This recently came up in Frank Piliere’s chat on Fangraphs:
I think this is a very interesting question. If we compare Phil Hughes after 2007 and Manuel Banuelos now, I think I have to disagree with Piliere. I don’t doubt that Banuelos has better stuff than Hughes does right now, but Hughes had a much better track record at this point in 2007. He was coming off a downright nasty season between Tampa and Trenton, with 10.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 and 146 innings, and his curveball was labeled the best in the minor leagues. Importantly, he had two full seasons of healthy, elite-level pitching under his belt.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, Piliere’s criticism of Hughes is pretty enlightening. We all assumed back then that Hughes would develop a changeup without a whole lot of trouble. He was considered a coach’s dream and a quick learn. He had been taught the curveball after throwing just sliders in High School in just a few short months, and it was frequently rated a 70 on the 20-80 scale.
But that’s all hindsight. In 2007, that wasn’t that much of a concern. There are lots of potential threats to Manuel Banuelos’ prospect status that hindsight could prove more serious than they were: his lack of innings and size for example. He does have the advantage of being about a year younger than Hughes was at a comparable points. Still, I don’t want to jump the gun on Banuelos too much. And this is coming from someone who is a huge fan of ManBan.
And frankly, its not like Phil Hughes has been a bust. Due to an untimely injury and a crowded rotation, Hughes hasn’t exactly taken a straight development path. I don’t think that at this point we can say that Hughes has been a disappointment. He’ll turn 25 in June, has one elite relief season and one strong starting season under his belt, and could very well follow Adam Wainwright’s career path. He’s turned out pretty well for a prospect, top level or not.
Hughes was a darn good prospect after he completed Double-A. Manuel is a darn good prospect too, but as someone who started blogging right around the time Hughes started pitching, I remember how good we all thought he was very well. He was roughly comparable to Jesus Montero in prospect status. Banuelos isn’t there yet.
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