MLB Draft Bites: Week 5 – College Arms Edition

Feature Photo: Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
(Photo by Mississippi State  Media Relations)

2080 Baseball’s MLB Draft Bites return with Corey Turner providing an up-close look at 2016 first-round hopeful Dakota Hudson while Nick J. Faleris chips in with notes on two power arms making their rotational debut this past weekend. Nick rounds out the entry with updates on a slew of collegiate arms.

Player Spotlights

Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’5″/215 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 9m

Prior to last Friday, Hudson had been absolutely dominant through his first 48 innings this spring, including a 34.2-inning span without allowing an earned run. The Gators were able to slow the momentum some, taking advantage of spotty command and placing some timely hits to plate six runs over Hudson’s five innings of work.

Don’t let the stat line fool you, though. Hudson still checks all the boxes, and it’s easy to see why he may land inside of the top 10 picks in the June MLB Draft. He has a deep arsenal—fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup—with his lynchpin offerings his low-to-mid 90s fastball that he can sink to the arm-side, and his high-80s cutter with sharp, late bite. His other two secondary pitches, a low-80s curveball with hard, quick downer action, and a mid-80s changeup, weren’t much of a factor, but could be average offerings with further repetition and refinement.

Early on in his most recent start, Hudson frequently worked ahead in the count, pounding the zone with his fastball and cutter. As the game progressed though, he lost his sharpness, struggling with control and execution and running deeper counts. As he struggled, he also began to rely heavily on his cutter, throwing his sinking fastball less frequently and offering a reprieve to righties who had earlier had fits trying to square-up the heavy heater.

Hudson’s live arm, pure stuff, and overall body of work give him the look a potential mid-rotation starter at the next level, and at present he projects well as a potential early first-round selection. –Corey Turner

Justin Dunn, RHP, Boston College
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/185 | B/T: S/R | Age (as of draft date): 20y, 8m

Entering conference action last weekend, Dunn had served as a shutdown reliever for the Eagles. Saturday afternoon he toed the rubber for first time as a starter, taking on a solid Virginia lineup. Having already grown his draft stock in 2016 off the strength of a mid-90s heater that could reach 97 to 98 mph, his transition into a starting role represents another opportunity for the BC standout to climb further up boards heading into the back half of the season.

Dunn lasted five scoreless innings and threw 72 pitches – 23 more than his previous high this spring (during a three-plus inning relief appearance against NC State), allowing just two hits and one walk. More importantly, Dunn maintained his stuff throughout the entirety of the start, showing low-to-mid 90s velocity with solid feel and good life. He worked the heater well, pounding the lower “U” of the strike zone while keeping the UVA bats off balance mixing in a compliment of secondary offerings including a quality low-80s slider and mid-to-upper 80s changeup, as well as a more rudimentary upper-70s curveball.

While he possesses the quantity of secondaries to turn over a lineup, the soft stuff trails behind the fastball in consistency – something Dunn will work to rectify over the balance of the season. With an easy arm, loose mechanics and demonstrable body control, there’s good reason to think Dunn can get there in time. If decision-makers buy in, he could find himself popped somewhere in the top 60 picks come June. –Nick J. Faleris

Zach Jackson, RHP, Univ. of Arkansas
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/215 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 5m

Dunn wasn’t the only draft-eligible reliever to transition to a weekend starter’s role last Saturday. Arkansas’s Zach Jackson took his late-inning repertoire into action against Ole Miss, proving less successful in his endeavors than did the BC hurler.

While the quality of stuff was there for Jackson, he struggled to execute his pitches consistently, leaving too many offerings over the white of the plate early on in particular. The Rebs touched up the big-armed righty for four runs on five hits in the first two innings, ultimately knocking him out of the contest with a walk and single to start the sixth inning (both baserunners eventually coming around to score on the pen).

Jackson showed his typical low-to-mid 90s fastball but struggled to hit his spots throughout the start. His power curve – a mid-80s 11-to-5 bender – was too often buried, though the plus to double-plus bite flashed periodically. While one start is nowhere near enough evidence to kill the prospects of a full-time transition to the rotation, much of Jackson’s Saturday struggles dovetailed with concerns evaluators expressed entering the spring. There isn’t much in the way of consistency when it comes to his mechanics, including a tendency open up early and both yank his curve and drive his fastball up and over the plate. Additionally, while he’ll show a quality change-up at times, he’ll need to build up his confidence with the pitch and show a better ability to spot his primary offerings. –Nick J. Faleris

MLB Draft Bites

♦ Even without his best stuff, Connor Jones (RHP, Univ. of Virginia) continued to impress last weekend, going the distance against Boston College. Jones saw his control wax and wane throughout the complete game one-hitter, walking four, but ended-up facing just four over the minimum, and drawing 14 ground outs to just seven flyouts. He remains one of the top collegiate arms in the class and looks like a safe bet to come off the board in the first round.

Matt Krook (LHP, Univ. of Oregon) put up a very “Matt Krook” performance against the Cal Bears, striking out nine and allowing just two hits over 6.2 innings, but also walking six batters in the process. On the year Krook has now walked 27 compared to 47 strikeouts over 34.1 total innings with the opposition batting .171 against him. He has some of the loudest stuff in the class but with continued struggles to rein in the power repertoire he is looking more and more like a future reliever. Draft-eligible closer Stephen Nogosek (RHP, Univ. of Oregon) picked up the save for Krook and finished the weekend with 2.1 scoreless innings pitched, totaling four strikeouts, no walks and two hits.

♦ After being pulled early from his start two weekends ago due to back spasms, A.J. Puk (LHP, Univ. of Florida) was held out of action last week. Though up and down throughout the spring so far, Puk retains some of the best stuff in the entire draft class, and evaluators are anxious to see him healthy and back on the mound.

Cody Sedlock (RHP, Univ. of Illinois) put together another solid showing against Iowa despite suffering a hard-luck no decision. The Illini ace went eight innings allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out 11. Sedlock drew eight groundouts to just two flyouts thanks to a heavy fastball and solid changeup. He looks the part of a potential back-end arm at the next level, but he lacks a putaway breaking ball, and is too hittable for some evaluators’ tastes.

♦ Texas A&M roughed up Robert Tyler (RHP, Univ. of Georgia) for three runs on six hits and four walks in just four innings last Friday, adding to Tyler’s hot-and-cold spring. The Georgia righty has held the opposition to a .155 batting average while striking out 57 hitters over 45.1 innings, but continues to struggle with his command and execution, as well as an underwhelming breaking ball. When he’s on, the stuff is impressive showing hints of a mid-rotation upside.

Jordan Sheffield (RHP, Vanderbilt Univ.) had his roughest outing of the year down in Baton Rouge, as LSU piled on nine runs (seven of them earned) on seven hits and two walks in just three innings of work. He’ll look to bounce back at home against Kentucky this Friday.  He currently projects as a potential top 30 pick.