Whether he goes on the first day of the major league baseball draft or not, one thing is for certain.
There is plenty of interest in Alton High senior left-hander Bryan Hudson, one of the top high school pitching prospects in the country. Most draft scouting reports and other sources have him going somewhere in the top three rounds, though nothing is definite when it comes to the baseball draft.
MLB.com listed Hudson as No. 71 on its list of top prospects and Baseball America had him at No. 100. Both lists include high school and college prospects.
“It starts with being 6-foot-8 and left-handed, that’s why they come to the ballpark,” Alton coach Todd Haug said. “The ability to throw multiple pitches consistently for strikes, that’s a key. But when you’re getting up to the level that he’s at, they’re looking at him with a microscope and they’re looking for details that a common person watching a high school baseball game aren’t going to watch for.
“Knock on on wood, he’s going on that first day, so that would mean roughly in the top 75 to 100 kids.”
Hudson will be joined by friends and family Monday in Alton to watch the draft (6 p.m. on MLB Network and MLB.com), hoping to see his name on the screen tied to a major league club.
“I’m just going to go with the flow,” Hudson said. “I’m not really getting my hopes up high. It’s cool, I’ve worked really hard to get to the point I’m at. But it’s all up in the air right now.”
Hudson has signed with Missouri and if he doesn’t go the professional baseball route, would end up joining a strong Mizzou pitching staff that includes former Collinsville High standout and 2014 draft pick Tanner Houck.
“I’m not in a bad situation at all,” Hudson said. “If the draft happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m going to Mizzou and I can’t feel bad about that. I have my (signing) number and if it happens, I’m going to do it. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s a good situation to be in.”
MLB.com rated Hudson as the best high school pitching prospect in Illinois since former Minooka High star Mike Foltynewicz, a 2010 first-round pick (19th overall) of the Houston Astros.
Among the other metro-east players that could be drafted or have the potential to sign with a pro team include Florida State left-hander Bryant Holtmann (Central High), University of Pennsylvania catcher Austin Bossart (O’Fallon), Morehead State first baseman Kane Sweeney (Belleville West), O’Fallon High pitcher Chris Holba and University of Tampa catcher Nick Tindall (O’Fallon).
The two metro-east players taken highest in the draft are both from Highland. In 1966, the Chicago Cubs drafted Highland High School pitcher Dean Burk with the fifth overall pick, just three spots behind Reggie Jackson.
After leading Highland to the Class 3A state championship in 2008, pitcher Jake Odorizzi was selected with the 32nd overall pick by the Milwaukee Brewers. Odorizzi now pitches for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Could the Cubs have their sights set on Hudson as well?
Haug said Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein watched Hudson pitch twice in person and Cubs vice president Jason McCloud also made a trip.
Hudson also drew a parade of baseball executives to his games all season, with everyone from scouting directors and player personnel directors to regional scouts and just about anyone else with a radar gun and high-end sunglasses.
Hudson helped Alton to a 30-7 record this season, setting school records in numerous pitching categories in the process. He was 10-2 with a 0.50 earned-run average, allowing only five earned runs all season (11 total) in 15 appearances and 13 starts.
The hard-throwing lefty struck out an incredible 150 batters in 70 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .138 batting average.
“We’ve seen him hit 93 or 94 (mph) depending on the gun,” Haug said.
Along with a fastball that routinely sits in the 88-90 mph range and has topped out at 94, the pitch that had scouts buzzing — and the hitters completely frustrated — was a devastating curve ball with a razor-sharp break.
Haug calls it “a hammer” and Hudson did a lot of pounding this spring.
“Getting a feel for it early on in his high-school career and learning it as a get-ahead pitch helped him gain confidence with it,” Haug said. “At 6-8 when he gets up on top of that pitch and his arm gets up there, it’s close to nine feet tall.
“It’s starting at nine feet and it’s dropping at your ankles —and it’s doing that a very fast rate. This is something the scouts really looked at.”
Hudson, who shot up four inches between his freshman and sophomore year, said he and his father helped fine-tune the pitch.
“I just kind of worked with my dad, he showed me a few grips and I kept playing with it,” Hudson said. “I just found out how to throw it and it worked. I can change up my arm angle and make it do different things. I can make it slide a little more or make it drop 12-6. It depends on the hitter.”
He’s not being drafted for his hitting, but Hudson’s athleticism is strong and he was a valuable contributor to the school’s basketball team as well. Hudson hit .436 this spring with 14 doubles, six triples, four home runs and 49 RBIs.
Those are some eye-catching numbers, but Hudson will be drafted as a pitcher.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Haug said. “Guys rise and guys fall for a variety of reasons. It’s what they like. who’s available, signability, how the board is stacked, how things are playing out.”
When Hudson hears his name called on the draft it will represent the culmination of a lifetime of work that got him to that elite level.
“Once in a long coaching career you have some very talented kids and you can win a lot of games with,” Haug said. “But that rare combination of physical tools and mound presence and the ability to focus, and also the professionalism to go about your business, it’s pretty rare. You throw all those intangibles together and that’s why I call him a once-in-a-coaching-career type of player.”