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PostPosted: March 19 19, 9:27 am 
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Location: No. 16 on the Cards Top 15 Prospect List
With Martinez's non-injury injury, it looks like Dakota Hudson has secured a spot in the rotation, at least for now. He has an exciting arm and we'll look into what he offers below. First, I want to take a moment to recognize the Cardinals' amazing ability to not only develop SP prospects, but time their readiness and arrival with rotation openings. They have had an uncanny ability to not just have "an arm" ready in place of injury, but to have a legit prospect available and fully developed at the exact point they are needed. It's crazy, especially when you consider the length of time we are talking about. You can trace this back at least to 2011 (coincidentally, the beginning of the post-LaRussa era):

2019: Dakota Hudson
2018: Jack Flaherty
2017: Luke Weaver
2016: Alex Reyes
2015: Tyler Lyons
2014: Carlos Martinez
2013: Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller
2012: Joe Kelly
2011: Lance Lynn
2010: Jaime Garcia

We should just take a moment to fully appreciate that list. Sure, there have been other names that have worked their way into the rotation and gotten a hard look -- from John Gant to Tim Cooney. But, outside of Tyler Lyons -- who was a well-regarded prospect when he saw starts in 2015 -- that's an incredibly impressive list. In truth, Lyons only slides into the list because the much more highly regarded Marco Gonzales was injured and missed 2015, which was his scheduled season for breakout. A few names haven't become what we might have hoped -- Joe Kelly is a nice reliever, but never the Lamborghini starter Matheny saw him as. Shelby Miller had his moments but never reached his potential. Alex Reyes has not yet stayed healthy. Still, when Tyler Lyons is the worst of the starters you've developed on an annual basis, you're doing something right.

The Cards have become known as a starting pitcher factory. They do it as well as or better than anyone else in the league. What does that mean for Dakota Hudson?

First, it means that expectations are probably going to be high. We have come to expect our highly-touted SP prospects to turn into Michael Wacha circa 2013. Most of them have not disappointed, but that's not the norm around baseball. I'm not sure fan sentiment around Hudson is as high as it was for other names on our list. It seems like he's been able to hide behind Reyes, Hicks, Flaherty and Weaver. I've heard more chatter around Helsley this spring than Hudson. I wonder if some fans are lumping Dakota into the group of "guys" that gained promotion after the great purge of July 2018. He arrived alongside Gant, Gomber, and Ponce de Leon, but it should be clear that he is head and shoulders above all of them.

What makes Hudson good? Fangraphs scouts Hudson's fastball as a 70. That's exceptional. For comparison's sake, that's the same ranking they give to Alex Reyes. It's better than the ranking they assign to Jordan Hicks (60 with a 70 future). We've heard so much about Ryan Helsley's fastball this spring? It's a 60. Hudson is arriving with one of the best fastballs in the league. It's not the blistering heat of Hicks. Hudson's FB sits in the 95-97 range (96 avg. last year as a reliever). It has hard sinking action -- not all that different than Hicks. He also throws a good slider and a cutter, both of which are ranked as 55's. He will get ground balls. Lots and lots of ground balls. In the minors his ground ball rate was close to 58%. It was 61% last year in his first run through the majors at age 23. The change of speed and movement of his secondary offerings make him hard to center. His HR rates in the minors are virtually non-existent. He did not give up a HR in the majors last year.

What makes Husdon a less-than-elite prospect? For some reason Fangraphs ranks his command lower than I would expect -- a 40 now with a 45 potential. I'm honestly not sure how they justify that considering Hudson only allowed 8 HR's total in the minor leagues. 8 HR's total! I wonder more if they are using their "command" ranking as an aggregate of both command and control. Hudson walks a surprising number of batters. In 2018, Hudson's walk rate was an alarming 5.93, just slightly below his K rate of 6.26. That's a recipe for disaster, even for a guy who limits HR's. His season-by-season stat line reads like a schyzopheric's personal journal -- moments of brilliance surrounded by pure gibberish. 0.00, 6.75, 2.68, 3.49. 3.06, 5.93. The innings are what tell the story. More innings, fewer walks. The stats normalized. Still, it's worth noting. Here's my take: he has good command. He doesn't yet have elite control. There is a difference between locating in the zone and keeping the ball in the zone. Maybe Hudson's elite movement is an issue here, (again) not unlike Hicks. GB pitchers tend to have runners on base -- balls sneak through. And since he also doesn't K very many -- his high of 7.01 in AAA is not great -- he's constantly testing the defense. Walk a runner, let a GB sneak through, can't get a K when you need it, and suddenly a run or two are across the board. He needs to find a way to limit his walks, which I think he can do and has flashed better walk totals in the minors at times. It's in there somewhere. But, he also needs to find a way to K more -- which should be possible with that velocity and movement on his sinker and secondary offerings, but he has not been able to show it. This is probably wishful thinking to hope for a K rate that can climb into the 8's or 9's.

Projections? When you look at what he did in 2018, he showed the same pattern as in the minors. His era was in the mid-2's. FIP in the upper 3's. That's causing projection systems to downgrade him. ZiPS and Steamer have him projected for an era in the mid 4's, with a matching FIP and a WAR of right around 1. I take issue with that. At every stop in the minors (and now the majors), Hudson has outperformed his FIP by more than a run. Considering his repertoire and the relatively poor state of infield defense (and playing conditions) throughout the minors, I want to give significant credence to the actual results-on-the-field ERA here. There are pitchers who consistently outperform their FIP's. So, if Hudson is projected for an FIP in the mid 4's, there's a solid chance that his actual ERA will be closer to the mid-3's. Since fWAR is based around FIP, that won't help his production, but it will help us win. At the end of the day, not allowing runs is what good pitching is all about. Projection systems like his ability to limit HR's but they think his BB totals are actually going to balloon to the high 3's based largely on his 27 MLB innings last year. In his long stops during his MiLB career, Hudson walked 2.06 and 3.06 in AA and AAA respectively. I'll take either of those as his norm. I suspect that Hudson won't walk nearly as many as projection systems believe, though I also acknowledge their reason for saying he will. My take: era in the mid 3's. FIP above that. BB's in the 3.0-3.2 per 9. 7.0 K rate. HR's per ip under .5. That's a solid to good starting pitcher in the NL.

In all, I think that Hudson -- not unlike many of the other names on the list above -- will have a hard time getting out of the rotation once the Cardinals let him in. He's not going to end up being the best name on the list above, but I think he might have a bit more staying power -- if he can limit the walks and discover more K's -- than similar players in Joe Kelly and Luke Weaver. His K rate and BB rates are what will keep him from being elite.


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PostPosted: March 19 19, 11:11 am 
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Location: No. 16 on the Cards Top 15 Prospect List
After writing this, I thought I might go a little deeper into the Cards' ability to develop SP's and the difference that the organization has made in the post-LaRussa era. If we can attach a SP prospect to each season from 2011-2019, what does it look like before that? Well... totally different!

2010 - Adam Ottavino: Ottavino had a cup of coffee this season but was not counted on for much and did not stay with the club long. He was a former 1st round draft pick who never really impressed as a prospect. He's found a second life as a reliever, but it took until 2013 before he really showed much promise.

2009 - Mitchell Boggs: After getting a taste of the majors in '08, Boggs was counted on for a larger role in '09. 9 starts in 16 games. If memory serves, Boggs might have just touched BA's top 100 list of prospects right before he was set to lose his rookie status. Compared to the list in the original post, he might be equal to or just above Tyler Lyons as a prospect.

2008 - (no one of note)

2007 - Adam Wainwright: debatable about whether he belongs in '06 or '07. He emerged as a exciting reliever (common for many on both of these lists) and eventual closer for a WS winner, but was then expected to try his hand as a starter. He's a Cards HOF'er and the best name on either list. (Probably.)

2006 - Anthony Reyes: Where would the current fireman sit when ranked against the list above? He was probably the most anticipated SP prospect we had in the 2000's -- even considering AW's presence -- and, looking back, I think I would have to put him in the Dakota Hudson range in terms of potential and ability. Crazy!

2005 - Brad Thompson: Thompson was a well-known but not highly touted arrival. He was famous for his incredible control, but there was very little expectation of MLB production. His career matches that.

2004 - Dan Haren: Underappreciated as a prospect and pitcher. We just didn't realize what we had, I think. This goes just far enough back that I can't tell you much about his prospect status. I do remember MiLB followers talking him up, but can't give you much info about rankings and scouting reports when he arrived. He had a fantastic career and we should never have traded him.

2003 - (no one of note)

2001/2002 - Bud Smith: No one can take away that no-hitter, Bud.

There are some good names in here. Great names, really. AW and Haren will probably end up being better in career production than any of the pitchers we've seen from 2011 on. But, overall, the Cards' ability to churn out good to very good SP prospects after 2011 is obvious here. The Brad Thompson's and Bud Smith's that standout from 2000-2010 would fit best with names like Austin Gomber or Tim Cooney in the current era. They wouldn't even crack my list if they were developed from 2011 on. And other prospect names -- Jimmy Journell, Blake Hawksworth -- don't even justify a mention.


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PostPosted: March 19 19, 12:16 pm 
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Great info, Fat!

It does seem they have done a remarkably good and consistent job developing pitchers.


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PostPosted: March 19 19, 1:11 pm 
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This is quite good


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PostPosted: March 19 19, 1:16 pm 
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Thanks that is a cool way to think about it. Thanks for posting

you could add Rosenthal to 2012. He was seen as a starter until they converted him. Though that would have delayed him being in the bigs if he had to work on more pitches.


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PostPosted: March 19 19, 1:18 pm 
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Thanks for the read!


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PostPosted: March 19 19, 2:03 pm 
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Great read, thanks for your hard work.

I was less than impressed when I read that list you gave. I think a lot of those names flamed out after early success. I think it's all part of their draft process during those early to mid 2010 years, and that was to draft college pitchers early.

When you look at what the young starters who come up do well over the other four teams who have developed better than the Cardinals in that time (Cleveland, Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets), we see instantly the differences, and that's lower Ks and a lot less home runs. Contact pitchers. Which has been an org philosophy dating 30+ years.

The true test now is the new drafting they've done since the mid 2010s. They've been going for high ceiling athlete and value picks like Plummer and Perez and even Gorman fits that mold and staying away from those college pitchers in the first round. Hudson was the last one I believe.

They're still able to keep the farms loaded with Gombers which is quite impressive. And I believe Flaherty is someone the org deserves a lot of credit for spotting. He did attend high school with Giolito and Fried who are also touted in their own right--but still an amazing pick even for a first round comp selection.


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PostPosted: March 19 19, 3:33 pm 
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Great stuff.

I just wish the Cardinals had a better track record of developing elite starting pitchers. I feel like our ability to develop contributing starters is much like it is with hitters, we have both that overachieve for a few years but rarely do we develop long standing/elite hitters or pitchers.


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PostPosted: March 19 19, 9:41 pm 
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Marco Gonzales (2013) will be opening day starter for the Seattle Mariners, I hear.


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PostPosted: March 20 19, 7:15 am 
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I'm suspecting next year's candidate that will be hyped up for the rotation will be Helsley, and the following year it will be Jake Woodford. I expect Helsley to get a cup of coffee with the big league club this year and be up full-time in 2020. Same with Woodford for 2020/2021.


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