Word has it that the shadow of the pitcher once known as Johan Santana may or may not make his next start on Thursday. As a result, Bisons starting pitcher Collin McHugh will be added to the Mets Taxi Squad for tomorrow's game in the event that his services are required. And should the 25-year-old McHugh get the spot start, it will be his big league debut.
As such, I felt it prudent to throw together a little primer to mark the occasion. Because, as I've pointed out before, for a near-major-league-ready starter with a 3.39 ERA and well over a strikeout per inning in Triple-A, McHugh often gets overlooked. So let's get to know Collin McHugh.
Now I've discussed McHugh around these parts more than a little over the past season-plus, so rather than reinvent the wheel let's revisit a few of the better excerpts that we've printed regarding Collin McHugh, shan't we?
From the 2012 AA Pre-Season Mets Top 50 Prospects Rankings:
The '08 18th rounder showed an excellent mastery of his four-pitch mix, while featuring a little more velocity on a fastball that now sits around 91-93 mph with very good arm-side run. As always, his slider was an excellent weapon for him, inducing plenty of strikeouts...Strong command and the ability to throw any pitch in any count give McHugh the chance to anchor the back end of a rotation in the mold of a Dillon Gee -- or provide excellent relief depth. Though he seemed to tire and scuffled a bit in the AFL, he figures to reach Buffalo at some point in 2012 and at this rate Citi Field won't be too far away.
From this July's 'Three Mets Prospects Who Could Move at the Deadline' piece:
Quick, name the only current Mets pitching prospect to post a 2.50 or better K/BB at each level of the minors. Well now that Dillon Gee has graduated we must be talking about (Collin) McHugh. The 25-year-old righty has routinely been outshone by the system's brighter lights yet continues to quietly put up very strong numbers as he climbs to the highest levels of the minors (see, career 2.68 Double-A ERA).
His average velocity/stuff doesn't blow anyone away but strong command of a well-developed four-pitch mix paired with consistently excellent K-rates (9.0 career) makes him a quietly promising pitching prospect. While he won't be headlining any rotations, McHugh represents as solid a bet as you'll find to reach his potential as a lower end major league starter...which has significant value.
From late July's piece comparing McHugh to Matt Harvey:
Player Double-A Games ERA K/9 BB/9 Opp Avg McHugh 30
2.6 .225 Harvey 12
This time McHugh obviously comes out on top, which may be partly attributed to his profile -- as an older, strike-throwing pitcher known for his secondary mix -- but it's pretty clear that he's no slouch. Unlike other Mets prospects cut from that mold — say Mark Cohoon — McHugh features the high K-rates to suggest that there's some decent stuff to back up the numbers. His overall K/BB at that level (3.37) points to a profile much more like that of Dillon Gee (3.47 at the same level).
What's more, McHugh has backed all of that up with a stellar Triple-A debut in the second half of 2012. Through 12 starts he's posted a 3.39 ERA for Buffalo; in fact after his bumpy first three starts he's actually down to a 2.46 mark since.
Even better, he's currently allowing International League hitters to bat a paltry .218 off of him, and while his typically solid command is off just a tad with his BB/9 ticked up to the mid-3's, his ordinarily high K/9 has also jumped up to nearly 9. The only slight issue has been that, like Dillon Gee, he's been bitten by the long ball a bit in Buffalo.
In short, however, the 25-year-old McHugh has gone a long way in proving that he's ready for a look in the show. And on Thursday, the one-time 18th rounder out of little Berry College could also begin proving that -- along with another former late-round gem in Gee -- the back of the Mets starting rotation could potentially be shored up for a long time to come.