Name: Dakota Hudson
Born: Dunlap, Tennessee
Age: 21 (9/15/94)
Height/Weight: 6'4"/185 lbs
School: Mississippi State University
Born in Dunlap, Tennessee, Dakota Hudson has an extensive history playing with some of the top players in the 2016 draft. Hudson is one of many top prospects, along with Nick Senzel, Will Craig, Jordan Sheffield, and Bryan Reynolds, to have grown up in Tennessee. "It's been a great class for Tennessee, the graduating class of 2013," Craig said. "Our class was probably one of the strongest classes in Tennessee history."
Hudson graduated from Sequatchie County High School in 2013 as one of the best high school pitchers not only at his school, but in his state. Initially a catcher, Hudson did not begin pitching until his sophomore year. When he did get on the mound, it became clear that he was head-and-shoulders above his competition, both literally and figuratively. Having added several inches of height and pounds of muscle since first trying out for the baseball team, the right-hander posted a 1.09 ERA with 124 strikeouts and 16 walks in 64 innings as a senior. His fastball consistently sat in the low-90s, and his curveball and changeup were in development. Hudson was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 36th round of the 2013 draft, but declined to sign with them for slot money, attending Mississippi State University instead.
In his first two seasons with MSU, the right-hander was relatively unknown to scouts and did not stand out from the crowd at all. As a freshman in 2014, he started five games and made one relief appearance, posting a 1-2 record with a 4.67 ERA and 10 strikeouts. As a sophomore in 2015, he made 17 appearances in relief, posting a 1-1 record with a 4.32 ERA and 26 strikeouts. However, that summer, two developments occurred that would shape Hudson into the pitcher he is now—the pitcher that is widely thought to be a first-round draft pick.
First, Hudson left for New England to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League for the summer. "Them giving me the time to go out there and perform really opened everything up for me," Hudson said of his experience playing in the league. "Honestly, I don't know where I'd be if I couldn't have participated in that league." The righty began throwing his cutter more frequently and with more confidence, among other things, and the results immediately showed. In five starts and six relief appearances, Hudson went 4-3 with a 1.69 ERA, striking out 41 batters and walking seven in 42.2 innings.
When he returned to Mississippi State, Hudson learned that he had a new pitching coach. Butch Thompson, his former coach, left to become the head coach at Auburn and was replaced by current Bulldogs pitching coach Wes Johnson. Though Hudson had a good relationship with his old coach, the new perspective of his new coach was a major boon. "One of the first things I noticed when I got here with Dakota looking as much film as I have, that [sic] he was throwing those pitches out of different (arm slots)," Johnson said. "We immediately went to work on those. He's responded."
Hudson responded by emerging as the ace of the Bulldogs' staff. Pitching exclusively as a starter, he blew past prior career highs in innings, throwing 103.1 innings over 15 starts. Hudson was highly effective for most of the season, posting a 2.35 ERA with 107 strikeouts and 30 walks. The right-hander came out of the box strong, getting into a groove in mid-to-late March and accruing a 25-inning scoreless streak with 24 strikeouts, although he did hit a rough patch in mid-to-late April, allowing 19 earned runs in 23.1 innings.
|2014||NCAA Div I (SEC)||19||6 (5 GS)||17.1||4.67||10||8|
|2014||CCL||19||6 (0 GS)||21.1||4.64||27||14|
|2015||NCAA Div I (SEC)||20||17 (0 GS)||16.2||4.32||26||11|
|2015||CCBL||20||11 (5 GS)||42.2||1.69||41||7|
|2016||NCAA Div I (SEC)||21||15 (15 GS)||103.1||2.35||107||30|
What The Scouts Think
Hudson has exciting stuff, and thanks to that stuff, many saw the right-hander as the second-best collegiate pitcher in this year's draft class. He throws a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid-90s, and that has touched as high as 97 mph. A note of concern is that, as Hudson blew past previous career highs in pitches and innings pitched this season, the velocity and command of his fastball wavered at points.
Hudson rounds out his arsenal with a slider, a cutter, and a changeup. His slider is considered by at least one scout to be one of the best in the current draft class. His cutter, meanwhile, is widely considered to be the pitch allowed him to take the jump from relative nobody to top prospect. His changeup, modeled after teammate Austin Sexton's, is still in development, but flashes average when he is able to maintain about a 10 mph velocity differential between it and his fastball.
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. Midway through the 2015 season, Hudson added a Craig Kimbrel-like pose to his pre-delivery, which he adopted after teammate Gavin Collins suggested it as a technique to help boost his confidence.