P Phil Hughes (2007-2013)
As the Yankees began their 2009 season with a championship on their mind, top prospect Phil Hughes had yet to solidify a role for himself. A hot start in his rookie season was derailed by an injury and he essentially used the following 2008 season as a rehab year.
Hughes started his journey in 2009 in the minors and got the call up to the big leagues at the end of April. After a short stint of starts, he was moved to the bullpen. By July, he was the setup man for Mariano Rivera.
In 2009, the Yankees were desperate for help in the back-end of their bullpen. David Robertson’s career was just beginning and Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, and Alfredo Aceves were not cut out for the setup man job.
Groomed as a starter since he was drafted, Hughes took one for the team in ’09 and had arguably his best professional season.
From June on, Hughes was lights out. In the second half of the 2009 campaign, Hughes appeared in 31 games, posting a 1.64 ERA and an 0.970 WHIP.
Unfortunately, Hughes would struggle in the postseason and fall into the backdrop of the team’s 27th championship run. However, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees would have been able to cruise through the second half of the regular season without Hughes’ epic stretch.
The highly-touted prospect would never become the pitcher many hoped, which is perhaps why his strong 2009 rarely gets mentioned.