Scouting Padres Prospect John Hudgins

It was a year of learning for right-hander John Hudgins – learning to be the pitcher he once was upon being traded to the San Diego Padres from the Texas Rangers and how to deal with disappointment from injury.

Vital Statistics;
Name: John Hudgins
Position: RHP
DOB: August 31, 1981
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Oklahoma City native was having troubles in his home state playing for the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks. A bloated ERA made his trade, along with Vince Sinisi for Freddy Guzman, a possibility.

He had to overcome the philosophies in the Rangers' system that asked him to dial it up an extra notch or two and strike people out with the hard stuff.

That was never his game. Hudgins, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2003 College World Series for Stanford, became a third round pick by relying on changing speeds and locating his fastball. The Rangers philosophy dictated that he abandon some of the location for an extra tick or two on his fastball. Hudgins never became comfortable in the role and it led to an increased number of walks and, as a fly ball pitcher, even more home runs.

"He is a truly exceptional mental pitcher," said one Texas scout who watched him at Stanford. "Huge baseball and pitching IQ and understood how to keep himself in games when he didn't have his best stuff. Decent size and fastball, but not a plus fastball. Great changeup and pretty good breaking ball. He was good deep into games and maintained an outstanding K-to-BB ratio.

"The Rangers tried to make him into a power pitcher, and that never sound like a wise strategy to me."

Known for his intelligence on the mound and ability to outsmart the hitters he faces, Grady Fuson believed he could bring him back to what he does best, pitching to contact and missing bats by keeping hitters off-balance.

"When I was there Hudgins was dealing," Fuson explained. "This guy needs to be like Stauffer, pitch to location and hitting his spots.

In nine starts for Double-A Mobile, Hudgins reverted back to his Stanford form, allowing two runs or less in seven starts and one run or less in five. Troubles did flare up in several starts but he rebounded well and minimized damage. He contended with a six-walk game, a two homer outing, and another three walk affair – the homer game the only effort he made that produced more than three runs against.

Hudgins throws a fastball that sits 87-to-90 MPH, topping out at 93, and uses a plus changeup to put hitters away. He is at his best when his curveball is working.

The right-hander never seemed to throw the same pitch twice, using a combination of pitches and putting hitters away with two strikes.

"A plus, plus changeup and good curveball," Fuson said. "Eight-seven to 92 (MPH) is where he pitches the best. A very smart kid and very heady; he knows how to set up hitters."

The 25-year-old was summoned to Triple-A. Unfortunately, Hudgins' year would end prematurely for the second year in a row after just 6.2 innings with the Beavers.

There was also some concern regarding his mechanics, pushing the ball instead of letting his body do the work.

"I know he did not use his lower body very well; he was pretty much a total upper body pitcher, all arm, all grunt, with very little rhythm to his delivery," said Portland pitching coach Gary Lance.

In 2005, Hudgins was apparently pitching in pain much of the year and he underwent surgery in August to remove a calcium deposit in his elbow that was causing pain and inflammation.

This time around a strained right elbow would end his year in the middle of July. The Padres had hoped to see him return in time for the Arizona Fall League but it was not to be, resulting in Tommy John surgery to fix what they had hoped rest would cure.

Hudgins may miss all of 2007, although he will likely see some time pitching towards the end of the year.

ETA: The whispers will certainly center around Hudgins being a 4-A pitcher, someone who can get minor league hitters out with his brain and command but will get pummeled by major league hitters. Losing a year when he was just beginning to find his rhythm. His delivery may also have to be revamped, and given his age he will have to quickly turn in quality outings to be major league ready in 2008.

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