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What do Phil Hughes and Alex Gordon have in common?

Can one of the most hyped former Yankee prospects of the last decade be one of the most underrated pitchers entering spring training?

Simply stated, the former uber prospect, Phil Hughes, has never living up to the hype that made him Baseball America’s number four overall prospect in 2007.

Last year was a nightmare of a season that started with a severe velocity drop off with his fastball, only hitting the upper eighties. There were many speculating about a serious arm injury after shoulder discomfort. The Yankees never received a positive diagnosis on why his shoulder was ailing him. He simply ended up with the nebulous "dead arm". Many great baseball minds as well as some higher ups in the New York organization will admit that enormous innings jump from 2010 to 2011, is what led to his difficulties last year.

However, starting in last September, his velocity returned, hitting 93 MPH on the radar gun with frequency. During this past off-season Hughes has been on the most vigorous winter workout programs of his young career. While we can usually disregard the "Best shape of my life" stories, it is at least promising to hear that after returning from Fat Camp, Hughes shed 20 pounds of body fat while adding a significant amount of lean body mass to his 6 ft 4’/ 240 frame. All reports indicate that Hughes’ stuff looks very good entering spring training.

With A.J. Burnett being sent to Pittsburgh, the job is all but Hughes’ to lose.

The former centerpiece of the Yankees farm system is still a young arm that I strongly believe in. While the dream of him becoming an ace is long gone, the ceiling of a number two starter is well within bounds.

I won’t bore you with the details, but advanced data shows that Hughes is most dominant and effective when he uses his curveball with more frequency then he did in 2011. As last year progressed, Hughes was throwing his fastball at severely higher rates then he did in 2010. There are simply no answers available as to why his fastball/curveball ratio changed so drastically. However, in his early throwing program, word has it that he will re-commit to throwing his plus curveball more, which can be a devastating swing and miss offering. As a result I expect the strikeouts to increase, building upon his 2010 campaign.

We fantasy baseball competitors, can have very short memories.

Just a reminder that just as recent as 2010, the twenty five year old righty won 18 games while striking out 146 in 176 innings. He ended the year with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.

Before the A.J Burnett trade, Hughe’s ADP was 262. I have been monitoring draft boards after the A.J Burnett trade, and he has only received a one to two round bump after the Burnett’s trade. His earliest draft position thus far is 222.

There is obvious value to be had here. If I was drafting in a fifteen-team league and Hughes was available in the fifteenth round, I would pounce!

Like Alex Gordon, both these players went from to elite prospects, to struggling major leaguers, to oft-injured disappointments.

Gordon broke out in 2011, I am putting my money on a Phil Hughes breakout in 2012.

2012 projection: 170 innings, 150 K’s, 15 Wins, 3.80 ERA, 1.24 WHIP