25 June 2008

Draft Recap: Kyle Hudson, CF, University of Illinois

Introducing Kyle Hudson

5’11” – 165 lbs. – Bats/Throws (L/L)

In Round 4, Baltimore went with their second two-way D-I player (granted, Avery had not yet started his career at Georgia). Hudson spent three seasons as a wide receiver for the University of Illinois, as well as center-fielder for the baseball team. He leaves Illinois second in career batting (.376) and tied for first in stolen bases in a single-season (40). With this pick, Baltimore hopes to shape this elite athlete into a future lead-off hitter and plus-defender. Let's see what they have to work with...

The Statistics
AVG – .398
SLG – .482
AB – 191
H – 76
2B – 11
3B – 1
HR – 1
RBI – 26
R – 61
SB – 40

Two numbers jump out. First, the 40 stolen bases. As mentioned above, this ties the Illinois single-season record (he broke the conference record for stolen bases in conference play -- 25 SB -- as well). Hudson is a true burner with game-changing speed on Avery's level (I believe he's actually a slight step above). Second, the slugging percentage is a mere 84-points higher than his average. While the .398 AVG looks impressive, one has to take into account the fact that he was facing uninspired Big 10 pitching. To that point, the SLG is a bit troubling, as you'd expect the doubles and triples to pile up given his speed and the competition of a weaker conference. I think you'll see some power develop as he cleans-up his swing mechanics (see below), but it will likely be in the form of gap-to-gap rather than home run. He also lead the Big Ten in walks, with 39 -- another "plus" for an Orioles organization looking for its future lead-off hitter.

Grading Out
Hitting - 35
Power - 30
Fielding - 50
Arm - 30
Speed - 80

If Jordan and the Orioles were looking to get athletic this year, picks 2:5 through 4:5 is an incredible start. While Hudson is still a ways away from being a good hitter from the standpoint of mechanics and approach, keep in mind he has never devoted all of his attention to baseball. He posted a solid AVG and OBP in spite of his mechanics, and could be an exponential improver once he submerses himself in the baseball world. The development of his offensive game should dictate his ultimate ceiling -- either slap-hitting speedster with moderate success or solid candidate for a lead-off hitter. His speed easily plays in CF, though his arm strength summons visions of Juan Pierre.

Swing Mechanics
Scouting video available on the Orioles's Draft Tracker page at MLB.com

Load - Hudson begins with an open stance and closes with a leg raise (similar to Hoes's) as he loads. His hands start off in fine position, but he adds some extra movement and pulls them back towards the catcher as he lifts his leg, adding some length to his swing. As noted in our Hoes breakdown, the leg lift can be a good timing mechanism, but it requires attention to be paid to weight transfer.

Stride - His stride comes right from the leg lift, which is cleaner than Hoes's approach of tap and step/pivot. His timing is adequate and his hips do a decent job of staying closed (though he'll occasionally get a little lazy, especially on pitches he has given up on). His hands are too far back due to the extra motion at the end of his load, which greatly extends the length of the path from bat head to ball.

Swing - Hudson profiles as a bit of a slap hitter. He tends to come in too strongly with his top hand, which elevates his front shoulder and dirties his swing plane (at minimum flattening it), along with sapping some power. When he leads with his bottom hand, his swing is much more fluid and he is better positioned to make more consistent hard contact. There should be more emphasis on torque in his lower half, as his upper body has a tendency to throw him off balance. This results in less bat control and will affect his ability to stay on advanced pitching in the future.

Contact - He is inconsistent in his contact, sometimes coming in with too much weight up front and hitting off his lead foot. Other times, his upper body comes through too quickly (maybe over-swinging?) and his weight gets way back in his body. Rather than a perpendicular line from helmet to knee, Hudson is closer to 60-degrees. When coupled with a leading top hand, this could again be an obstacle to consistent hard contact against advanced pitching. Still other times, Hudson reverts more of a "slap" approach, throwing the bat head at the ball rather than attacking with a forceful plane. The Orioles will work to normalize his approach and get him into a more consistent routine from load to contact. This may be as simple as getting Hudson to do the reps in BP -- something that was likely cut into by the demands of his football commitment. Though he's a bit all over the place right now, there are enough "adequate" swings to give hope that a consistent professional hitter is buried in there.

Follow-Through - Again, Hudson is inconsistent. He finishes way up when he leads with his top hand. His flat swing lifts almost right at contact, taking force off of the swing and preventing him from maximizing his potential to drive the ball. The follow-through on his "slap" swings is short and tight in the upper body. Occasionally, he finishes with a nice clean stroke -- both one-handed and two-handed. As the rest of his mechanics are ironed out, his follow-through should fall into place.

Swing Grade - C-

As you might expect from a wide receiver, Hudson tracks the ball very well. He takes solid routes and his plus-plus speed is an incredible asset in the field. He is capable of covering ground from gap-to-gap, and his ability to close quickly on base hits helps to prevent base runners from taking advantage of his below-average arm strength. Though his arm leaves something to be desired, his speed and reads would likely be wasted in LF. He should be a solid option in CF with the potential to save a fair number of extra-base hits in the gap.

Fielding Grade - B

Stotle's Notes
Hudson does not have the raw talent of Xavier Avery, and he is closer to fully-baked, limiting his ceiling a bit. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens now that he is devoting himself exclusively to baseball. His first 18 months in the organization will be telling. If everything starts to fall into place, Baltimore could have the makings of a future lead-off hitter with solid defense in the 8-spot. Even if his batting does not fully develop, he has the potential to carve out a 4th or 5th outfield spot on the merits of his defense and base running, alone. This is a decent high-upside pick, again heavily dependant on the ability of the Orioles low-minors system to lay the groundwork and begin the development of a player currently more athlete than baseball player.

Prospect Grade - C+
ETA - 2012

Next Up:
FRI 6/27 - Rick Zagone

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