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March 02, 2007

I Spy With My Little Eye....

I got to see a little of Phil Hughes (pitching) last night on the YES Network’s encore presentation of yesterday afternoon’s exhibition game. As I was watching Hughes, he reminded me of someone – another right-handed pitcher. Basically, it’s Phil’s body-type that was acting as the recall trigger for me – more specifically, it was the size of Hughes’ torso (in comparison to his overall frame). It didn’t come to me, right away, as to who it was that Hughes reminded me of...so, I decided to sleep on it.

This morning, it came to me: Andy Benes.

Both of these right-handers are close to being the same size. Phil Hughes is 6’5” and Andy Benes is 6’6” – and I would bet that Benes weighed what Hughes does now when Andy was the same age.

Benes, like Hughes, came into the game with many high expectations. Andy Benes was the first overall pick of the 1988 draft - and he starred immediately by dominating in Double-A the following season.

Actually, Andy Benes ended up having a very nice major league career. Benes was in the voting for the 1989 NL Rookie of the Year. He was named to the All-Star team in 1993. Andy Benes finished in the “top six” of the NL Cy Young Award voting twice (1991 and 1996). He received a vote on the 1994 NL MVP ballot. And, Benes is the Padres’ all-time strikeout leader. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about on that resume.

Am I saying that, based on this, Andy Benes and Phil Hughes have the same “stuff” on the mound and Phil Hughes’ career will now mirror that of Andy Benes? No. I am not implying that at all.

I am only sharing that, at this moment, Hughes' physical presence – based on his handedness and the construction/size of his body – reminds me of Andy Benes. And, that, after making this visual-based connection, it’s an interesting comparison because Benes, like Hughes, was a first-round draft pick who starred in the minors and quickly moved up the ladder.

This is strictly a subjective tale of the eye. Nothing more, nothing less.

Of course, if Hughes' career does end up the same as the back of Andy Benes’ bubblegum card, that would be a win for him – in my opinion. It’s not as if Andy Benes had a career like Ben McDonald (who was another big, right-handed, first round draft pick who had very high expectations placed on him after dominating Triple-A at the age of 20).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at March 2, 2007 10:45 AM


I think Benes is a very interested comparison. Benes was a major victim of the Home Run surge in 1995-1996. He was a bonafide ace for about four years, but he just couldn't stop giving up home runs after that.

In terms of style, Benes was much less a control/strikeout pitcher and much more a ground ball guy. Hughes does it all.

Posted by: DownFromNJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2007 12:37 PM

I'd rather read fifteen A-Rod stories -- about his love for Lou, his lack of love for Jeter, his worldview-shaping relationship with his pet poodle -- than read another "many other pitching prospects just as good as Hughes have failed to live up to their potential" posts. It may be hard to accept, but some pitching prospects do get the job done in the big leagues -- for recent examples, check out the entire Marlins pitching staff, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Liriano, Papelbon, Kazmir, Jered Weaver, Cole Hamels...

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2007 12:38 PM

baileywalk - let those guys do it for a while before we start to work on their Cooperstown cases.

Remember Steve Avery?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2007 01:12 PM

Where did I call them Hall of Famers? My point is that every pitching prospect does not flame out. Some of them come up from the minors and make an impact in their rookie years, which all of the above-listed players did.

I just feel that with Hughes, and prospects in general, you seem to be trying to protect yourself from something that MIGHT happen. Sure, Hughes could fail, and it would be disappointing, but I'd rather stay positive and root for him than against him.

What clouds this for me, Steve, is that you question Hughes, and then champion people like Brett Gardner and Melky. I like both of those guys, but their chances of being above-average major leaguers is much less likely than Hughes'.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2007 01:29 PM

FWIW, I only champion people like Brett Gardner and Melky because I like their hustling style of play - and the fact that they work the strikezone as batters. Those guys always get my attention.

I'm not questioning Hughes - and I have written, that, barring injury, he will have a good major league career.

It's just that I've been around so long, and seen so many of the next Roger Clemens, etc., cases that I just can't sign on to say Hughes will star out of the chute.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2007 01:47 PM

Remember Steve Avery?
Yep, Injuries that may or may not have been workload related killed him.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2007 04:54 PM

I think Raf hits the nail on the head here. It seems like a lot of these guys who were highly touted prospects failed not because of ability but because of injuries. I tend to also think that proper management of their workloads could have avoided most if not all of the injuries (I'm thinking guys like Prior, Wood, etc.)

The Yankees are being very careful and very smart with Phil Franchise's arm, and for that reason alone I think projecting him to be a very good to great pitcher is more solid.

Posted by: DFLNJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2007 08:46 PM