Looking back at May’s Almost Mock Draft, most of the projected top-10 picks went close to where they were projected. Not Dakota Hudson.
Hudson, who has been on a roller coaster the past few months, seeing his stock rise from mid-second rounder to top-ten, wound up being selected at the back end of the first round. His roller coaster continues as he already finds himself in High-A ball.
Almost Mock Draft: No. 10 — Chicago White Sox | Actual MLB Draft: No. 34 — St Louis Cardinals
Hudson is a big righty from Mississippi State. Standing at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, he has the projectable frame in the mold in which pitching studs are made. He was a big name right out of high school, when he struck out 124 and walked 14 over 64 innings his senior season, getting him drafted in the 36th round by the Texas Rangers.
It wasn’t enough to keep Hudson from heading to Mississippi State. He had two modest campaigns to start his career, but really came alive his final season. A large part was the hiring of new pitching coach Wes Johnson, who remodeled Hudson’s delivery to allow him maximum velocity and command on his four-pitch arsenal.
Hudson had a terrific collegiate finale, finishing 9-5 with a 2.55 ERA and a team-best three complete games in his 17 starts. He struck out 115 and walked 35 over his 113 innings, showing a walk rate that was so improved he nearly cut it in half from his 2015 campaign. He did prove to be the most hittable of the Bulldogs staff with a .248 batting average against, but his size, velocity and improved command boosted Hudson from a mid-second rounder all the way to top-ten consideration.
A bad run in the SEC Championship to close out his NCAA career caused Hudson’s stock to take a dip, with many considering him to still be a top-15 talent. He was more about potential and how his size projected at the next level than his numbers ever dictated. His fastball is as good as they come, sitting in the mid-90s and touching 97 with ease. While it used to be difficult to know exactly where his fastball would land, working with Johnson has made it more accurate and allowed him to improve the sinking action of the pitch. His slider was widely considered the best breaking ball in the draft, hitting in the upper-80s. He adds in a changeup and curveball that are both iffy in command, but were much-improved strike pitches in 2016.
Still, many saw issues with Hudson’s past, mainly revolving around an inconsistent delivery. Some felt that Hudson would be nothing more than a reliever, able to rely on the strength of his two top pitches. Whatever the case was, Hudson slipped and the Cardinals snagged him 34th overall. They signed him for a $2 million bonus, $122,000 over pick value.
He has been one of the fastest risers in the 2016 draft class ever since.
For more on Hudson’s new role, click on the link below to for my full feature at Today’s Knuckleball: