's always what I wanted to do. It's pretty overwhelming to be 17 years old and they want to pay you millions of dollars to do something you've done forever".











Foothill HS








*Stats as of 5/25/04.

Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Two words...power pitcher. Phil Hughes has a blazing fastball that has made him look like a young Roger Clemens or Curt Schilling. His fastball regularly is lighting up the radar gun at 95 MPH and can top out as high as 98 MPH. He can locate it with ease and throw it by a hitter at any point in the count or ballgame. His command with it is unmatched by High School pitchers.

Other Pitches. Besides his devastating heater, Phil Hughes also wields a wicked slider and a newly refined changeup to solidify his repertoire. His slider is his primary strikeout pitch that can be nearly unhittable when he is on. Like every single one of his pitches and perhaps the most important and impressive part of this young man's game is that he can locate his slider and changeup in any situation and throw them both consistently for strikes. The new and improved changeup that he has added in the past year in a half due to the tutelage of pitching coach, Iran Novick has made Hughes even that much better. The overall aggressiveness and savvy he has adds to the effectiveness of this pitch.

Pitching. Phil Hughes is a rare specimen for a young pitcher let alone a high school pitcher. He is the perfect combination of power and control. In his past two seasons he has had more strikeouts than innings pitched while having nearly flawless control. His mental makeup on the mound is second to none and has been called mentally tough on several occasions. Pinpoint control, power pitching and the mental aspect are what set him apart and will carry him to a high draft selection.

Projection. When speaking of any high school pitcher, even one as talented as Phil Hughes, there is no real way to project what he could or will become on the Major League level. As of now, it is tempting to say though that Hughes could potentially be an ace or number two starter a few years down the road. He has enough in his repertoire to remain a starting pitcher barring any injuries that could occur.

Comparison. Curt Schilling. The Boston Red Sox right hander has been his idol since he was in little league and he has turned out to be an eerily similar style pitcher. Excellent control to go along with power stuff could equal a career just as good as Schilling but Hughes has a very long way to go.

Draft Outlook. Obviously there will be several suitors for this 17 year old phenom in the upcoming draft, What teams are most likely to be after him? Possibilities include the Yankees, Angels, Twins, Cardinals and White Sox. There could be many others in the hunt for him and he is likely to go anywhere between the 12th pick in the first round onward through the draft. All of the listed teams will be on the lookout for pitchers and on of the stronger possibilities could very well be the pitching thirsty New York Yankees.

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