Scouting Yankees #1 Draft Pick: RHP, Phil Hughes

Here he is, Phil Hughes. He was the man that the Yankees targeted an coveted entering the 2004 draft and they got their man. They had to "sweat it out", worrying that he may be scooped up before they got a shot at him but the worrying stopped at the 23rd spot as the Yankees took one more step in the right direction to getting their farm system back to the high prestige it held early in the last decade. Now, let's take a good look at the Yankees number one pick, RHP, Phil 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
How Acquired: The New York Yankees selected right handed pitcher, Phil Hughes in the 1st round (23rd overall) in the 2004 Amateur Draft.

Phil Hughes has opened the eyes of major league scouts starting in his Junior year at Foothill High School in which he went 12-0. The young right hander was expected, coming into this draft to be one of the few High School players, let alone pitchers to go in the 1st round of the 2004 Amateur Draft. However, it became a reality for Phil Hughes on Monday as he was the number one choice of the New York Yankees in the MLB Draft. The Yankees were pleasantly surprised to have the chance at Hughes even though they were seriously targeting him. "He was a guy we thought we had a chance to get at 23, but we had him ranked higher than that on our draft board," said Gordon Blakeley in an interview with "We sweated it out toward the end there." Well, they did get him and they expect to end up as an intricate aspect of their future.

Some people might tend to scoff at the idea of the Yankees selecting a pitcher directly out of High School and they may even look at Hughes and ask, why would the Yankees, who are usually much more conservative, would they choose him? 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 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 even at the minor league level.

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 came to attend the games in which he took the hill for Foothill as he had another outstanding year 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 only walked three batters all year long.

Even though Hughes' win/loss statistics didn't match those of his 2003 season, his pitching coach at Foothill says the young righthander 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. He will need all of these pitches to be a successful pitcher in the Yankee organization, but scouts expect that he will do just that. Speaking of his excellent control in the 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 "It 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. That was also another great perk for him as the New York Yankees for now had one less thing to worry about in their young stud pitcher.

There is no doubt that Phil Hughes will find himself in high regard in the Yankee Farm System for at least a few years now as he has landed with a Yankee organization that is craving a young star pitcher that they can truly call their own. Well, they may have found it in 17 year old Phil Hughes as scouts have found it very difficult to find flaws with Hughes. In a pre-draft report, Baseball America has 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, by the New York Yankees especially, is a great feeling for him. "I'm just thrilled," Hughes. "I want to thank everyone in the (Yankee) organization, because this is awesome. Everyone in the organization has treated me so well." Going away from their usual conservative approach of drafting college players, the Yankee organization saw something very different in this young righty. "Philip Hughes is a high school pitcher who our guys felt is very much like a college pitcher," said Mark Newman, the Yankees' senior vice president of baseball operations. "Our guys felt that Hughes was a very sophisticated, physically mature high school pitcher with a better fastball than any college pitcher that would present himself to us." "He has everything we looked for, including his makeup," Yankee executive, Gordon Blakeley said in an interview with "He's from a good background, a good family, and those things are important. To play in New York, you need more than good stuff, you need good makeup."

Phil Hughes is expected to sign his contract within this week of the draft as he is ecstatic to be with the organization to pursue his future. Despite his great expectations and incredible talent, the Yankees will assign him to the rookie Gulf Coast League to get him some professional seasoning. "I think just being in pro ball, getting the experience, it will help me grow," Hughes said. "Pitching in a professional atmosphere will help me as I move up in the organization."











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 his high school pitching coach, Iran Novick has made Hughes even that much better. Hughes commented in an interview with that he was toying with the idea of even adding another pitch in his Yankee career, a curveball. "I'm trying to develop a curveball right now, just to mix it up," Hughes said. "I'm messing around with it a little." The overall aggressiveness and savvy he has adds to the effectiveness of this pitch. "I've always attacked hitters, pitched inside and thrown a lot of strikes," said Hughes, who credits his high school pitching coach with his command. "To get guys out, you have to throw strikes, so that's what I've always done." That is what Hughes had to say in regards to his pitching style.

Pitching. Phil Hughes is a rare specimen for a young pitcher let alone one just entering the professional ranks. He is the perfect combination of power and control. In his last two seasons in high school, he has had more strikeouts than innings pitched while having nearly flawless control. His mental makeup and intelligence 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. "I've always attacked hitters, pitched inside and thrown a lot of strikes," said Hughes. "To get guys out, you have to throw strikes, so that's what I've always done." That is what Hughes had to say in regards to his pitching style.

Projection. When speaking of any pitcher just out of high school and at the age of 17, 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 and a dominating one at that barring any injuries that could occur over the course of his minor league career.

Comparison. Curt Schilling. The Boston Red Sox righthander 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.

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