Prospect Smackdown: Mike Pelfrey vs. Phillip Hughes
BACKGROUND and INTANGIBLES
Mike Pelfrey: Mike Pelfrey was drafted in the first round last year out of Wichita State University. Many clubs thought he was the best college pitcher available in the draft, but he fell to ninth overall due to worries about his bonus demands. It took the Mets until January '06, but they did manage to sign him. Pelfrey was excellent for three seasons for Wichita State. He showed occasional nervousness and lack of confidence as a high school pitcher, but matured into a stalwart competitor in college.
Phillip Hughes: Phillip Hughes was drafted in the first round in 2004, out of high school in Santa Ana, California. Although picked at 23rd overall, many clubs thought he was the best high school pitcher in the draft, but shied away from high school pitchers in favor of college guys that season. Hughes is extremely mature for his years, with a reputation for thriving under pressure.
Advantage: Comparing a college pitcher with a high school guy is problematic. Hughes was more mature than Pelfrey at the same age, but Pelfrey has certainly proven his mound "intangibles" in college. You can call this even I think.
PHYSICALITY and TOOLS
Mike Pelfrey: Pelfrey is a righthanded hitter and thrower, born January 14, 1984. He is listed at 6-7, 210 pounds. His fastball has been clocked as high as 97 MPH, working consistently at 92-94 MPH. His changeup is above average. He made great strides with his curveball in college, giving him three offerings that are at least major league average and often better. His command is very good for a power pitcher, and he has a good feel for changing speeds and throwing strikes, at least compared to most power arms. He does the little things well, and is very polished overall. He has had no injury problems worth mentioning.
Phillip Hughes: Hughes is a righthanded 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. He has two breaking balls, a strong slider and a strong curveball, both with the potential to be above average. He also has a good changeup. His command is outstanding, and like Pelfrey he has a great feel for his craft. Hughes has had nagging injuries as a pro, including a sore shoulder in 2005 and a sore elbow in 2004. None of these are considered major by themselves, but in the aggregate they lead to unavoidable concerns about his stamina.
Advantage: Pelfrey throws a bit harder right now, but he's older and has had more time to mature physically. Both have good breaking balls and changeups. Both have sharp command for power pitchers. Both are very polished. Pelfrey has been more durable so far, and overall I will give Pelfrey a slight edge here for that reason.
Mike Pelfrey: Pelfrey went 2-1, 1.64 in four starts for St. Lucie to begin his pro career, with a 26/2 K/BB ratio in 22 innings. Promoted to Double-A, he is 0-1, 4.15 in four starts, with a 24/9 K/BB in 22 innings.
Phillip Hughes: Hughes came into 2006 with a career mark of 9-1, 2.07 in 91 innings, with a 101/20 K/BB. He started this year going 2-3, 1.80 in five starts for Tampa, with a 30/2 K/BB in 30 innings. Promoted to Double-A, he is 0-1, 3.71 in three starts, with a 13/7 K/BB in 17 innings.
Advantage: Hughes has more of a pro track record to go on at this point, though you can't ignore Pelfrey's outstanding pitching in college. This year, their numbers were extremely similar in the Florida State League, with Pelfrey perhaps having a slight edge. Hughes has been slightly more effective in Double-A, but given their sample sizes none of this means much. Bottom line: both dominated A-ball, both have been adequate in Double-A. Overall I call it even.
Mike Pelfrey: Pelfrey projects as a number one starter at the major league level, a rotation anchor.
Phillip Hughes: Hughes projects as a number one starter at the major league level, a rotation anchor.
Advantage: Hughes is younger and has more classic projection just due to his birthday. Slight edge for Hughes.
I knew this one would be close, and it is.
They rate as even on background and intangibles, different but even.
I think Pelfrey has a slight edge in physicality and tools.
They look even to me in performance.
Hughes is younger so he has more "projection."
I guess it is a matter of taste. For me, I really worry about Hughes' durability, so today I think I will put Pelfrey just a tad higher. I might change my mind tomorrow.