Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE
#8: Dakota Hudson, RHP
6’5”, 215 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right
DOB: 15 September 1994; Drafted Rd 1 2016
Level(s) in 2017: Springfield (Double A), Memphis (Triple A)
Notable Numbers: 2.53 ERA/3.64 FIP (Spr), 4.42 ERA/4.57 FIP (Mem), 57.6% GB (All)
So, what’s so great about this guy?
If you’re really into strikeouts, and especially high strikeout to walk ratios, then Dakota Hudson of 2017 was very much not your cup of tea. He began the season in Springfield and stayed there most of the year, only striking out 16% of the hitters he faced. For a top prospect, that’s not exactly what you’re looking for. He paired that number with a solid-but-not-exceptional 7.1% walk rate. When he moved up to Memphis late in the season, those numbers both went in the wrong direction in a small sample, though it’s probably fair to to note he was pushing past 120 innings and on toward 150, establishing a new high workload, and so there may have been some weardown factor kicking in. Still, when it comes to peripherals, Hudson’s season was...not great.
On the other hand, if you’re really into pitchers who have tremendous movement, generate a huge number of groundballs, and just generally are nightmares to actually try and hit the ball off of, then maybe Dakota Hudson is more your speed.
Hudson still boasts one of the best 1-2 punches of any pitching prospect in the system, in the form of a wicked 93-96 mph sinker and a cutter that’s every bit as nasty going the other direction. When Hudson is going good and throwing strikes, he can work off just those two pitches and force some of the ugliest contact you’re ever going to see. Both are better at getting weak contact than swings and misses so far, largely because the command for Hudson still comes and goes pretty regularly.
Beyond the sinker/cutter combination, the tall righty throws a curveball with promising depth to it and a changeup that, well, kind of sucks. He did improve the change somewhat, to his credit, but it still needs work.
Really, ‘still needs work’ is basically the mantra when looking at Dakota Hudson. His command still needs work. His curve and change both still need work. His arm action still worries me, and I wish the organisation would try to get him to shorten it up in the back some so his arm isn’t so late. His ability to mix pitches to keep hitters off-balance and get empty swing still needs work. Hudson closed his first couple seasons at Mississippi State, and he’s not as far along the developmental curve as you might expect from a player of his experience level.
All that being said, the raw stuff Hudson can show at times is undeniable. He’s built like a workhorse, has premium velocity, premium movement, one of the sharpest offspeed pitches in the system, and has shown at least fair aptitude for throwing up to four pitches. He still needs work, but his ceiling is as high as any pitcher’s in the system if he gets there.
If he’s good, it will look like: Last year I compared Hudson to the late, great Roy Halladay, and while that seems hyperbolic, I’m going to stick with it. Obviously, what made Doc so special was his pinpoint command of an above-average repertoire, and Hudson definitely doesn’t have that yet. But stylistically, in terms of a big, physical sinkerballer who can attack hitters in the zone without fear they’re actually going to do much with the stuff being thrown, the best version of Dakota Hudson really does, I think, resemble no one else so much as the king of the sinker in the 2000s.