Two seasons ago, Jared Hughes struggled – posting a 4.78 ERA in 29 outings for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last year, the right-hander made 63 appearances and was absolutely dominant – cruising to a 1.63 earned run average and 1.088 WHIP for the again postseason-bound club.
Still three seasons away from hitting the open market, Hughes essentially holds his own future in his hands with the Pirates. He has the power to dictate his future paychecks – and after the last two seasons, things could tilt either way.
Two years ago, the former fourth-round pick came out of the gate in a horrible fashion, posting a 4.61 earned run average in the months of March and April. Things got worse from there, when he rejoined the big league club in June, making two appearances spanning 2 2/3 innings – in which he allowed two earned runs on three hits.
The back-and-forth continued when he rejoined the Pirates in August, making nine appearances for the club. He allowed four earned in 10 innings of work, giving him a respectable stretch to build on heading into 2014.
Last season, Hughes was from another world. Perhaps most importantly, he seemed to address his control issues – lowering his walks-per-nine mark from 4.5 in 2013 to a mere 2.7 last year. These numbers were comparable to his strong 2012 showing, when he posted a 2.85 ERA in a career-high 66 outings.
So not only have the inconsistency problems been in-season problems, but also a year-to-year concern for the right-hander. Hughes, still just 29 years old, has shown the potential to be an elite middle-reliever not only in the National League Central but in all of Major League Baseball.
Consistency will be key for Hughes this season after two very different years in 2013 and 2014.
Mixed in with Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and the other notable names that have roles in Clint Hurdle’s bullpen, Hughes often gets overlooked. But, that being said, the right-hander has shown more than a few issues that have some fans questioning whether or not he can be a reliable option for an entire season.
Another successful year in 2015 could very well help Hughes establish a better reputation amongst baseball fans everywhere. Right now, nine out of every 10 casual fans would have no idea who he is. If he can put together a second-consecutive standout campaign, he’ll be on the path to a bigger payday as well as cementing a place among the elite relievers in the Pirates’ bullpen.