Pelfrey and Hughes two gems of Draft

Pelfrey and Hughes two gems of Draft

NEW YORK -- The 2010 First-Year Player Draft is merely weeks away, so the scurrying of scouts and scouting directors is at full speed. The straight evaluations are all but complete, and now the clubs must determine the relative strengths of the players who project to be big league candidates. Once those assessments are done, all that will remain is the selections, the signings -- and the finger crossing.

Baseball's Draft is different from all others in professional sports. Projections are nothing more than educated guesses. For every Mike Piazza -- selected in the zillionth round years before he finds himself with one foot in the door at Cooperstown -- there is a first-round selection who never sniffs the big leagues or -- when he does make it -- simply doesn't make it.

Shawn Abner and Brien Taylor, respective and infamous first-round selections by the Mets and Yankees, come to mind during this Interleague interlude weekend. Or for more current examples, there are the pitchers who will start the second game of the series on Saturday night at Citi Field -- Mike Pelfrey for the Mets and Phil Hughes for the Yankees.

Each was a first-round selection, each had attained a measure -- or is that a modicum? -- of the success his Draft rank suggested. Neither has distinguished himself to any great degree. And neither has left behind two words that attach themselves to every prospect -- "potential" and "yet."

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

In Pelfrey and Hughes, Saturday's game provides a stage for two right-handed pitchers selected in the first and 15th rounds of the 2004 Draft -- Pelfrey didn't sign with the Rays -- then chosen ninth overall in '06 and 23rd overall in '04. It also provides a rematch of sorts.

"We pitched against each other quite a bit [in Double-A]," Hughes said on Friday evening before the first game of the series, a 2-1 Yankees victory. "Mike had good stuff. I just hope he doesn't drill me tomorrow in my first AB."

And Pelfrey had a similar thought.

"I hope he's not much of a hitter," the Mets right-hander said of Hughes.

But each is more concerned with other components of his pitching duties.

To this point, they have produced comparably. Each leads his staff in victories with five, and each has the lowest ERA among his team's regular starting five -- 2.25 for Hughes, 3.02 for Pelfrey -- though recent additions to the Mets' rotation, Hisanori Takahashi (2.53) and R.A. Dickey (3.00), sport marks lower than Pelfrey's.

Hughes, 23, is the younger and less accomplished of the two -- his career record is 18-10 -- but he has been marginally more effective this season. Hughes has a 5-0 record in seven starts, six of which the Yankees have won. He has completed the seventh inning four times.

Pelfrey, 26, has lost once in eight starts and put his career winning percentage at .500 -- 33-33. The Mets have lost two of his 2010 starts. And he has that 20th inning save last month to his credit. He has finished the seventh four times.

"He's got a great arm," Hughes said of Pelfrey. "He's throwing his changeup and two-seamer. This year, he's really taught himself how to pitch."

The splitter Pelfrey has adopted this season went unmentioned, though it has added another dimension to his pitching.

"It doesn't surprise me that he's been successful this year," Pelfrey said of Hughes. "He's very talented. I don't know much we pitched against each other, but I remember being impressed by him. He's got three pitches that are real good -- changeup, slider, curve -- and from what I've seen, he spots his fastball really well."

Pelfrey sees the parallels between himself and Hughes.

"I guess we both found out it can be tough up here," Pelfrey said. "I don't think it's where we pitch. ... I like New York. But this is the big leagues and you've got to be at your best. I don't know exactly what he's done over there, but he's pretty successful now. So far, so good for both of us.

"I don't know what it would be like over there, being a first-round guy. Probably not real easy. But he has so much talent. I know I'll have to be on top of my game [on Saturday]. I think we should have a good matchup."

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.