Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Kansas City Royals have emerged as a suitor for Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes. We’ve mentioned Hughes as a target for the Royals all the way back to the trading deadline and as recently as the off-season preview.
On the surface, Hughes doesn’t look like that appealing of a candidate for the Royals. He has a career 4.54 ERA and has had an ERA over 5 in two of his last three seasons. His numbers last year were atrocious: 5.19 ERA (78 ERA+), 1.455 WHIP, and 24 home runs allowed in 145.2 innings pitched. Yuck.
However, there are reasons behind those numbers that would suggest Hughes would perform much better in Kansas City. First, here are his home/road splits for his career.
Home: 4.96 ERA, 76 home runs, .807 OPS against, 405 IP
Road: 4.10 ERA, 36 home runs, .690 OPS against, 375.2 IP
Home runs have been an absolute killer to Hughes at Yankee Stadium, specifically in right field. For example, Hughes allowed 17 home runs in Yankee Stadium this season with only six going to left field. Check out his home run spray chart from 2013:
Now look at it with Kauffman Stadium’s dimensions as an overlay:
Many of the home runs that were leaving the park at Yankee Stadium would be out in Kansas City.
Second, there is reason to believe his defense and luck didn’t help Hughes out while in New York. Last season Hughes had an ERA of 5.19 but his xFIP was 4.39. A move to Kansas City would mean not only an improvement in his home run rate but also an improvement in the defense behind him. Hughes is an extreme fly ball pitcher with a career FB% of 66.4%. Kansas City boasts the number one defensive outfield in baseball, which would help Hughes tremendously.
Third, and finally, Hughes is only 27 and will not turn 28 until June of next year. This means he is an affordable young arm that would not cost the Royals a draft pick or prospect to acquire. He is, in a lot of ways, a younger version of Ervin Santana from last season: a guy who needs a change of scenery and a ballpark that fits his pitching style. KC can do both of those things for him.