On a perfect evening at the best Class-A ballpark in the nation, Bryan Hudson was unmistakable as he walked to the mound. Standing 6-foot-8 and weighing 220 pounds, the southpaw cuts an intimidating figure for batters as soon as they step into the box.
Drafted in the third round of the 2015 draft out of Alton HS (IL), Hudson — who comes in at No. 28 on the updated list of the Cubs’ top 30 prospects — just turned 20 in May and is nearly two years younger than the average Midwest League player. He has advanced a level in each year as a pro, and has seen a corresponding uptick in his stuff as well.
Coming out of high school, Hudson was known for his curveball and the plane he generated on his fastball. But while his height and handedness conjures images of Randy Johnson and a blazing heater, the velocity reports last year had him sitting in the mid-80’s with some movement. Contrary to those reports, Hudson came out of the gate firing when I watched him the other night.
It wasn’t quite Big Unit, but Hudson was sitting 90-92 and touching 93, holding that velocity all the way through the 5th inning. Although the pitch had limited arm-side movement, hitters were befuddled by it, which resulted in 10 of the 15 outs he recorded coming via the ground ball. Due to his height, delivery, and lower three-quarters arm angle, hitters can’t pick the ball up right away. Improved velocity helps out a lot, too.
Hudson’s secondaries were also of use to him in this start, as he could locate his curve for strikes and was getting whiffs on the change. The curve sat 78-80, but the pitch lacked the depth and tightness it needs to project as a major-league out pitch. The development of his curveball is definitely something to pay attention to as he makes his way up the ladder.
I found his changeup to be the best of his secondaries on this particular night. It was in the 82-84 range and had fade to it when located properly. Although it occasionally came out of his arm late, he got many swinging strikes with it, and it looks like it could be a weapon against right-handers.
Hudson finished the game with four strikeouts and only allowed one ball to leave the infield, which resulted in an error in right field. He fielded his position well and the infielders got a good workout behind him. Overall, I was impressed with Hudson in that he became more confident in his curve and change later on in the game. If he’s able to hone in on his delivery (not fluid through the motions, but it’s also tough for a 6-foot-8 20-year-old to control his limbs) and develop his curveball, a big league future is possible.
It will be fun following Hudson the rest of this year and into next. With a depleted farm system, he is definitely a name I see rising on prospect lists if he’s able to maintain these newfound velocity gains.
Ed. note: Hudson allowed just a single run in his most recent start, scattering 8 hits over 5 innings and lowering his season ERA to 3.82.