Since being drafted 82nd overall back in 2015 as a tall projectable lefty, Hudson has had his ups and downs. On the mound, he is someone hard to miss. Standing at 6’8 and appearing even taller when standing on the mound, Hudson has a low to mid 90’s fastball with lots of arm side run to compliment a curveball with good vertical movement. In 2017 he had a good showing in low-A South Bend where he logged 124.1 innings and a sub 4.00 Era. But the injury bug bit him throughout the years, and frankly even when he was healthy his numbers as a starter were not good. His walks were up, his strikeouts were down, and batters a hit for a high average.
However, Hudson had a silver lining throughout his years in the system, he gave up a ton of ground balls and didn’t give up many home runs. Fast forward to 2021 where Hudson got bullpen duty full-time, and we got to see the success the Cubs front office envisioned when they drafted him as the 4th highest left-handed prep arm in the 2015 draft. For the majority of the year, Hudson continued his heavy ground ball trend in 54.2 innings in AA Tennessee with a ground ball percentage of 65% and his low home run trend (.33 HR/9). Perhaps even better, Hudson’s strikeouts went up while he kept his walks down. In AA, Hudson had a full-season career high SO/9 of 8.4, a BB/9 of 3.62, and a career low WHIP of 1.098, showing that Hudson doesn’t need a high strikeout rate to have success on the mound due to his high ground ball percentage.
Also, Hudson dominated left handed batters throughout the AA season:
Against LHB: 60 BF / 7 H / 5 BB / 23 SO / 0 HR / 0.77 WHIP
Against RHB: 159 BF / 31 H / 17 BB / 28 SO / 2 HR / 1.27 WHIP
Hudson did have a cup of tea in AAA Iowa to end the 2021 season, where he did not have a good showing. He threw for 4.0 innings, walked 8 batters, and gave up 3 home runs (more than he gave up in 54.2 innings of AA), but don’t let that distract you from Hudson’s dominant AA performance. His fastball velocity dwindled late in the year to the low-90s when earlier in the year he had a few more ticks to his fastball. He’ll throw again in AAA in 2022, and expect him to look more like 2021 AA Bryan Hudson during his time there.
If it wasn’t for the 3 batter minimum rule, Hudson would certainly seem like a LOOGY (lefty one-out guy), but he didn’t face many lefties in AA (27% of BF). If you look at some of the lefties in the Cubs bullpen in 2021, Rex Brothers faced 41% of LHB, Andrew Chafin faced 45% of LFB, and Kyle Ryan faced 46% of LHB. Compared to those southpaws, Hudson’s percentage of left-handed batters faced will certainly increase if he can reach the Cubs bullpen.
After the 2021 season Hudson was a minor league free agent, but the Cubs signed him to a minor league successor contract. According to Arizona Phil that leaves Hudson Rule-5 eligible. If the Cubs decide they want to protect him, he could be added to the 40-man roster. Currently, the Cubs don’t have a lefty in the bullpen, and while they are certainly going to grab an experienced major league arm in free agency, Hudson, whether he is added to the 40-man or survives the Rule-5 draft, could be the lefty in waiting. In recent years we’ve seen a carousel of AAA arms given an opportunity to throw for the Cubs, and you should add Bryan Hudson to that list in 2022, especially late in the year if the Cubs are out of playoff contention.
Feature photo of Bryan Hudson by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)