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  • Hughes Could Be Huge For Twins

    It was only a minor-league start against Single-A hitters, but still the reviews of Phil Hughes on Tuesday were glowing.

    "I thought he looked really good, really sharp," said assistant GM Rob Antony.

    "Hughesy threw the [expletive] out of the ball," said Ron Gardenhire.

    There's a palpable buzz surrounding Hughes this spring. If you ask anyone who's been down here for positive signs they've seen in a camp that has featured its fair share of negative ones, the newly acquired free agent is sure to be among the first names mentioned.

    Sure, Hughes has put up good numbers -- he tossed six scoreless frames Tuesday and has allowed just one earned run in 8 2/3 innings over three Grapefruit League starts -- but what matters is how he's looked while putting up those numbers. And by all accounts he has looked great.

    The velocity on the fastball is there. The curveball is moving well and hitting its spots. Opposing hitters are walking away shaking their heads.

    "He hides the ball well and can move it all over the place with a really nice, sharp breaking ball," Gardenhire said.

    Although Ricky Nolasco was the banner signing of the offseason, Hughes was the one that stood out most to me. When you can get a 27-year-old former top prospect with major-league success in his track record on a three-year deal at a relatively modest salary, it's a coup even if he's coming off a down season.

    While Nolasco, at 31, is at an age where decline could soon become a factor, Hughes is in the midst of what is considered his physical prime. He's only 16 months older than Kyle Gibson, and the hope is that those two can become mainstays in a rebuilt rotation that might finally experience some year-to-year stability.

    The Twins also hope that Hughes can be part of the pitching staff's transition away from absurdly heavy contact tendencies. Last year Twins starters struck out only 12.4 percent of opposing batters. That's the lowest number for any MLB team since 2006 and it left the club with almost no chance of success in run prevention.

    Over the last four seasons, Hughes has struck out 19 percent of the batters he's faced. You can tell by watching him that he attacks and looks for the punch-out, especially with two strikes. While his K-rates are about average by MLB standards, he should help the Twins move the needle solidly in the right direction.

    It's been said before, but the move out of New York -- away from hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium and the power-packed AL East -- figures to benefit Hughes immensely. He's the kind of high-upside free agent play I've long yearned to see from the Twins.

    Will it work out? Impossible to say at this point. But the signs are very positive.
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      This was my favorite signing as well.

      Scott Feldman is 30, has a 4.62 ERA, signed for 3/30.

      Jason Vargas is 31, has a 4.30 ERA, signed for 4/32.

      To me your 4-5th free agent starters are making about what Hughes is. But he has #2 or easily #3 upside in my eyes. Career 4.54 ERA.

      His split between the new Yankee stadium and everwhere else:

      New Yankee stadium (home 2009 and on) - 350 IP, 4.91 ERA.
      Everwhere else - 430 IP, 4.24 ERA.

      I am guessing his struggles at the new Yankee stadium hurt him on the road to an extent (confidence). So I think we could see an improvement on the 4.24 ERA. Not to mention Target Field should be a great place for him (hard to hit HR's and he is tough on righties).
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Thanks for the article, Nick.

      I think we all felt like we knew what to expect from Nolasco -- someone who would come in and eat inning and provide some leadership and stability to the pitching staff. A solid #2 serving as a #1 with this team. And so far, the signs are good with him, too.

      But Hughes was (and is) always more of a question mark. It is good to see him starting off "on the right foot" and his potential upside always made it seem like his contract could be a bargain. The key for him (seemingly) is to trust in himself and not to keep tinkering and adjusting so much that he gets everything totally out of whack.

      We have yet to see how that will play out but I'd much rather see him starting well from the beginning than have to rediscover himself as ST goes along.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      When the Twins signed Nolasco, I was very happy. When the Twins signed Hughes, I was ecstatic.

      He's the type of signing the Twins have badly needed for years. Young, big upside, currently on a down note from possible mechanical and mental issues from pitching in NYC and Yankee Stadium.

      Hughes is my bet to end the 2014 as the team "ace", putting up Scott Baker type numbers.
    1. zchrz's Avatar
      zchrz -
      I have high hopes for Hughes. Yankee stadium was a terrible park for him to play in, and it can't have been easy to be a "failed" top prospect in that media circus. Lets see what he can do with reduced pressure and spacious confines behind him.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      As Hughes tired a bit, the O hitters were elevating more balls, but he was definitely too tough for most of their hitters. Hughes throws hard, the curveball looked good yesterday, and he even threw a few cut fastballs. I listened to the minor league players not in uniform watching and they were impressed with Hughes stuff and his contract.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      You most likely stepped on my foot.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      Although I liked the signing I wasn't a huge Hughes fan. I kind of felt that despite the stats showing otherwise that maybe he had plateaued as a pitcher. Thought he might be a head case and not do that well even out of Yankee stadium.

      From what I have seen from him this spring it looks like he is going to prove me wrong. I hope he has a great year. The fans need it.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      I hope he has great success and we extend him beyond the three years. I would love to have a starting rotation in four years of Hughes, Meyer, Gibson, Stewart and one of our other young guns.
    1. strumdatjag's Avatar
      strumdatjag -
      Remember Pavano was run out of New York as a failure and then succeeded here. Hopefully the Twins can do it again with Hughes!!!!
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Just my prediction but the staff at the end of the year in terms of results 1. Meyer, 2. Hughes, 3. Pelfrey 4. Gibson 5. Norasco. Its really not so bad considering Deduno could be switched with any one of these and Correia could possible switch with one of the last 3. So there is a little depth there. Last year at this time I felt pretty good about Worley, not so great about Pelfrey because of surgery, ok but not excited about Diamond, less certain about Deduno and much less certain about Gibson. Pitching should be significantly better. Offense should be better just by young guys maturing or having more experience. Still not a good offense until we get some young guys up here but Hicks and Arcia should have much better years, Mauer should play more and room for improvement from Colabello and Dozier. Hoping Santana earns a promotion. They should be better than last year which means win a few more games and make more games close.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      Quote Originally Posted by strumdatjag View Post
      Remember Pavano was run out of New York as a failure and then succeeded here. Hopefully the Twins can do it again with Hughes!!!!
      I was just going to post the same thing.
    1. zchrz's Avatar
      zchrz -
      Quote Originally Posted by strumdatjag View Post
      Remember Pavano was run out of New York as a failure and then succeeded here. Hopefully the Twins can do it again with Hughes!!!!
      And both added facial hair during the move! Hughes must keep the beard!
    1. Old Twins Cap's Avatar
      Old Twins Cap -
      I've watched Hughes pitch a lot over the last years on MLB. When he plays the good teams on the East Coast, he's tough for a couple of innings but they really know how to make him work. His fast ball is ok, but it's straight and teams like the Red Sox and Orioles and Tampa Bay, they foul off his fast ball time after time until they get something to handle. I like the look of his curve this spring, and that will help, but I'm not sure how you get around a fat fastball that teams are sitting on.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I haven't been that excited about the Hughes signing. What I think is that he is at best, a mid rotation starter who hasn't been that good for several years. I didn't think it was a particularly good sign that a 5 year big league veteran was trying to figure out his breaking ball this spring. I like the fact he has pitched well this spring, and I really hope he has turned a corner, figured it out, has put New York behind him, or whatever it is he needed to do. Because, he does have some talent and if he can finally pitch to that talent, the Twins will benefit greatly.

      At this point, I will watch with interest what he does with his first 5 starts when the season starts. I think for a guy who has struggled for several years, getting off to a good start will be quite important. It is way too early to get excited about how he is pitching nowgood or bad. Still,if he turns out to be decent or better, it will be a very good thing.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      You can tell by watching him that he attacks and looks for the punch-out, especially with two strikes.
      That's in interesting statement. Since 2009, Hughes has thrown a very high percentage of fastballs in 1-2 and 0-2 counts -- 56.3% of the time compared to the 43% fastball average in those counts. If he is tossing up a curve more frequently in camp and planning on doing so moving forward, there are good odds he could see his strikeout total increase.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      The Hughes signing made the Nolasco signing look better (in terms of overall spending). I am excited to see him pitch for the Twins.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      I was, and remain very skeptical of Hughes, but fervently hope to be very wrong.
    1. ChiTownTwinsFan's Avatar
      ChiTownTwinsFan -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I was, and remain very skeptical of Hughes, but fervently hope to be very wrong.
      So do we all.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I was, and remain very skeptical of Hughes, but fervently hope to be very wrong.
      Yeah. One key thing to remember is: he was pretty bad last year, and in 2011. Even just rebounding to 2010/2012 numbers for him will be a big achievement, and that's ~100 ERA+ territory, a 3/4 starter on a good team.

      Projecting him to surpass those numbers and become a top of the rotation guy is pretty wild, at this point. Those guys usually don't sign FA deals for 3/24.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Yeah. One key thing to remember is: he was pretty bad last year, and in 2011. Even just rebounding to 2010/2012 numbers for him will be a big achievement, and that's ~100 ERA+ territory, a 3/4 starter on a good team.

      Projecting him to surpass those numbers and become a top of the rotation guy is pretty wild, at this point. Those guys usually don't sign FA deals for 3/24.
      His career ERA on the road plus the old yankee stadium is 4.24. I would argue a 27 year old with a career 4.24 ERA typically gets more than 3/24. Plus, he has the former top prospect label.

      His 3/24 deal looks pretty similar to what a 30 year old with a 4.54 ERA would get (his career ERA). So when you factor in we get age, a better park, and a 4.24 ERA guy I think this is going to be good get for us.
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