Scouting Padres Prospect John Hudgins

One step forward and two steps back. John Hudgins was on the road to recovery for the second time – only to see yet another setback. The third time is the charm, supposedly.

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

Finding himself on the rehab trail again, Hudgins is in Arizona after a relapse of the arm ailment that plagued him a season ago. While he came back to see time at instructs and the Arizona Fall League and was ready to go this spring, Hudgins future timetable is unclear.

Acquired along with Vince Sinisi in a trade with the Texas Rangers on May 11, 2006, Hudgins was an immediate hit. He debuted in Double-A, refining his delivery to get more consistent movement rather than the power pitcher Texas wanted him to be. As a result, he thrived, going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA and holding the opposition to a .217 average.

In his second Portland start, Hudgins went down and has not seen extended action since. He missed all of the 2007 regular season and was supposed to be rested in time for Spring Training '08 after limited action against live hitters.

Unfortunately, Hudgins battled through recurring arm pain and finally was on the road back in late July, appearing in two games for the AZL Padres. The pain returned, and he did not pitch again.

Hudgins underwent surgery in early September to repair scar tissue and remove bone chips from his throwing elbow. The surgery was minor compared to the season before but the reality is the Oklahoma native has not pitched in two years.

His stuff, at this point, is a bit of a mystery. The following is a look at a healthy Hudgins.

When Hudgins was reunited with Fuson in the Padres system, the first thing he was told was to go back to the form that made him so successful in college – working with a fastball that sits in the high-80s and will touch 90-92 mph, tossing his changeup in and out while working in his curveball.

His changeup is his out-pitch – a plus offering that the right-hander will feature throughout an at-bat. It is a pitch he will throw more than the prescribed 20-percent – reaching as high as 30-percent in some games and using it effectively to keep left-handed hitters at bay.

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.

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

Hudgins is a max-effort pitcher that does not use his lower body very well. His arm is, therefore, forced to do a lot of the work – scouts have been wary of potential injury with him since he entered the system.

While he has a high leg kick that he tucks under his chin, Hudgins doesn't use his legs to drive towards the plate. It puts him in good fielding position and keeps his body aligned towards the plate, resulting in better control, but his arm is taxed and comes out like a whip. He is not a straight over the top pitcher and hovers between three-quarters and overhand.

His head has a tendency to stray off-center as his arm comes more three-quarters, resulting in dipping movement in towards a left-hander.

Conclusion: Is a healthy Hudgins the same guy from 2006 or the one seen briefly during Instructs in 2007 – without a feel for his pitches and not nearly as crisp all around?

Hudgins learned to appreciate the game more after his first surgery. At some point, however, it has to wear on his mental aptitude. It gets tiring. As noted previously, there are too many questions to answer and only time on the mound can heal it.

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