The majority of the debate around the Santana trade centers on whether or not to give up Phil Hughes in a deal. Phil came up with such hype and universal love that we began calling him "The Messiah." Scouts loved his stuff, makeup and build. Statheads loved his low WHIPs, high K rates, high groudball rates and track record. However, last year while he clearly was acceptable he did not look the part of future ace. Some of that changed late in the year but still my eyes made me question what he really is.
Since "my eyes" are not an acceptable reason to question him I decided to see what the numbers tell us. His k rates(per 9) did drop from 9(A+) and 10.7(AA) in 2006 to 8.79(AAA) and 7.18(MLB). Now his K rates drop might be a result of his injury and an MLB adjustement period. Also, you would expect his k rates to drop as the competition gets tougher. If we look at recent ace pitchers lets look at the first year in MLB and see how their k rates compares to both their minor league numbers and their career MLB numbers;
MLB Year 1-8.51
MLB Year 1-5.2
MLB Year 1-5.81
MLB Year 1-10.01
Interesting that the only pitcher to decrease his Minor league K rate was Clemens. So the drop in K rate is a minor concern but not without precedent.
The other stat if note last year was Hughes GB%. In 2006 he rate a GB% of 52%(A+) and 55%(AA) last year he had 64%(AAA) and 37%(MLB). Maybe it was due to the injuries but there was also speculation that it was due to a higher release point. Either way, he wasn't get the ground balls that he had previously once he reached the majors. Also, here are the scouting reports before he came up on his velocity;
Sickels May 2006;
Hughes is a right handed hitter and thrower, born June 24, 1986, listed at 6-5, 220 pounds. His fastball can hit 96 MPH and is consistent at 91-93, though his velocity has reportedly increased a bit this year.
BA November 2006;
Hughes sits at 91-95 mph with his four-seam fastball and touches 96.
Last year there was a lot of discussion on his dip in velocity and once again it might have been due to the injury. However, the dip in K rate, dip in GB% and loss of velocity make Hughes' status as an potential ace borderline unless those things correct themselves in the early part of 2008.
Now I agree that the Yankees should try and keep the big three but the odds say at least one of these kids will fail, will it be Phil Hughes? I am a huge fan and I sure hope not but his K rate, GB% and velocity might at least tell us if greatness is in his future early in 2008.