St. Louis Cardinals

Hudson, O’Neill honored as Cardinals minor league players of the year

Cards first-round draft pick Dakota Hudson talks about starting his career

St. Louis Cardinals first-round draft pick Dakota Hudson talks Saturday after receiving a $2-million signing bonus to begin his professional career as a pitcher.
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St. Louis Cardinals first-round draft pick Dakota Hudson talks Saturday after receiving a $2-million signing bonus to begin his professional career as a pitcher.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced Monday their 2018 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year selections, honoring outfielder Tyler O’Neill and right-handed pitcher Dakota Hudson for their accomplishments on the field.

“Both players were important pieces of the Cardinals’ resurgent stretch run after the All-Star Break last season, and we look forward to their contributions in 2019,” said Mike Girsch, Cardinals general manager.

O’Neill, 23, slashed .311/.385/.693 with 26 home runs and 63 RBI in 64 games for tiple-A Memphis, ranking second in the Cardinals organization in home runs and eighth in RBI.

The right-handed hitter, who posted six multi-home run efforts, including a season-high three blasts against Colorado Springs on July 22, was recalled by St. Louis on five different occasions during the course of the season. At the time of his final recall on July 31, O’Neill’s home run total led the Pacific Coast League and were the second-most hit across all of Minor League Baseball.

He made 57 starts across all three outfield positions and threw out six runners, second-most on the Redbirds.

At the conclusion of the season, O’Neill was named to the PCL Post-Season All-Star team and recognized by Baseball America as a Triple-A All-Star, second-team minor league all-star, and the PCL’s No. 5 overall prospect and “Best Power Hitter” in their Best Tools Survey.

O’Neill, who made his Major League debut at Wrigley Field on April 19, appeared in 61 games (27 starts) across all three St. Louis outfield positions, 42 of which came after the All-Star Break when he led the Cardinals with a .523 slugging percentage.

Overall, the Canadian outfielder led National League rookies with a 14.4 home run/at-bat ratio (min. 100 at-bats) and finished 10th with nine home runs, which is the 9th-highest total in Cardinals history for a player in his first 61 career games played. His final home run of the season (and 35th between Memphis and St. Louis) marked his first career walk-off and extra-inning blast, a uniform-shredding 10th inning dinger off San Francisco’s Mark Melancon on September 22.

St. Louis Cardinals’ Tyler O’Neill has his jersey ripped off by teammates Yairo Munoz, center, and Patrick Wisdom, left, after O’Neill hit a walk-off home run to defeat the San Francisco Giants 5-4 in the 10th inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Jeff Roberson AP

Hudson, 24, was 13-3 in the 2.50 ERA (111.2 IP) in 19 starts for Memphis before having his contract purchased on July 27 and making his major league debut the following day against the Chicago Cubs. His 13 wins led all of minor league baseball at the time of his promotion and finished tied for second in the Memphis record books for a single season.

Hudson’s accolades included being named the PCL Pitcher of the Year, a PCL Mid-Season All-Star, and the league’s Post-Season All-Star at right-handed starting pitcher. Baseball America selected him as one of six pitchers (five starters) on the Triple-A All Star team and recognized him as the PCL’s No. 13 overall prospect and “Best Pitching Prospect” in their Best Tools Survey. He also appeared in the Major League Baseball’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Washington D.C. for the USA Team.

Hudson pitched out of the St. Louis bullpen, making 26 relief appearances and posting a 4-1 record with a 2.63 ERA. The Cardinals won the first 12 games in which Hudson appeared, and his four wins in those 12 games were one shy of the club record. Seven of his 11 holds came in the month of August, matching the major league lead that month.

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Dakota Hudson pitches during a workout in Jupiter, Florida. Steve Nagy

Total between St. Louis and Memphis, Hudson pitched 139.0 innings, totaled 17 wins and struck out 106 batters. He allowed just one home run and his 1.88 ground out/fly out ratio ranked second among triple-A pitchers.

O’Neill was acquired by the Cardinals from Seattle in exchange for left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales (July 21, 2017), while Hudson was the Cardinals supplemental first round draft pick (34th overall) in the June, 2016 First Year Player draft out of Mississippi State University.

Both players will be presented with their awards at the 61st annual St. Louis Baseball Writers Association of America Awards Dinner on Sunday, January 20, 2019.