05/19/2004 12:11 PM ET
Phil Hughes has chance to go high in draft
By Ray Sikes / Special to MLB.com
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- With a fastball that clocks in at 95 mph and unbelievable control, Phil Hughes looks ready for whatever's next in his baseball future.
|Many scouts feel Phil Hughes has first-round potential. (courtesy Foothill High School)
Hughes, a senior pitcher at Foothill High School in Santa Ana, is a top prospect for Major League baseball's upcoming First-Year Player Draft in June.
Things get a little crazy around campus when Hughes pitches. Hughes routinely draws 30 or more scouts for each start. He is 20-1 with a 0.78 ERA over his last two seasons at Foothill. He had won 19 straight decisions before losing a game late this season. The right-hander continues to receive the praises of the scouts who say Hughes is easily an early-round pick.
"This kid has great ability and knows how to pitch like a Major League Veteran and he's only 17 years old," said one Major League scout who has been following Hughes. "He's walked only [three batters] all season. That kind of control for a kid that throws as hard as he does, and at his age, is remarkable. His future looks very bright to say the least."
Hughes has the physical makeup of a power pitcher, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 230 pounds. In 54 innings this season, Hughes has walked just the three batters, while striking out 75 and allowing only six earned runs and 33 hits. He has struck out 160 batters in 126 innings pitched over the past two years.
Opposing hitters are batting a meager .168 against Hughes this season. He has pitched a perfect game and has beaten a local top-ranked team that had won 30 straight games. He is the No. 5-ranked high school prospect in the nation, according to Baseball America.
Hughes' manager, Gary Fishel, who is in his first year at Foothill's helm, says Hughes has been nothing short of spectacular.
"What impresses me the most is if you walked up and saw him pitching you wouldn't know if he was winning or losing the game," Fishel said. "His demeanor on the mound is like that of a senior in college. He has tremendous composure and he is dialed in to the task at hand. Even if our team is struggling with hitting, we know we are going to get a quality start from Phil, so we're always going to be in the game when Phil is pitching and have a very good chance at winning."
Hughes has played baseball at Foothill for four years. He played on the freshman team but didn't pitch. In his sophomore season, Hughes had an unspectacular season, going 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA. Things started to change dramatically for Hughes before his junior season with the Knights.
"I was about six-feet tall when I was a sophomore. Then before my junior year I sprouted up to 6-foot-4 and I picked up a lot of velocity on my fastball," Hughes said. "I started noticing I was a lot better than before. I was just an average guy and not a great pitcher before then."
As a junior, Hughes went 12-0 with a 0.78 ERA while striking out 85 batters and walking only 19 in 72 innings. He held opponents to a .192 batting average and allowed only eight earned runs while leading his team to a league championship. He received second-team All-State honors for his performance. He also set a school record for wins in a season.
In December, Hughes signed a letter of intent to attend Santa Clara University. However, college is not a sure thing when the Major Leagues come calling after the draft. A lot could be at stake for Hughes, depending on when he's drafted, and the decision is a tough one for a young man to make.
"Phil has a strong family base that keeps him well grounded. I'm sure when the time comes and all his options are weighed out, Phil's family will help him make the right decision for him," Fishel says. "With all of this stuff going on around him, he doesn't get big-headed and he still works hard every day and is a leader on this team."
Hughes, who has been playing baseball since Little League, says playing pro ball is something he has always dreamed about since his early days in the game.
"That's the goal, and it has been since I first started playing. I've always wanted to be a Major Leaguer," Hughes said. "Whether I go to college first or not depends on a lot of different things. I'm fortunate enough that I have a couple of options to choose from. After the season I'm going to sit down with my family and see what's in my best interest and take it from there."
Ray Sikes is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.