Both are 20 years of age and have advanced through identical levels. Both are big righties who can bring the heat. Both are unquestionably among the greatest prospects in all of baseball.
So just for argument's sake: how on earth can you choose just one?
Homer Bailey is a phenom – a natural in the true sense of the word – who leaves many a batter in awe as they stroll back to the dugout. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder can boast an unmatched pure “stuff” component to his arsenal, lighting the gun up with heat over 97 MPH just to leave the opponent baffled when he turns around with his constantly improving changeup or 12-to-6 curve.
The numbers are ridiculous. Over the course of his minor league career, Bailey is averaging 10.27 K/9 with a very low 1.25 WHIP. As if these are not reasons enough to be impressed, just look and see what Bailey became in 2006, pitching against the highest level of competition he had been opposed to. Bailey made 13 starts at High-A Saratoga, putting up an ERA of 3.31 while posting a 79 to 22 strikeout to walk rate with a WHIP right at 1.00.
Considering the competition faced at Double-A, Bailey was actually more impressive at Chattanooga. In these 13 starts, Bailey performed with a similar amount of control (77:28 K to BB) with an impressive 1.15 WHIP. He also managed a 7-1 record with an ERA well south of two (1.59).
All of these facts make the decision so easy for me: Philip Hughes.
Hughes, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound native of Santa Ana, Calif., has separated himself from Homer Bailey. While his repertoire on the hill is not that of Bailey’s, Hughes has no problem showing off something that Bailey does not have: impeccable control.
Last season, Bailey posted the greatest control numbers of his career with WHIP numbers of 1.00 and 1.15 at High-A and Double-A respectively. If Hughes had put up similar statistics, it would have been the worst year of his minor league career.
Hughes has never posted a WHIP over 0.91, which came in 21 starts last year at Double-A Trenton against tough competition in the Eastern League. Over the course of the 237.1 innings pitched in his minor league career, Hughes has done it all: 21-7 record, 2.13 ERA, amazing 269:54 K to BB clip, and of course, the microscopic WHIP of 0.86.
No one in their right mind will ever question Bailey’s talents, but you can see without too much analysis that he has walked twice as many batters per nine innings (4.07 to 2.05) as Hughes throughout their respective developments. If Homer Bailey continues to develop the way everyone expects him to, he will grasp the control needed to become a pitcher of, let’s say, Philip Hughes caliber.
But Hughes isn’t done developing either. Anyone else scared to see what this guy could do?
These two are both amazing young arms who any club in the big leagues would fall head over heals for, but if you really want to single out the best, look no further than Hughes. While he may not have the pure electric stuff of Homer Bailey on the hill, Philip Hughes and his impeccable control and poise at such a young age make this polished star the best young arm in the minor leagues.
Still think you would choose Bailey over Hughes? Have any other prospects you want to see compared head-to-head? Email Adam Loberstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.