One by one, the St. Louis Cardinals have signed their top three picks in the amateur draft.
The Cardinals on Saturday reached an agreement with right-hander Dakota Hudson, their third first-round pick in the draft (34th overall) June 9. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Hudson, 21, received $2 million to sign, slightly over the slot value of $1.878 million.
Hudson, who was 9-5 with a 2.55 ERA in 17 starts for Mississippi State, will report Sunday to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. He’s not sure how many innings he will receive after throwing 113 with the Bulldogs.
“I’m just going with the flow. I’m not sure what they expect of me,” Hudson said. “My arm feels good and I’m ready to get started. Whatever that may be, I’m prepared for it. (Being drafted) has been an exciting experience, but I’m ready to get going.”
Hudson throws a two-seamer, a cutter, a curveball and a changeup. He said the changeup needs to improve to make him an effective pitcher in the upper levels.
“I play a lot off my fastball and I have plus breaking pitches,” Hudson said. “I’m still trying to develop the changeup right now, but I guess knowing your weaknesses is how you get better.”
Hudson said he doesn’t care whether he relieves or starts, but first-year Cardinals Scouting Director Randy Flores said Hudson has the makeup of a starter.
“He’s a workhorse and we anticipate him continuing on the starter track,” Flores said. “His workload will be monitored to make sure he doesn’t overextend himself.”
Seventh-round pick Andrew Knizner, a catcher from North Carolina State, also reached agreement with the Cardinals. Knizner batted .292 with six home runs and 30 RBIs in 60 games.
Hudson’s teammate at Mississippi State, right-hander Austin Sexton, an 18th-round pick, came to terms, as did 36th-round pick Robbie Gordon, a right-hander from St. Louis who played at Maryville University.
Hudson said Sexton, who has been assigned to short-season Johnson City of the Appalachian League, has what it takes to succeed.
“His pitchability is through the roof,” Hudson said. “He’s got a great changeup and his fastball has come a long way. His breaking ball, when it’s down in the zone, he’s a great pitcher. He’s got a lot of tools.”
Sexton was 8-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 17 starts. He allowed 104 hits in 101 innings, with 25 walks and 98 strikeouts. Gordon was 4-4 with a 3.98 ERA in 14 games, 11 of them starts. He walked 21 and struck out 57 in 61 innings for Division II Maryville.
St. Louis has signed 27 of its 42 picks, including 10 of 12 players taken in the first 10 rounds. Two pitchers, right-handers Connor Jones (second round, 70th overall) from Virginia and Zac Gallen (third round, 106th overall) from North Carolina, are the only players from the top 10 rounds yet to sign.
The Cardinals have until 4 p.m. on July 15 to sign players they drafted. Otherwise, they will re-enter the draft in 2017 or go to college.