Generally, when below-replacement-level players are dealt in exchange for other players of the same caliber, you won't hear much uproar if neither player pans out.
I wouldn't go as far as to say that wasn't the case with Collin McHugh, but his performance after being acquired midseason certainly didn't make Colorado Rockies fans feel much better about the team's current state.
The Rockies received McHugh from the New York Mets in return for "fan favorite" Eric Young Jr. in a June 13 trade. At that point, McHugh had appeared in 11 big-league games, going 0-5 with a 8.33 ERA. However, his minor league numbers suggested that he had the potential to be a diamond-in-the-rough of sorts. McHugh was coming off a 2012 campaign in which he posted a 2.91 ERA in 25 starts across two minor league stops and followed that up with a 2.87 ERA in nine starts in some of the most extreme hitters' environments in the game.
Most of the optimistic vibe surrounding McHugh quickly faded when he surrendered six runs on nine hits in five innings in a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in his Rockies debut on July 27. If the start went as McHugh assumingly planned, he might've had a few more opportunities to nail down the job as the Rockies' No. 5 starter. Instead, the Covington, Ga., native appeared in only three MLB games through the remainder of the season, including a poor performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 27 in which he was shelled for eight runs in four innings.
McHugh finished the season with a 10.04 ERA in seven games with the Mets and Rockies, good (bad?) for an fWAR of -0.1 and rWAR of -1.0. He walked only five batters in 26 innings, but struck out fewer than four batters per nine innings and didn't locate well enough to avoid being crushed by opposing hitters while using a pitch-to-contact approach.
Grade with the Rockies: D
McHugh certainly had his share of bad luck, as his xFIP of 4.51 indicates. However, allowing more than two home runs per nine innings while inducing ground balls fewer than 40 percent of the time isn't going to get it done in a Rockies uniform.
|2013 - Collin McHugh||0-3||4||4||0||0||0||0||19.0||33||21||21||4||2||8||9.95||1.84|
In 47⅓ big-league innings, McHugh has allowed 50 runs -- 47 earned -- while striking out only 5.3 batters per nine innings. If you take away his MLB debut, in which he went seven shutout innings and struck out nine against a Rockies lineup that largely resembled a Triple-A squad, McHugh's numbers look even worse: 47 ER in 40⅓ IP, 4.2 K/9.
Despite all of that, McHugh will be only 26 years old on opening day next season, and I can't get over the feeling that he'll be given a shot at earning a spot in the back-end of the Rockies' rotation -- or possibly, a long relief role. Feel icky after reading that? Take comfort in knowing that his leash won't be long, particularly with the caliber of pitching talent ascending through Colorado's system coupled with the club's large amount of similar or better options already saddled with the unenviable "AAAA" tag.