When it comes to MLB draft season, few combinations go together as well as the Detroit Tigers and hard-throwing pitchers from the Southeastern Conference (SEC). From Drew VerHagen to Jonathon Crawford to Spencer Turnbull -- not to mention a number of lower-round picks scattered throughout the years -- the Tigers love themselves a big, burly pitcher with a bigger fastball.
While none of those picks have come as high as ninth overall, their position in this year's MLB draft, the Tigers could still find themselves a pitcher of that ilk in Mississippi State righthander Dakota Hudson. ESPN's Keith Law even predicted the Tigers would end up with Hudson in his latest mock draft, though hinted that Hudson would be a consolation prize to their true desire: flamethrowing righthander Riley Pint.
With Pint likely slated for a higher pick, Hudson would be a solid fall-back option. He has been one of the most impressive pitchers in all of college baseball this season, amassing a 9-4 record and 2.62 ERA in his junior season in Starkville.
While his numbers have fallen off recently, Hudson still has top 10 potential. Minor League Ball's John Sickels helped illustrate why.
He throws hard, his fastball running at 93-95 MPH with peaks at 97. The pitch isn't straight; indeed, command issues with the heat held him back his first two seasons though that wasn't a problem last summer or through this March. He mixes the fastball with an unfair cutter/slider hybrid in the high-80s. The hard stuff is plus, while his softer curveball and change-up need more work. If he can develop the off-speed stuff in pro ball, he can be a dominant starter.
Sickels predicts that Hudson could go in the middle of the first round, but that opinion is far from unanimous. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo projected Hudson as the No. 4 overall pick in a mock draft last month, while his colleague, Jim Callis, put him outside the top 10.
There seems to be no variance on what Hudson's stuff looks like, though. Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues echoed the scouting reports of others, but is a bit more concerned about the secondary stuff.
At 6-foot-5 and 205 lbs., Hudson has the kind of big frame teams look for in a future workhorse starter. His best pitch is a darting cutter in the 88-91 mph range that he’s able to bust in on the hands of left-handed batters. Hudson sits around 92-95 mph with his straight four-seam fastball, and he also has a low-80s slider he’ll back foot to lefties. Neither his curveball nor his changeup are anything to write home about. The cutter is his go-to weapon against lefties.
Amazin' Avenue's Steve Sypa looked at Hudson's delivery, which may need some refining once he gets into pro ball.
Hudson throws from a high three-quarters arm slot, and has an easy motion that has no major red flags for injuries. His follow through leaves him in good fielding position, although he often lands on his lead leg with his toe pointing towards first base, which hurts his control.
MLB Pipeline ranks Hudson as their No. 15 overall draft prospect, citing a breakout summer in the Cape Cod League as a reason why he has shot up draft boards so quickly.
Hudson can pitch at 93-95 mph and hit 97 with his fastball, which also features run and sink. Yet his best pitch is a nasty slider/cutter that combines the best features of both, upper-80s velocity and true slider break. Hudson's curveball and changeup give him two more effective offerings.
Though he had problems throwing strikes in his first two seasons with the Bulldogs, Hudson filled the zone with ease on the Cape and has continued to do so as a junior. His stuff, durable frame and performance give him the look of a frontline starter.
In all, there aren't many red flags to be found in Hudson's profile. He has a fairly clean delivery, maintains velocity, and has been mostly trending upward over the past calendar year. While his offspeed stuff may need refining, he has the look of an innings-eating starter with potential for more if everything clicks. Though he may not be everyone's first option -- he's not a sexy pick at No. 9, in my opinion -- grabbing Hudson may be a relatively safe move for an organization desperately in need of cost-controlled talent on both sides of the ball.