This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.
In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #8, Dakota Hudson.
8. Dakota Hudson – RHP
1st Round – 2016 Draft
Entering age-23 season
AA FIP: 3.64, AAA FIP: 4.57
|2017||22||-2.7||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-AAA||STL||10||5||.667||3.01||3.42||25||25||0||1||0||0||152.2||147||58||51||7||49||1||96||8||0||14||643||1.284||8.7||0.4||2.9||5.7||1.96|
What I Like
The first thing anybody brings up when they talk about Dakota Hudson is his slider. Going into last season, it was one of the best pitches in the organization, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case in 2018. Hudson’s slider doesn’t have a big, sweeping break like Luke Gregerson‘s. It’s more like a cutter because it’s thrown hard and the break is sharp and late.
As you can see, it’d be easy to mistake Hudson’s slider/cutter for a fastball, especially the 2-1 pitch that generated a swing and miss. Fangraph’s even calls the pitch a curveball, but it’s definitely a slider and a nasty one at that.
Hudson’s fastball, which can reach the upper 90’s, complements his slider. He made a concerted effort to create more movement with his fastball last season, and it paid off to the tune of a 57% ground ball rate across Double-A and Triple-A.
Hudson made a concentrated effort to get ground balls and go deep into games last year because he wants to be a starter. Most of the time that would go without saying. In today’s game, where bullpens play a much larger role than in years past, and pitchers with high-velocity fastballs and wipeout sliders usually end up in the bullpen. I wrote specifically about Hudson in the bullpen last year, and I still think that’s where he’ll fit best. But I love that Hudson is fighting back against that perception.
What I Don’t Like
The fact that Hudson struck hitters out at such a low rate last year is both concerning and surprising. In Springfield, punched out 16% of hitters, definitely below average for a prospect of his caliber, and in Memphis, that number dropped to 11.8%. It’s perplexing, especially when you watch the video above and it’s obvious that his slider is a plus pitch with the potential to be a plus-plus pitch.
What separates Hudson from Flaherty is that Hudson’s repertoire isn’t as deep as Flaherty’s. Flaherty can throw everything including the kitchen sink at a hitter: fastball, slider, curve, and changeup. Besides his fastball and slider, none of the other pitches Hudson throws have shown the potential to be above average. It’s why the general consensus is that he’ll end up in the bullpen, no matter how frequently he induces ground balls.
Other than that, there’s way more to like about Hudson than not. He was healthy in his first full pro season and made every start asked of him. His ERA was superb in Springfield, and although he got hit around a little bit in Memphis, even making it to Triple-A the year after being drafted is quite an achievement. He’ll start 2018 in Triple-A, and he needs to show that he’s able to strike out hitters at the highest levels of the minors before I’m comfortable with him on the major league roster, whether that’s in the ‘pen or the rotation.
Thanks for reading!