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Thoughts on Cardinals prospect Dakota Hudson

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Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year has nothing left to prove in the minors

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday the Triple-A Pacific Coast League named St. Louis Cardinals right-handed pitching prospect Dakota Hudson as PCL Pitcher of the Year following his strong campaign for the Memphis Redbirds. Hudson made 19 starts for Memphis before his recent promotion to the major leagues, going 13-2 with a 2.50 ERA and an 87/38 K/BB in 111.2 innings, allowing 107 hits, leading the circuit in both victories and ERA.

The Cardinals promoted Hudson to the major league roster back on July 27th and he’s seen considerable bullpen action this month. In 15.2 innings over 15 games, Hudson has a 2.87 ERA, a 10/10 K/BB, and just 10 hits allowed. I guess he likes the number ten.

Before the season began, I had Hudson rated as the number nine (not ten!) prospect in the Cardinals farm system with this commentary:

9) Dakota Hudson, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 23, first round pick in 2016 from Mississippi State University; posted 3.01 ERA in 153 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 96/49 K/BB; I generally like more strikeouts but 2.01 GO/AO ratio confirms reports of wicked sinking action on fastball; secondaries inconsistent, slider/curve/slurve varies between meh and plus, change between poor and adequate, needs to tighten command; looks like a number two starter on the right day and a frustrating long reliever on the wrong one, wouldn’t take many adjustments to improve; ETA 2019.

The general outline here hasn’t changed much: Hudson has a lively arm, can get up to 96-97 MPH, and generates a large number of ground balls (1.88 GO/AO in the minors this year, 2.60 GO/AO so far in the majors). He gave up just one homer for Memphis, which is pretty incredible anywhere but especially in the PCL.

PCL observers noted progress with his secondary pitches. He now has a more distinct and less slurvy slider and cutter. Observers also noted a better change-up than in the past, although so far he hasn’t used it much out of the big league pen. His strikeout rate was up rather significantly in the minors this year, going from 5.66 K/9 in 2017 to 7.01 K/9 in ‘18. Rising whiffs fit well with the reports of improved secondaries.

Hudson isn’t quite a finished product yet. His command still needs some improvement and his 10/10 K/BB so far in the majors isn’t very good, though to this point it hasn’t hurt him.

For now the logical thing is to give him additional bullpen work in September as he adapts to major league conditions. Grade-wise he’s moved up into the B+ range and should be a rotation candidate in the next year or two.