06/07/2004 1:54 PM ET
Bombers take California righty
High school pitcher first of Yankees' 2004 draft picks
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|Philip Hughes held opponents to a .181 batting average this season. (courtesy Foothill HS)
NEW YORK -- College pitchers are generally thought to have a better chance of making it to the Majors than high school hurlers, but the Yankees feel they got the best of both worlds when they drafted Philip Hughes, a right-hander from Foothill High School in Santa Ana, Calif.
"I'm just thrilled," Hughes said. "I want to thank everyone in the organization, because this is awesome. Everyone in the organization has treated me so well."
Hughes, who will turn 18 on June 24, is an imposing figure at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. He features a good fastball, a big-league slider and a solid changeup.
Hughes was taken 23rd overall, the first of four selections the Yankees had among the first 42 picks.
"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."
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6-5 W: 220
Born: 1986-06-24 Class: HS
TALL, LARGE FRAME. BROAD BACK, SHOULDERS. WIDE HIPS. STRONG, THICK LOWER HALF. LONG, LOOSE MUSCLES. NO WINDUP, HIGH 3/4. SIDE STEP TO START, HIGH LEG LIFT. HIDES BALL WELL. QUICK, COMPACT, LIVE ARM. SHORT IN BACK. SITS ON 90-91, OCCAISIONAL PLUS 92-94. SOLID MECHANICS W/ GOOD BODY CONTROL. FLASHES MAJOR LEAGUE SLIDER W/ LATE BITE, GOOD DOWN PLANE. GOOD MOTION ON CHANGEUP. BIG, STRONG-ARMED PITCHER W/ PROJECTABLE MAJOR LEAGUE OR BETTER PITCHES ACROSS THE BOARD. AROUND PLATE W/ ALL PITCHES, CHANCE FOR PLUS CONTROL.
"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, the club's senior vice president of player personnel. "We sweated it out toward the end there."
Hughes went 9-1 this season with a 0.69 ERA, striking out 83 and walking just three batters in 61 innings. Hughes allowed 41 hits, holding opponents to a .181 batting average.
"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."
In 2003, Hughes went 12-0 with a 0.78 ERA. In 72 innings, Hughes struck out 85 and walked 19, holding hitters to a .192 average. Before the draft, Hughes was ranked No. 16 among prospects by Baseball America.
"He has everything we looked for, including his makeup," Blakeley said. "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."
Although he signed a letter of intent with Santa Clara University, Hughes is expected to sign with the Yankees and skip college.
"I'd like to get it done as soon as possible," said Hughes, who is represented by Nez Balelo of Paragon Sports. "I'm not really worried about that, because it shouldn't be an issue. I just want to get out there and start playing."
Hughes said that while his three pitches have worked for him in high school, he is working on a fourth pitch to add to his arsenal.
"I'm trying to develop a curveball right now, just to mix it up," Hughes said. "I'm messing around with it a little."
Hughes will likely begin his pro career in the Class A Gulf Coast League, playing for the Tampa Yankees.
"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."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.