Then & Now is a weekly feature at Indians Baseball Insider during the offseason that takes a look at a player’s past and present while also offering a possible glimpse into the player’s future.
The year is 2006. George W. Bush is in the middle of his second term as the 43rd President of the United States. The University of Florida wins the National Championship in both football and basketball. And, on a much less prominent note, the Cleveland Indians select left-handed pitcher David Huff with the 39th overall pick of the 2006 MLB Draft.
Can you believe that it was just six and a half years ago that Huff joined the professional ranks of the Cleveland Indians. Huff may be just 28 years old, but he’s certainly an old 28-year-old; it seems as if he has been a part of the Indians’ system for an eternity.
There have been positives along the road for Huff, but it’s safe to say that his performance has never reached the expectations often associated with the 39th overall draft pick.
So, what exactly does the future hold for Huff? Let’s take a look.
Upon being drafted out of UCLA, Huff made his professional debut in 2006 with Single-A Mahoning Valley. The appearances were limited however, but Huff really started to make some noise the following season.
The 6-foot, 2-inch, 215 pounder made his debut with High-A Kinston in 2007, and he proceeded to go 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 starts and 59 2/3 innings of work. Unfortunately for Huff, his strong season ended prematurely in May after it was determined that he had a strained ligament in his throwing elbow. He was then shutdown for the remainder of the season and would not pitch again until 2008.
While it took awhile for Huff to return to the mound, he certainly made the most of his opportunities when he finally did. The left-hander got off to a brilliant start and went 5-1 with a 1.92 ERA in 65 2/3 innings of work at Double-A Akron. Huff was then promoted to Triple-A Buffalo where he made 16 starts to end the season and posted a 3.01 ERA in 80 2/3 innings. Huff also posted the best strikeout numbers of his career as he recorded nine punchouts per nine innings.
That season also played a large part in establishing Huff’s prospect value. Around the Majors, Huff was now viewed as a legitimate finesse left-hander that was potentially Major League ready. He seemed to be on the fast track to the Major Leagues, and that was confirmed the very next year.
Huff began the 2009 season at the Indians’ new Triple-A affiliate, Columbus, but it was not long before the San Diego native found himself in Cleveland. On May 7, Huff made his Major League debut. The effort was far from pretty — seven runs in 3 2/3 innings of work. For an encore, Huff allowed six earned runs in three innings in his next outing. Yeesh.
It appeared as if the thought that Huff may be a capable Major League starter might have been somewhat premature. Aside from two games where he pitched eight shutout innings, Huff’s 2009 performance left a lot to be desired. His overall line was an 11-8 record with a 5.61 ERA in 128 1/3 innings.
Huff still was given the benefit of the doubt and began the next season back in Cleveland’s rotation. Huff got off to a semi-decent start, but things quickly turned sour. Things then really got bad on May 29 after a line drive from the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez hit Huff in the head.
Huff never seemed to fully recover and was sent back to Columbus a few starts later. He made a couple of spot starts in August, but he might have been recalled earlier had it not been for a tweet in July that implied the Indians were going to recall him. His impromptu tweet seemingly changed those plans. For the year, Huff posted a 2-11 record and 6.21 ERA in 15 starts.
Huff began the following season back in Columbus before a July callup where he seemed, at least for a moment, to be a different pitcher. Through his first six starts, Huff went 2-2 with 19 strikeouts and a 2.08 ERA.
Though from that point, things went in the opposite direction. In five starts to close the season, Huff went 0-4 with a 6.20 ERA. For a moment, it seemed as if Huff had finally figured it out, yet inconsistency once again reared its ugly head. For parts of three Major League seasons, Huff had shown himself to be nothing more than an up-and-down model of inconsistency.
Huff once again found himself back in the minor leagues to start the 2012 season. In 24 games and 134 innings with the Clippers, Huff posted a 4.97 ERA before joining the Indians in September where he posted a 3.38 ERA in 26 2/3 innings of work.
In reality, Huff seemed to be in the exact same position that he was in four seasons earlier, but the only difference was that he was now a 28-year-old in that role.
It seemed as if Huff’s chances of sticking in the Major Leagues may have finally dissolved. The Indians needed a handful of starters during the season, but it seems as if Huff was always overlooked for other options.
Huff entered this year’s Spring Training as a candidate for the Indians’ fifth starter job. However, notice the emphasis on candidate as that recognition is hardly a compliment since it seems like Huff has received this label every Spring Training. If anything, Huff seems to be labeled a candidate by default, and no one seems to legitimately see him in that role.
Also, while Huff was initially competing for the team’s fifth starter role, Terry Francona has since said that he is no longer in the mix and can only make the team as a reliever. The chances of that happening also seem slim as the Indians added left-hander Rich Hill to their 40-man roster this week, so he seems all but a lock to make the Opening Day roster. Also, doesn’t it just seem hard to believe that Huff could possibly earn a spot over left-handers Scott Barnes and Nick Hagadone?
So what exactly is ahead for Huff? Well, it’s a difficult question to answer. To his credit, he has shown in spurts that he can be an effective contributor to a Major League team. However, it’s unlikely that he becomes a contributor as a starting pitcher.
Furthermore, it’s probably unlikely that Huff becomes a contributor to the Indians period. The left-hander is out of options and if he does not make the team out of Spring Training, the Tribe will have to designate him for assignment.
So, Huff may still get a chance to crack the Major Leagues this season, but it seems highly unlikely that the opportunity is going to come from the Indians.
Previous Then & Now profiles:
- March 5, 2013: Nick Hagadone
- Feb. 26, 2013: Yan Gomes
- Feb. 20, 2013: Scott Kazmir
- Feb. 14, 2013: Matt LaPorta
- Feb. 6, 2013: Matt Langwell
- Jan. 31, 2013: Mike McDade
- Jan. 24, 2013: Scott Barnes
- Jan. 15, 2013: Chen-Chang Lee
- Jan. 10, 2013: Austin Adams
- Jan. 5, 2013: Rob Bryson
- Dec. 26, 2012: Giovanni Soto
- Dec. 18, 2012: Thomas Neal
- Dec. 11, 2012: Chris McGuiness
- Dec. 8, 2012: Trey Haley
- Nov. 27, 2012: Adam Abraham
- Nov. 20, 2012: Jesus Aguilar
- Nov. 15, 2012: Cord Phelps
- Nov. 6, 2012: Tim Fedroff
- Nov. 2, 2012: T.J. McFarland
- Oct. 27, 2012: Chen-Hsiu Chen
- Oct. 16, 2012: Danny Salazar
- Oct. 10, 2012: Paolo Espino
- Oct. 5, 2012: Jared Goedert
- Sept. 24, 2012: Hector Rondon
- Sept. 17, 2012: Nick Weglarz