After an impressive 18-win season in 2010, Phil Hughes took a mulligan in 2011.

During Spring Training last season, Hughes was unable to break 90 MPH. The Yankees placed Hughes on the DL with an undisclosed injury. After he came back, Hughes posted a pedestrian 5-5 record in only 14 starts. Hughes’ 5.79 ERA and 1.49 WHIP were unsightly, but after a rocky start to the year, the Yankees weren’t expecting much.

Going into the 2012 season, Hughes is one of the X-Factors for the Yankees. He is currently in a ‘competition’ with Freddy Garcia for the fifth stater’s job, but the job is as good as his. Cashman has coined Hughes as a ‘top of the rotation’ starter–and many fans view him that way. Top of the rotation starters don’t get put into the bullpen.

With all of the attention focused on Michael Pineda’s arm, David Robertson’s foot, and A-Rod’s knee, Hughes has flown under the Yankee radar. Not many 26-year-old pitchers with Hughes’ pedigree do. And that’s definitely not a bad thing.