In cementing his place as the opening day starter for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in AAA, Phil Hughes gave the Minnesota Twins all they could handle and more.
Hughes lowered his spring ERA to an impressive 2.19, while limiting the Twins to just four base runners in 4 1/3 innings pitched.
Though he has struggled with the command of his fastball for much of the spring, the results and progression have been exactly what the New York Yankees have been waiting for.
Touted as the unquestionable “Ace” of the future, Hughes showed nothing but frailty and control problems in 2008.
It is nearly impossible to commit to memory that Hughes is just 22 years old. His name has been on the tip of Yankees fans' tongues for seemingly a decade.
There is plenty of time to develop into what his vast potential foreshadows, but I wonder how long the impatient New York demographic will be willing to wait for him.
If Hughes is able to master his improving change-up, there is no telling how high his ceiling can rise.
His velocity may never reach the 95-96 that caused fans to salivate after reading Internet reports, but it may not have to.
If he can spot a 91-92 mph fastball on the corners while throwing his above-average curveball for strikes, he can blossom into a No. 3 starter.
Mixing in the command of a deceptive change-up could make the difference in Hughes eventually becoming a top-of-the-rotation-starter.
If nothing else, Yankees fans can have confidence in their current No. 6 starter. In the event that A.J. Burnett or Andy Pettitte misses a string of starts, Hughes could fill in without a major drop-off in production.
Hughes may not be ready to pitch a full season at the Major League level, but he seems more than adequate to act as an injury replacement for a handful of turns.
Another highly-regarded Yankees prospect had a memorable moment on Friday. Center field prospect Austin Jackson crushed his second home run of the spring.
His average currently stands at .303, and he has started to show why New York thinks so highly of him.
Like any young hitter, Jackson has struggled with pitch selection and top-notch breaking pitches. He added two strikeouts to his team-leading 11 thus far this spring.
Jackson has struck out in one-third of his plate appearances while working only two walks.
He has a lot of work to do, but has shown the tools to develop into a solid everyday player by 2011.
The media will focus on the big names and even bigger contracts associated with them, and rightfully so.
However, it is exciting to see the minor league pipeline begin to tease us all with its talent pool.
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