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Where Did This Guy Come From? Luke Hughes

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Luke Hughes was signed by the Twins as a free agent out of Australia in 2002. He made his pro debut in 2003, hitting a solid .305/.361/.426 for the GCL Twins, playing shortstop and third base. The line on him was that he was a good athlete with offensive potential and a strong throwing arm, but was rather raw. I didn't put him in the 2004 book but he would have rated a Grade C.

Promoted to Elizabethton in the Appy League in 2004, he moved to second base full time, hitting .284/.338/.418 in 44 games. He drew just nine walks against 30 strikeouts in 141 at-bats, showing problems with plate discipline. He'd still be a Grade C at this point.

Hughes began 2005 with Beloit in the Midwest League, hitting .257/.319/.390. Promoted to Fort Myers late in the year, he hit .202/.222/.262 wiht a 2/15 BB/K mark in 84 at-bats, overmatched by Florida State League pitching. I saw him play for the first time for Beloit, noting his arm strength, decent bat speed, and hustle on the field. He would still rate a Grade C, having the potential to improve but with no clear sign of it happening yet.

Hughes hit .231/.287/.312 in the Florida State League in 2006. His strike zone judgment was still questionable, and he appeared stagnant offensively. He played mostly third base instead of second to take advantage of his strong arm, but there was not evidence that he was growing offensively. His best attribute was age: he was 21 most of the season, equivalent to a college junior.

2007 was a good year: .283/.356/.438 for Double-A New Britain. His plate discipline improved signficantly, and he got stronger physically, showing much more power than in the past, and doing it in Double-A. He was used as a super-utility player, spending time at second base, third base, left field, right field, and even first base. I'd consider him a Grade C+.

I didn't put him in the 2008 book. I SHOULD have, his performance last year was much better than in the past and he was still quite young. In my defense, Baseball America didn't list him as a pre-season Top Twins prospect either. As you know, he was excellent at New Britain this year, hitting .319/.385/.551 in 70 games. Promoted to Triple-A Rochester, he hit .283/.325/.453 in 29 games, giving him a combined season line of .309/.369/.524 with 18 homers, 35 walks, and 100 strikeouts in 391 at-bats.

How do I rate him now, and what do I expect from the future? Hughes turned 24 on August 2nd, and given his age and amateur background, this probably represents genuine improvement in his power development. His strike zone judgment is still marginal, and his BB/K/AB ratio deteriorated after his promotion to Rochester. Unless that improves, I suspect he will be hard-pressed to hit close to .300 in the majors. He's likely a .260ish hitter, with good but not elite-level power.  Position-wise, he did the super-utility thing again this year, spending time at third base, second base, and outfield. His arm is well-suited for third base, however, he is very error-prone at third (.888 fielding percentage at New Britain). He best position looks to be second base, though there are concerns about his range there.

Looking at everything, I'd rate Hughes as a Grade C+/B- prospect right now. I'd like to see him get some additional Triple-A time to improve his zone judgment further, and he is likely best-suited to be a utiliyman in the majors, albeit one who has more pop than the average bench guy.