CASEY HUGHSTON, CENTER FIELDER
|Born: June 9, 1994
Drafted: 3rd Round, 96th Overall, 2015
How Acquired: Draft
College: University of Alabama
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Hughston was a draft-eligible sophomore, taken in the third round on his 21st birthday. He has solid tools across the board and profiles as a corner outfielder with power potential. Hughston hit .332/.389/.502 in 2015, though his stats fell off during SEC play. He has struggled against left-handed pitching and tends to get aggressive and pull-conscious, which leads to swing and misses. His main weakness is that he can’t hit anything on the outer half of the plate. He had 55 strikeouts in 235 at-bats in 2015 and 51 in 174 at-bats in 2014. He has surprising speed for a big guy and in fact is a very good defensive center fielder, with good range. Hughston signed shortly after the draft for a bonus that was $107,300 over the slot amount.
Hughston got off to a horrific start at Morgantown, going 1-for-43 to begin his career. He batted .273 after that stretch came to an end. Overall, though, he struck out too much, a problem that persisted even after the terrible start. He fanned 34 times in 86 August at-bats, for instance. He didn’t hit LHPs at all, posting a .307 OPS with 20 strikeouts in 50 at-bats. He played exclusively in center.
The Pirates sent Hughston to West Virginia and he had significant difficulties. By mid-May he was hitting .147 with 51 strikeouts in just 129 ABs. The Pirates sent him to extended spring training for a month, then brought him back to West Virginia. He hit very well for the last half of June, but continued to strike out in well over a third of his ABs. He struggled increasingly the rest of the season, batting .190 from July on, with 86 whiffs in 226 ABs. He hit for much more power after he returned in June, slugging .380 as compared to .240 before that. In the field, Hughston alternated in center field with Tito Polo, playing left when he wasn’t in center. After Polo moved up to Bradenton, Hughston stayed in center. Surprisingly, given his size, Hughston has the speed, at least for now, to play in center and he’s shown good range. He’s also shown some speed on the bases.
Hughston moved up to Bradenton and served as the regular in center. He made some progress; in fact, he got off to a very good start, with an .853 OPS in April. That didn’t last, though, as he never reached .700 in any other month. In the end, his K rate was nearly identical to 2016, although he hit better overall. He hit decently against RHPs, with a 257/300/440 line, but he managed only 217/291/264 against LHPs. The Pirates moved him up to Altoona when it was shorthanded at the end of the season and he participated in the Curve’s title run.
The Pirates sent Hughston back to Bradenton and he initially served as a fourth outfielder. He eventually got a lot of playing time, evenly divided among the three outfield spots, due to injuries and personnel moves. His hitting took a sizeable step backward, as his power largely disappeared and his K rate actually increased.
Hughston’s power and athleticism always seemed to give him a decent ceiling, but the production hasn’t been there. He won’t be a minor league free agent for another two years and the Pirates may find better uses for the playing time.
|2019: Minor League Contract
|Signing Bonus: $700,000
MiLB Debut: 2015
MiLB FA Eligible: 2021
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2018
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 9, 2015: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 3rd round, 96th overall pick; signed on June 18.|