Phil Hughes is set to hit free agency for the first time after this season and it’s almost impossible to predict what type of pitcher he will be once he gets there.

Over the last three seasons, he has looked like a future ace for the Yankees, then like someone who could barely get anyone out, before rebounding with a solid 2012.

“Every year presents a challenge and it’s no different this year,” Hughes said over the weekend at the Yankees’ minor league complex. “I feel like I have a lot of pressure on myself to go out and have a positive year.”

If he does, Hughes will be in high demand as a 27-year-old on the open market.

But there are red flags, including the dead arm he had in 2011. Hughes pitched just 74 2/3 innings and had a 5.79 ERA while dealing with an alarming dip in velocity. And as well as Hughes pitched at times last year, he still gave up 35 home runs.

This season, he likely will be the Yankees’ No. 4 starter behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte and ahead of Ivan Nova.

His future in pinstripes is very much uncertain. He avoided arbitration this year by settling for $7.15 million and, with the cost-conscious Yankees looking for inexpensive arms, Hughes may not fit into their plans if he reaches his potential.

“I’m not really thinking about that,” Hughes said. “I’m just trying to fix a few things that hurt me last year and stay healthy.”

He worked out this offseason in Los Angeles with Kuroda and believes that will help him going forward.

“He’s an animal,” Hughes said of Kuroda, who turned 38 yesterday. “Watching him work, you know why he’s been able to do this for so long. It was a positive experience and I think it’s going to pay off.”