Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Prospect #1: RHP, Dakota Hudson
Previously Ranked 8th
St. Louis Cardinals
Drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 draft
THE QUICK WRITE UP
The fevered clamouring for Hudson to join the major league staff has been the most vocal that the fan base has been about a prospect joining the major league club since last season when the "Whitey-Ball" era fans yelled and yelled for Magneuris Sierra to start everyday because of his speed.
The good news is, Hudson is a real prospect with a real chance to be a real major league contributor as opposed to Sierra who is more a spectacle. Hudson has really worked on cutting down his walk rate, which was problematic at times last year. He does a great job of keeping the ball on the ground, too. Maybe more importantly than anything else, he's increased his strike out rate to a respectable 7+ per nine innings. He appears to be at the same point in his development as Jack Flaherty was in 2017 and Luke Weaver was in 2016, statistically. That's to say, he seems ready for the next step: The Major Leagues.
Hudson throws a cutter (once labeled a slider) that he grips with different finger pressures to throw it different ways. He now throws an official slider to go along with the cutter and that's been a big reason why his K rate has gone up. His curve ball can be big and over-powering at times, but it's often not the pitch it's capable of being. The same thing can be said about his change up.
My concern with Hudson is that he works behind in counts too often to maximize his repertoire. The fact that he's been as good as he has been while working from behind so frequently is a testament to how good he can be. Often, what you see from Hudson is a pitch-to-contact approach because he's pitching from behind. For a lesser pitcher, this would be dangerous. Hudson, however, gets away with it because of the heavy sink on his fastball and the good downward action on his breaking pitches. That Hudson gets so many ground balls saves his bacon.
Dakota Hudson is yet another outstanding Cardinals' pitching prospect on the cusp of a major league debut. I'm anxious to see what a fully developed and aggressive Hudson looks like.
*UPDATED ON 8/23/2018*
Well, here he is. Dakota Hudson has pitched great out of the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen and he's quickly becoming a go-to arm for Manager Mike Shildt. There is still a lot of time between now and the start of the 2019 season, but one of the story lines entering the season will surely be what role Hudson will play with the big club next season. Only time will tell, but as of right now he's a lot of fun to watch out of the bullpen!
WHY TO GET EXCITED
Hudson has a professional repertoire. Along with a heavy sinker that he throws in the mid to low 90's, Hudson also throws both a cutter and a slider that are above average with flashes of "plus" and curve and change that are average but lack consistency. With a little more consistency they could be above average pitches.
The slider, his newest offering, works extremely well against lefties and has helped to round out his arsenal.
His K rate has increased as the season has aged.
When he gets into count-trouble, Hudson's ability to induce ground balls saves him. He'll take a little off of whichever pitch he's throwing when working behind in counts in an effort to mitigate walks which had plagued him in the past. So far, this strategy has worked wonders for him.
Hudson could very well be a future rotation arm, but there are some that believe that his ultimate value and role is in the bullpen. In his major league debut we saw why, as he struck out the first two batters he faced as a middle reliever.
He's a big bodied and powerful righty. There were some that were concerned about his throwing mechanics during his draft year, but those throwing mechanics are now smooth and wonderful and really aid his repertoire.
Hudson is solid and predictable but in all of the right ways.
Hudson was a member of the MLB Futures Stars roster and that's pretty cool
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
My main issue with Hudson is that he has a tendency to get behind hitters. This causes him to change his approach. If he'd be better about getting ahead of hitters then his strike out totals would really be worth talking about and not just mentioning.
Speaking of which, his seven strikeouts per nine innings aren't going to excite anyone. As I mentioned, that number has grown since the beginning of the season, but it's not enough to make him a difference making pitcher, even out of the bullpen. That number will go up, of course, if he's in the bullpen, but how much it will go up will be the question worth following.
One thing that I'd like to commend Hudson in is how he's lowered his walk rate. Sure, he's had to alter how he pitches to do it, but the fact that his K and BB rates have gone in the right direction is a positive. What isn't a positive, however, is that his walk rate is still above three per nine. I'm always worried when that number is above three when the pitcher isn't striking out a lot of hitters. That has the recipe for disaster. In Hudson's case it's a small disaster, but caution nonetheless.
With every pitching prospect, most of their value hinges on their ability to pitch out of a rotation. With Hudson moving into the Cardinals bullpen, I can't help but think that this is where he ultimately lands. I hope that isn't the case because I think he could be a very good starter, but a pitchers value always takes a hit when he's moved to the pen.
Dakota Hudson reminds me of one of the stable of arms that have come out of the Oakland A's system over the last five or so years. He's cut out of the Jesse Hahn, Jesse Chavez, Daniel Gossett, Andrew Triggs, and Kendall Graveman mold. Graveman and Hahn, in particular. I'm going to go ahead and put his ultimate ceiling, the 5% chance of hitting it variety, on another former Oakland A's pitcher, Trevor Cahill. Sure, he's back to pitching in Oakland now, but I'm talking about the stud Cahill that pitched as a youngster in Oakland before becoming a journeyman.
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Thanks For Reading!!