As you have probably heard by now, the Astros new General Manager - James Click made his first official signing: Jared Hughes - as a non-roster invitee.
Who is Jared Hughes?
The gigantic right handed pitcher hailing from Connecticut (although growing up in California) clocks in at 6’7 and 240 lbs. At 34 years old, Hughes is no longer a spring chicken but has been a solid pitcher across his career.
As a prospect, Hughes was drafted twice (the 16th then the 4th round), but never quite lived up to the potential that tantalized scouts due to his height. He peaked at #29 on Baseball America’s top Pirates prospects after the 2009 season.
In his Houston Chroniical interview/announcement, here’s what Hughes had to say about joining the Astros:
““I love the state of Texas and love the people in it, so I’m excited,” said Hughes, who makes his offseason home in Dallas. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience, but I’d like to gain some more postseason experience, which is why I’m here.””
After spending 6 seasons with the Pirates, Hughes was able to gain some insight about the Astros and Brent Strom from Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton:
““They both loved it here,” Hughes said. “(Cole) had nothing but good things to say about the pitching department here and what they were teaching him. I’m looking to learn.””
Here was Sports Illustrated’s take on the Hughes in their behind the numbers article:
“former Pirates’ reliever, who always made a memorable entrance, Jared Hughes. This past year he is probably most famous for the GIF that shows JT Realmuto’s reaction as Hughes sprints in from the bullpen. If you look beyond this GIF, which is extremely funny, the numbers are not “earth-shattering”; they are solid, and, at 34 years old, I have to believe that there is something left in the tank for this man, who is still a free agent. “
And in case you hadn’t seen the gif, or Hughes’ dramatic entrances:
If you’re wondering why Hughes sprints out to the mound like a mad man? Well, Runners World had a good article on it, but for the quick take-away:
““I had a backup catcher say, ‘Hey, you just should sprint in and throw it as hard as you can because this might be your last outing ever. You might get released,’” Hughes told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “So I said, ‘All right, let’s do it, man.’ I started sprinting in and I started throwing 4 mph harder.”
From a first glance, Hughes has strong statistics with a 2.88 ERA across 519 innings. Unfortunately, as you dig deeper his 3.98 FIP and 3.74 SIERA are far less kind although some of that may be due to the nature of him inducing ground balls at an extremely high rate.
How extreme? Well since being called up in 2011 to current, Hughes would rank 6th. (He’d be 4th highest of all the pitchers with 250+ innings over the past 4 years).
That type of ground ball rate could lead to elite results, unfortunately Hughes has not been overly effective in K/9 (6.07) or BB/9 (3.05) across the course of his career, which limits his potential.
From first glance, it sure does not appear that Hughes is the prototypical Luhnow target, nor the type of pitcher that is known for the biggest improvement under Strom’s tutelage other than the reliance on the Sinker. It will be intriguing for me to see if Hughes makes the bullpen what changes are implemented to his arsenal. You have to be curious if this is a change in the Astros methodology under new leadership or somewhat of a non-item as he is a non-roster invitee.
With that said, Hughes has one of the lowest spin rates on his sinker in all of baseball. Last year, his spin rate ranked 8th lowest in all of baseball. (4th in 2018)
Now you may wonder why that matters. Well, the reason the Astros targeted high spin 4-seam pitchers is the spin makes the pitch “rise” more than anticipated. In the opposite fashion, the Sinker with a low spin rate will sink more than anticipated. I highly recommend the read over at Driveline Baseball called Spin Rate: What We Know Now
This makes sense as Hughes’ Sinker drops 9” more than the average sinker and leads to such an incredibly high ground ball rate.
Jared Hughes is a non-flashy signing, which is to be expected for a Non-Roster Invitee, but he comes with a solid track record. He will be an interesting case to follow for me this year, wondering if this is a change in methodologies or a matter of circumstance with limited options.
And while the projections are not optimistic on him, his results have significantly outpaced the projections for almost a decade now. He seems like a solid signing, especially considered there are no guarantees. The Astros will have some tough choices to make during the spring and there is potential for quite a few prospects to step up and make the team, Hughes provides a nice insurance policy and an intriguing case to follow.
Are you happy the Astros signed Jared Hughes?
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