The first thing that sticks out about Dakota Hudson when he's on the mound is the way the Mississippi State right-hander peers at the plate to pick up the signs from his catcher.Hudson rotates his top half, slings his right arm out wide and stares. It's reminiscent of big league
The first thing that sticks out about Dakota Hudson when he's on the mound is the way the Mississippi State right-hander peers at the plate to pick up the signs from his catcher.
Hudson rotates his top half, slings his right arm out wide and stares. It's reminiscent of big league closer Craig Kimbrel, now with the Red Sox.
But Hudson's future is not in the back end of a bullpen. The No. 15 overall prospect heading into the 2016 MLB Draft, Hudson projects as a frontline starter moving forward.
In a breakout season as a junior with Mississippi State, Hudson owns a 9-4 record with 109 strikeouts over 106 2/3 innings in 16 starts. His 2.62 ERA ranks fifth in the competitive Southeastern Conference and he's first in total innings. His nine wins are the most for a Bulldogs pitcher since 2013. What's more, he set a school record with a streak of 34 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
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Hudson's rise up the Draft boards can be traced to his breakout 2015 summer in the Cape Cod League.
"I love it because it is all baseball all the time," Hudson told Mississippi State's athletic department.
Hudson went 4-3 with a 1.43 ERA in 13 games as a starter and reliever with the Cape Cod League's Hyannis Harbor Hawks. He struck out 54 against 14 walks in 56 2/3 innings.
After struggling to throw strikes in his first two collegiate seasons, Mississippi State head coach John Cohen and pitching coach Wes Johnson instructed Hudson to use all of his pitches and pound the strike zone when he got to the Cape Cod League.
"If I do that, it will force hitters to have to deal with my stuff," said Hudson, one of 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best amateur baseball player in America. "They also want me to be more efficient with my pitches."
Hudson relished the chance to pitch in one of the most prestigious amateur leagues around.
"The Southeastern Conference is the toughest conference in America, and the Cape Cod League is the best of the best when it comes to summer ball," he said. "Every hitter you face is different and they all come from different programs from across the country. Just like the SEC, if you make a bad pitch in this league, every hitter in the lineup is going to capitalize on it."
During his summer in New England, Hudson had the opportunity to compete in front of Major League scouts at Fenway Park. He called it a great learning experience, albeit with one caveat.
"It is tough to go to such a famous ballpark and know that while you are so close, you are still so far away," Hudson said.
Hudson returned to Fenway Park on an off-day for a Red Sox game, watching from the top of the right field roof.
"I was on top of the stadium and had a view of the whole field," said Hudson, who can reach 97 mph with his fastball to go along with a nasty slider/cutter. "It motivated me to return there one day as a player."
Now, with the Draft on the horizon, Hudson is about to be one step closer to realizing those dreams.
**Austin Laymance** is a reporter for MLB.com.