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Dakota Hudson Bound for Bounce Back?

Dakota Hudson Photo Credit: Jeff Robertson/Associated Press

Dakota Hudson looks to be in the mix for a spot in the 2022 rotation for the St. Louis Cardinals. After undergoing Tommy John surgery on September 28, 2020, Hudson missed the remainder of that season and the majority of the 2021 season. He made his first appearance after the surgery just four days shy of the one-year anniversary of going under the knife, pitching 8 2/3 innings in 2 games and earning himself a win. But will Dakota Hudson be bound for a bounce back in 2022?

People forget just how good Hudson was prior to the injury. Dakota was touted as a top prospect in baseball when the Cardinals drafted him in the 2016 MLB draft (selecting him 34th overall). He had stints for both the Gulf Coast Cardinals and Palm Beach Cardinals where pitching out of the bullpen he went 1-1 with a 0.96 in eight appearances.

Dakota Hudson Photo Credit: Andrew Jansen/ Springfield News Leader

He got promoted to the Double-A Springfield Cardinals for the 2017 season where he was named the starting pitcher for the Texas League All-Star game, and ultimately won the Texas League Pitcher of the Year going 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA over 18 starts. Hudson got a taste of Triple-A being called up in July, starting seven games (1-1) with a 4.42 ERA for the Redbirds.

Dakota Hudson Photo Credit: St. Louis Cardinals Twitter

The following season, Hudson was invited to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. He didn’t make the cut, but impressed enough to return to Memphis for the 2018 season. He went 13-3 with a 2.50 ERA and earned himself the start for the Pacific Coast League and was also chosen to represent the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2018 Futures All-Star Game.

That same 2018 season, Dakota got the call up to join the big league club. He made his MLB debut on July 27 and spent the rest of the season in the majors. While he was only used out of the bullpen, he compiled a 4-1 record with an ERA of 2.63 in 27 1/3 innings.

Hudson was named the fifth starter for St. Louis heading into the 2019 season and did not disappoint. He started 32 games for the Cardinals going 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA with 136 strikeouts in 174 2/3 innings. He finished the season in the top 5 for Rookie of the Year, and had the highest ground ball percentage in the majors (56.9%) and lowest fly ball percentage (21.3%).

Dakota Hudson Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports

While it is the one season in the majors that stands out for him, Hudson is 24-10 in his first 69 games (41 starts) with a 3.14 ERA in 249 2/3 innings and 192 strikeouts. His 132 ERA + is 32% above average.

Where the 27-year old fits into the mix as a starter going forward, is that with the high ground ball rate and a Gold Glove defense behind him, it’s reasonable to place high expectations on Hudson even coming off the Tommy John surgery.

He grinded his way through rehab assignments to rejoin the team last season, and if the eye test is anything to go off of, looks like the same pitcher we saw two seasons ago.

There are some worries that Hudson’s high walk rate (11.3%) and low strikeout rate (18.1%) as well as so much downtime might be of concern and could play into why Steamer has him projected at 150 innings, 9-9 with a 4.39 ERA for this upcoming season. As mentioned, he’ll have gold glove defense behind him, but if walks become an issue, the Cardinals may find themselves in a similar situation as last season having to find a pitcher that gets the ball over the plate.

Dakota Hudson Photo Credit: Keith Gillett/Sportswire via Getty Images

As the roster stands today, Hudson will be a starting candidate with the likes of Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Steven Matz and Miles Mikolas projected to round out the rotation, with Jake Woodford as a swing man/spot starter heading into this year’s spring training.

What do you expect out of Dakota Hudson in 2022? Do you think he’s a lock for the rotation or would you rather see the Cardinals sign another SP and ease Hudson back into that role after some bullpen work?

Let us know in the comments. As always thanks for reading and Go Cards!

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