Cubs Prospect Update: Bryan Hudson Having a May to Remember
The Chicago Cubs minor league pitching rotations underwent a drastic change this spring. While Iowa and Tennessee have always had five-man rotations, the lower portions of the minors always threw six pitchers out there. This year, however, even the lower minors went down to five. As a result, Bryan Hudson was left behind in extended spring training when minor league camp broke in order to continue working and waiting for a chance. That chance came in late April and he has not looked back.
Hudson is a 6’7”, 220 pound left-handed pitcher whom the Cubs selected in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft. MLB Pipeline said the following of the young prospect shortly after being drafted:
Hudson had one of the best curveballs in the 2015 high school Draft class, a 75-78 mph bender with depth that should add more power as he fills out his skinny 6-foot-8 frame. He commands his curve well though he tended to rely on it too often as an amateur.
For now, Hudson pitches with an 86-90 mph fastball that tops out at 92. With his arm action, athleticism and projection, he could regularly work in the mid-90s in the future. He has the beginnings of a changeup but didn’t need it much in high school and doesn’t trust the pitch.
Hudson was rarely used that first summer but pitched quite a bit for Eugene in 2016, where he struggled over the course of 13 starts (58.2 innings). Opponents hit .265 off him and he issued 41 walks. Concerns about his command heading into 2017 were a big part of why he was held back in Mesa.
Throughout the spring, reports about Hudson’s pitching from Arizona Phil and The Cub Reporter were excellent. Based on that data, I thought Hudson would likely be promoted to South Bend in May. In fact, he moved up a week early made his first start of the year on April 23.
Going into Tuesday’s start, Hudson had a 5.21 ERA, due largely in part to one poor start in which he gave up 7 runs in 3.2 innings. Take away that game and his ERA would be only 2.35.
All things considered, I was really looking forward to his Tuesday start. I love his curveball and he has pitched well when he attacks the zone. When he nibbles, however, he gives up walks like he did last year.
The first thing I noticed is that it looks like Hudson has moved to the third base side of the rubber. Earlier this year, I thought he was in the middle of the rubber. Pitching from the third base side provides a more intimidating angle for a right-handed hitter, especially with the curve. Hudson can really get the ball up and in to righties from that position.
I came away impressed as Hudson looked very patient all day. He wasn’t rushed, he pitched down in the zone, and he moved the ball around all day. He gave up three hits and issued two walks while striking out two more. He had 10 ground outs and two fly outs. The efficiency was there too, as he only threw 70 pitches, 41 for strikes.
Infographic by South Bend Cubs
Hudson’s second start of the week was almost equally as impressive. He went 6 innings, struck out two, and gave up just one run to a lineup that contained top prospects Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Again, he kept the ball down as Lansing pummeled 10 balls into the ground for outs. He scattered six hits and two walks and was able to use those grounders to stay out of trouble as he wound up throwing 91 pitches, 58 for strikes.
I think Hudson just needs to do more of the same as he did this week. He is working on a change, but he’s still mainly working off the fastball/curve combo. I love the fact he got so many ground balls both days and he was able to work out of trouble with some help from the defense up the middle.
For the month of May, his ERA is a very low 1.23 over 22 innings. For the year, the ERA is down to 3.60 from a high of 10.13 on April 29. I think he’s starting to figure things out, and he’ll be fine as long as he keeps his ground-out ratio high and his walk rate low.
Hudson just turned 20 on May 8, so I don’t think we need to start heaping expectations on him yet. He looks like a vastly different pitcher from what I saw at Eugene last year and he looks much more confident than the pitcher I saw just a month ago.