Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
Hudson toed the rubber for the third time this season as the Bulldogs’ Friday starter, and he battled through inconsistent command to keep the damage in check in a good, not great, outing. He boasts an athletic frame at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, with wide shoulders and strong legs. His initial rock into his leg kick is fluid and balanced, and he generates strong momentum as he initiates his drive. There’s some backside drop at this stage into a deep arm swing while his hips remain closed. That adds some length to get to his three-quarters slot, and there’s some drift in his drive at this stage, where he doesn’t quite open his hips all the way and make it back to perpendicular at foot strike. This causes a slight crossfire and some inconsistencies with his posture at release, both of which negatively affected his ability to repeat.
His fastball worked with plus velocity in the 92-94 mph band all night, popping 95 a few times and touching 96 at its peak. He held the velocity deep, which is an encouraging sign given his still-recent conversion from relief. The pitch doesn’t have a ton of life, however, maintaining plane with just mild run. His game plan for the night was to work primarily off his cutter which was a nasty pitch with darting, late break at 89-90, and some vertical drop to boot. It’s a pitch with true plus projection, and he commanded it well for most of the night, getting ahead of hitters early and going to it repeatedly to work out of trouble. The heavy reliance led to him never really establishing the fastball, as he was just a little off with the Number One all night, missing his spots narrowly, but missing them nonetheless.
He also featured a change that showed some tumbling action at 82-85 mph. His arm speed and slot wavered on a couple, and the pitch played on the straighter side at the high-end velocity. He did get on top of a few to draw out some fade, and flash an average projection. A curve rounded out the arsenal with a wide velocity band of 77-82. The pitch generates a good deal of horizontal movement, but it sets its trajectory relatively early and sweeps along without a ton of bite. He worked it into the zone to steal first-pitch strikes repeatedly in his third trip through the lineup, but it didn’t show much beyond that show-me utility.
UCLA’s offense has not been particularly potent thus far, but it was still a commendable performance for Hudson on a night he wasn’t at his sharpest. Some passed balls and defensive lapses cost him stress and pitches, and a strike zone that had the bench barking from the jump didn’t help matters, but he bore down and made pitches when he needed to. I saw enough raw material here to project him to the back of the first round or early second.
Griffin Canning, RHP, UCLA, Class of 2017
On a night when most of the scouting gallery was there to see Hudson, it was Canning who stole the show. The sophomore right-hander whiffed a dozen before exiting after his bid for a complete-game shutout came to an end with two outs in the ninth.
Canning stands a listed 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and is light on his feet, with outstanding athleticism and balance. He has some spine tilt, using a closed, uphill stride and catapulting drive, all of which combines to create deception and a late pick-up for hitters. The direct arm path and above-average arm speed help him get to his over-the-top slot with remarkable consistency, and he commanded his entire arsenal all night.
His fastball registered an extra couple ticks on Friday from where I’d seen him last year; he sat 88-89 during his freshman year, but worked 90-92 in this start. The pitch has moderate boring action, and the perceived velocity plays up thanks to the aforementioned deception and excellent extension to his point of release. He commanded the pitch consistently to all four quadrants on Friday, working along the outside corner early in counts and elevating repeatedly for swinging strikes once ahead. The pitch is particularly difficult to track and square at the top of the zone.
The curveball is the highlight of Canning’s arsenal, showing outstanding depth and 11-5 break off the same initial trajectory as his fastball. It works in the high 70s, and he’ll snap it off with confidence in any count, stealing strikes early and burying it below the zone when ahead. He threw somewhere around 40 of them on the night and didn’t leave more than a handful of them rolling. His change also plays well, with moderate tumble off his fastball plane, though it’s a firmer offering with less-than-ideal separation. As such it’s geared more towards inducing off-barrel contact, and it flashes average potential to that end. He also mixed in an occasional slider in the low 80s, but the pitch lacks bite or much of a horizontal jump, and it runs too close to the change to be effective in anything more than sporadic deployment.
Canning’s meal ticket is his strong combination of command, spin, and deception, and he had all three working in concert on this night. It is certainly worth noting that he was allowed to throw a fairly alarming 135 pitches in this start, though outside of losing his cadence for a spell in the sixth inning (and paying the price with three hitters’-worth of hard contact) it wasn’t a notably high-stress outing. Still, that’s a lot of pitches.
He could enter his draft year with a third-round projection with a spring of executing pitches like he did in this start.
Sheldon Neuse, SS/RHP, Oklahoma
A former conference Freshman of the Year, Neuse put together an unremarkable sophomore campaign, but showed flashes of solid, across-the-board talent this weekend. He looks a bit larger than his listed 6-foot, 195 pounds, with a strong backside and sturdy base. At the plate he sets up tall, with high hands and a slight bat waggle. The load is mild, with a slight hitch and an aggressive stride that helps him create separation. He uses his hips well to create above-average bat speed, and showed an ability to both stay on an outside pitch and drive a liner to right as well as turn and clean out an inside fastball for a long homerun to the pull side. The approach is aggressive, and he doesn’t get cheated with fewer than two strikes.
There’s some lumber in his running stride, which is a higher-effort churn. I had him at 4.35 down the line, though he slowed the last couple steps, and the physicality suggests an average to slightly-above runner. His actions at short were controlled, though the speed, size, and lack of quick-twitch athleticism suggest a likely shift to third in the future. His raw arm strength is plus or better, and he showed a quick transfer and release to first.
Speaking of that arm strength, he also serves as Oklahoma’s closer, and he worked a 1-2-3 ninth on Sunday with a couple groundouts sandwiched around a whiff. He stays tall through a simple rock and leg kick, with a clean arm action to a true three-quarters slot. The hips open early, allowing for a strong downhill drive to a foot strike that, while inverted, handles his momentum and keeps him on balance. His fastball worked 90-92, grazing 93 once, with some tailing action and good finish. He paired it with a slider that showed above-average bite in the low 80s and sprinkled in a couple changeups with decent tumble that he commanded in the same velocity band.
Eric Filia, OF, UCLA
I’m a fan of players who play the game with rhythm as well as players with interesting biographies, and Filia checks both boxes. As a sophomore way back in 2013 Filia was a key cog in the Bruins’ national championship run despite suffering a shoulder injury that eventually degenerated into a labrum tear, the surgery for which cost him all of the 2014 season. On the back end of that unpleasantness, he got himself suspended for all of 2015 for an academic violation. Back on the field now as a 23-year-old fifth-year Senior, Filia will make for one of the more interesting senior-sign candidates this June.
He has an unorthodox setup and pre-pitch timing mechanism in the mold of a left-handed Jonny Gomes, but he consistently gets himself into his load position on time and with early momentum. The noisy setup gives way to a quiet, fluid line-drive stroke with mild leverage and above-average bat speed. The path into the zone is quick, and he gets the barrel down and on plane early. Combined with well above-average pitch recognition and a balanced weight transfer, the outcome is an efficient swing with limited swing-and-miss. He’s a filled-out kid (man?) with little remaining physical projection, but despite notable strength and the aforementioned bat speed, the swing isn’t geared to over-the-fence pop in games. There’s nothing wrong with hard line-drive contact, however, and he’s shown himself adept at producing it in three looks thus far.
He shows average raw speed, maybe a tick above, but the utility has played up with consistently strong digs out of the box and sound instincts and anticipation on the basepaths. He gets strong breaks on balls in right, showing a quick start-up, decisive route-running, and strong field awareness. There’s apparent arm strength, though he’s made a couple poor in-game throws now, with rushed mechanics leading to poor carry and accuracy.
Jacob Robson, CF, Mississippi State – Compact frame, thick middle, strong legs; high back elbow, mild bat wrap; sets front side early, loses hip-shoulder engagement, linear bat path with bottom-of-the-scale power; opposite-field approach, disciplined hitter, recognizes spin and rarely offers at it, lays off when beaten; foot speed at least plus, quick feet, efficient running motion, very fast cross-over, aggressive to a fault on bases, poor read of first move led to pick-off; confident first step, shows ability to anticipate and track trajectory, average arm strength.
If he can keep the bat in his hands against higher-end velocity, Robson would profile as a pesky contact hitter with the ability to draw walks and slap his way on, steal a base, and play a competent center field.
Jack Kruger, C, Mississippi State – DH-only in two looks; wide base at setup, hands off back shoulder; extremely wide at fire; mild bat wrap, quiet trigger, keeps hands back, strong wrists get bat on plane quickly, long through the zone, solid contact profile with limited swing-and-miss; all-fields approach, mild leverage but will open up and increase it ahead, clears hips efficiently, average power to pull side.
The former Oregon recruit and JuCo transfer has been absolutely locked in thus far, and he put together a string of impressive at-bats over the weekend. He showed strong bat-to-ball ability with some carry and velocity on the line drives on the end of several of his swings.
Tucker Forbes, RHP, UCLA – Tall drink of water at 6-8, tries to leverage height with high three-quarters slot, strong angle to attack the zone; stiff takeaway, short leg kick generates limited momentum into drive; lacks explosion and balance in push-off, uphill with length to slot, inconsistent release point; fastball velocity fluctuates significantly (87-93 on Friday), below-average command. Left Sunday’s appearance with apparent injury.
Renae Martinez, C, Oklahoma – Athletic frame, fluid movements; wide, low crouch, gets down quickly, surrounds balls in the dirt, no holes; lateral agility with body control; smooth receiving actions, strong wrists, quiet glove; above-average defensive projection, above-average arm strength; gets to front side quickly, leg lift with jabby step and early weight transfer, vulnerable to off-speed; arms swing, limited lower half engagement, minimal torque, linear swing with mild leverage to pull side; solid pitch recognition, up-the-middle approach; below-average hit can play up with on-base ability, well below-average power, 4.56 on a check-up.
Martinez shows an intriguing defensive tool kit and some semblance of pitch recognition to offset an otherwise-limited offensive package.
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