McHugh is excited by his opportunities
The Mets drafted Collin McHugh in the 18th round of last June’s draft out of Berry College and sent him to Kingsport to work on his pitches. The right-hander came into the system with four pitches under his belt, but the focus was on the back end of his repertoire as he shared time in the rotation and the bullpen while with the K-Mets.
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From day one, Collin McHugh, 21, took to his new environment with a tremendously positive attitude, ready to tackle the next level of ball with a clear head and an open mind. He knew his assignment to Kingsport was merely the first step into the next stage of his baseball life.
He was introduced to the Appalachian League on the fifth night of the season when he surrendered an unearned run in two innings, but walked three. The differences form his past were palpable.
“It was definitely different from college and ball at any other time. Obviously it’s a new level of play. Everything was a bit faster. As a pitcher, there are certainly less mistakes you can get away with. I really have to think through the game, and I really had to learn how to pitch,” McHugh explained.
What McHugh had to learn was pitching to his strengths. As the owner of four pitches, he had to understand the science of picking his spots, knowing when to best use any of his four pitches rather than just try and blow pitches by every hitter.
“It was definitely a big change this year,” he said. “In college, I never had any amazing stats or anything that stood out because I would try to do too much. I’d go for the strikeout or try to put guys away.”
”I was doing things outside of myself, when for me, the key to pitching is dong what I do well. That’s what I was focusing on this year. Locating fastballs, throw off-speed pitches for strikes, and when I do that I’m successful.”
His fastball and curveball are his top two pitches, but ironing out his last two options—his slider and changeup—were imperative to taking the steps he saw as necessary. Though he tinkered with both in college, they were still rather new to him. But by season’s end, he got a feel for them.
“I really tried to develop my changeup this year because it’s a great pitch. I’d never really thrown one before, so I went along picking other guys’ brains on how to throw it and I ended up developing a pretty good one this year. It’s a pitch that got me out of some big jams this year,” he detailed.
“The slider is a pretty new pitch for me. I’ve only been throwing it for about a year now, but I feel really comfortable with it.”
Throughout the summer, he also learned what it means to be consistent. In his third outing, he allowed four earned runs in three innings pitched before tossing 10.1 consecutive scoreless innings. He then followed that streak with 13 earned runs and 21 hits given up over his next 11.2 innings pitched. He ended the season with six shutout frames, but the lesson was abundantly clear.
“It’s pretty simple when I boil it down. I’ve got to get ahead in the count. You can make hitters much better than they are if you fall behind in the count,” he said.
”Strike one is the best pitch I can throw regardless of what kind of pitch it is. I don’t want to give into hitters even at this level—don’t give them too much credit. If I can make my pitch, seven out of ten times, the guy will get himself out.”
Now McHugh heads to the fall Instructional League where he will remain committed to absorbing everything around him with the hope of opening a few eyes in the process.
“I’m still ready to play and I’m excited to get down to Instructs and pitching in front of coaches and instructors that I’ve never thrown in front of. I love studying the game, learning new things from other players, and I look forward to showing how I’ve improved. It’ll be a great opportunity to do that,” he closed.