Dakota Hudson / Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos

From his first very controlled and limited professional action, how much can we tell about Dakota Hudson?

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #6 with St. Louis’ top-drafted pitcher in 2016, who finished his first partial professional season at Double-A. Details for TCN members.


2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
NA RHS 09 15 94 2016 1st

Selected 2016 stats

PB 1 1 0.96 3.36 8 0 3 9.1 6 3 0 7 10 0.188 16.00 0.261
GCL 1 0 0.00 -0.42 4 1 0 4 4 1 0 0 9 0.235 3.00 0.500
Tot 2 1 0.68   12 1 3 13.1 10 4 0 7 19 0.204 9.50  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (6): 2016 first-rounder Dakota Hudson was picked as the sixth best prospect during the community vote, receiving support as early as #3 from SoonerinNC, before nearly splitting the vote at #5 with fellow prospect Jack Flaherty.

SoonerinNC said that Hudson is a lot like Michael Wacha with a better curveball and even more on his fastball. Bccran said that Hudson is on the Wacha-track and could make the majors as soon as late 2018. Bccran also commented that Hudson was rated #14 in the draft by Baseball America and it is very rare for the Cardinals to get a pitcher rated that high. Scadder21 compared Hudson to major leaguer Lance Lynn after 14NyquisT said that Hudson has a 6’5 frame and pitched some in class-AA Springfield in 2016. – Jeremy Byrd


Derek Shore (6): With their third first-round pick at 34th overall in the 2016 draft, the Cardinals selected a collegiate pitcher who had slipped due to questionable mechanics and command issues in Hudson. They could not pass up a potential major league starter with some of the biggest raw stuff in the draft.

"Dakota is a strong collegiate right-handed starting pitcher. (As a starter), his fastball is 90-95 mph with good life, and we really like his cutter," Cardinals Scouting Director Randy Flores said after the draft. "We love his potential to contribute to our Major League rotation in the future."

Hudson, now 22 years of age, signed for a reported $2 million signing bonus, which was more than $123,000 over slot value for his assigned pick. The college junior was 9-5 with a 2.55 ERA in 17 starts for Mississippi State University in 2016. The Friday night starter for the No. 6 national-seeded Bulldogs struck out 109 batters in 106 2/3 innings and was one of 25 semi-finalists named to the Golden Spikes Award watch list.

“Along with aptitude for pitching, Dakota has all the ingredients to project on,” said Hudson’s signing scout Clint Brown, who covers the state of Mississippi for the Cardinals. “Excited to see where his development takes him.”

On a workload program designed to ease high-profile college starting pitchers into the pro ranks known informally as the "Wacha Plan," Hudson began his career taunting prep hitters making the transition to the Gulf Coast League, posting four scoreless innings of relief with nine strikeouts.

GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco, a former Cardinals scout, spoke about Hudson.

"This kid is a consummate professional," Turco said. "Great competitor. Good size and great stuff. You just knew he was going to have high success in his first pro season. I would venture to say this young man is going to be a big-league pitcher, not next year, but as early as the following year you'll see him in the big leagues."

The blistering-armed righty "jumped the fence" to High-A Palm Beach on August 7th and compiled a 0.96 ERA over eight games, recording three saves in six chances. He struck out ten batters but issued seven walks against the more advanced competition in the Florida State League.

The 21-year old concluded his draft year on the same path as Wacha, who received an August 2012, promotion to help Springfield to its first Texas League championship. Instead, Hudson was moved up to the S-Cards on the opening day of the playoffs on September 7.

As an amateur, the 6-foot-5, 215 pounder added 25 pounds through college to fill out his tall and skinny frame from high school before emerging as a four-pitch powerful collegian for Mississippi State. Hudson will range from 92-96 mph on his fastball at his peak, sitting 92-94 more regularly. The heater features both run and sink yet the command of the premium velocity needs to be improved.

He offsets the fastball with a filthy slider/cutter hybrid. He combines both with high-80s velocity and a hard darting type break which has been proclaimed as not only one of the best in the draft but already the best in the Cardinals organization. Hudson also possesses 78-82 mph hard curveball that is a plus pitch on its best days with a changeup to combat left-handed hitters which needs more work.

Several amateur scouts have labeled Hudson as having the most advanced assortment of pitches in college this past spring and that combined with a simplified delivery will allow him to become more repeatable. While his delivery and arm action are not the smoothest, they are relatively sound and clean.

"We'll see if he's leaning too far toward self-aware and just need to see his athleticism come out, or if it's the great blend we think it is," Flores told MLB.com. "When he's timed up and going good, he gets all that length and leverage. He's really able to sink and cut the ball."

With 65/70 fastball, 65/70 slider/cutter, 40/50 curveball, 35-45 changeup, 50-60 control, and 55-60 overall grade, the Chattanooga, TN native has the materials to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Less optimistic scouts consider him to be a back-end guy with the most realistic role of a middle rotation starter. His fallback could be a fireman type reliever.

After a promotion to Springfield for the playoff experience, Hudson should return to the Texas League to gain innings under his belt as a starter following the path of Wacha, Marco Gonzales, and Luke Weaver.

Hudson has a plan for his first offseason as a professional.

"I have it all written down from what I did this last spring to get ready for the season," Hudson said. "I'm going to try to get a bit stronger, increase mobility here and there, and come (to spring training) ready to go."


Brian Walton (7): As I wrote about in the Jack Flaherty article yesterday, Hudson remains highly projectable, but his very highly-controlled and low-inning professional debut told us precious little about what we can expect later on from him as a starter at the Double-A level and above.

Hudson dominated in short stretches against outmanned and much younger hitters in the Gulf Coast League, which a polished college pitcher should do. That includes a first in my recollection, a negative FIP. Less impressively, he walked seven against 10 strikeouts and yielded three runs (but just one earned) in 9 1/3 innings of relief in the Florida State League.

Hudson’s whirlwind first professional year ended with a spot in the Springfield bullpen in the Texas League playoffs. Though post-season stats are not officially included in any player’s record, these are worth noting. Springfield lasted just four games before being eliminated, but Hudson was called upon right out of the gate - in each of the first two contests – and he delivered. Hitting 98 mph according to a notoriously hot stadium gun, he tossed 1 1/3 hitless, scoreless innings, including earning one save.

Though Michael Wacha opened his first full-season at Memphis, that seems too aggressive an outlook for Hudson in April 2017, based on his limited 2016 debut. Still, a spot in the Springfield rotation is very close and can prove to be a springboard into St. Louis. After all, just this past summer, Luke Weaver made just one Triple-A start before receiving his initial call to the majors. Unlike Wacha (and Alex Reyes), however, Weaver did not stay up. Hudson’s eventual debut could be similar, especially if it occurs late in the 2017 season.

First things first, however. Hudson needs innings. At this early stage, we have not seen him pitch the second time through any professional lineup during a game, let alone a third. Hence, my "medium" risk assessment below. Even so, he certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt. It is also far too early to question his ability to remain in a starting role down the road. Leaning into it a bit, Hudson carries a potential All-Star ceiling here.

I am really looking forward to 2017 to get a much more firm reading on the extent of his upside in an increasingly-challenging derby to try to one day earn a spot among St. Louis’ starting five. Hudson seems to possess all the necessary ingredients for success.

TCN Scouting Grade: 7, Risk: Medium (click here to review scales)

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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