Today’s Scouting the Unknown is targeting a pitcher that is close to the majors. The hitter, well, is more likely to be up in September, if at all this year.
Drafted out of Old Dominion after an up-and-down career, Hudson has pitched extremely well in his professional career. With three solid pitches, Hudson has kept hitters off balance since signing his contract. He throws a 90 to 94 mph fastball, a changeup that has become “excellent” during the 2009 season according to John Sickels, and a low-80s slider all from a low three-quarters arm slot. There is a curve he keeps in his toolbox, but he rarely uses it. When his arm slot drops too low, his pitches become flat. His throwing motion provides a lot of natural deception, but his delivery is actually quite “high maintenance” and often requires adjustments early in the game (according to Baseball America 2010). Although he pounds the strike zone well and is able to work his fastball successfully on both sides of the plate, he has trouble keeping the ball in the park (career .7 Hr/9, but a 1.3 Hr/9 this year and gave up three homers in 18 innings in the major leagues). Hudson has a durable, strong frame and throws strikes with excellent command (career 2.4 BB/9). How has his 2010 season gone at Triple-A (International League)? Well, take a second to glance over his numbers and then I’ll rejoin you.
2010 Stats: 10.9 K/9 | 2.6 BB/9 | 71 2/3 IP | 3.91 ERA | 3.41 FIP | 1.21 WHIP | 1.3 Hr/9 | 8.2 H/9 | .325 BABIP | 40.9 GB% | 21 LD% | 35.2 FB% | 14.5 Hr/FB%
Career Stats: 10.7 K/9 | 2.4 BB/9 | 288 1/3 IP | 2.97 ERA | 2.87 FIP | 1.04 WHIP | .7 Hr/9 | 6.9 H/9 | .296 BABIP | 43.8 GB%| 17.4 LD% | 34.2 FB% | 7.7 Hr/FB%
After an extremely rough April (9.61 ERA with 6 homers allowed in 16 1/3 innings), Hudson has been dominating opposing hitters. On May 23, he struck out 11 batters affiliated to the Colorado Rockies and walked only one. On June 8, he struck out 10 batters affiliated to the New York Yankees and walked none. His last start on June 13 wasn’t great as he allowed two home runs but only three earned runs. In his last 55 innings, covering nine starts, he has 68 strikeouts and 13 walks, four home runs allowed, and a 2.49 ERA. Hudson’s tendency to allow a lot of homers has already reared its ugly head with 10 homers allowed this year, albeit six of them were in April. This high frequency of home runs is statistically supported in his 14.5 HR/FB%, but this is a slightly above average rate, especially for him (keep in mind the small sample size).
Why should you be watching for his promotion? 342:77 strikeouts to walk ratio in 288 1/3 innings, or known as, strikeout potential with control. He’s a poor-mans Jeremy Hellickson who has won the MLB Minor League Player of the Year award in 2009 for getting promoted from Class-A, to Class High-A, to Class Double-A, to Class Triple-A, to the MLB all in the same year. His 18 inning MLB trial-by-fire didn’t go poorly, but he wasn’t nearly as dominate as he was in the minors (6.8 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in the majors compared to 10.1 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in the minors in 2009). With the Chicago White Sox playing poorly, especially all their terrible starting pitching, it’s only time before he is finally promoted and he gets to face the Royals and Indians. ETA? Sooner rather than later.
Koby Clemens | 1B/OF | Houston Astros | DOB: 12-4-86 | 5’11” | 193 lbs | B/T: R/R | Drafted 8th rd. 2005 from High School | HOU #20 ranked prospect according to Baseball America (2010) | MiLB Player Page
Yes, he is the son of future Hall-of-Famer Roger Clemens, and no, he isn’t a highly regarded prospect, at least not yet. Just last year, Clemens was not a ranked prospect. This year, he is ranked low in a terrible Astros farm system; John Sickels even gave him a relatively low grade (a “C”). Drafted to please his father, the younger Clemens has always been an underdog. Last year he exceeded expectations as he won the MiLB Class High-A Best Hitter of the Year Award by posting a slash line of .345/.419/.636 with 22 home runs and a 109:51 K:BB in 423 at-bats. Playing in an extreme hitters environment and home park at Lancaster and the California League, he posted great numbers at Home AND on the road (.352/.425/.662 at home and .338/.412/.610 on the road). This led Baseball America to say, “(H)as made great strides last year – shortened action in his hitting and approach … kept head still and maintained a stronger foundation … Handles pitches on outer half plate well. Projects as a doubles hitter with average power.” John Sickels was more optimistic by saying, “… [A]lways showed good power potential with decent plate discipline, but his hitting skills seemed to genuinely improve,” in 2009 (emphasis mine) , “… but his numbers in 2009 probably overstate how much he has improved.” How has he played this year at Class Double-A in the Texas League?
2010 Stats: .275/.374/.555 | 211 AB | 27 XBH | 16 Hr | .280 ISO | 6/2 SB/CS | 62:31 K:BB | .316 BABIP | 30.7 GB% | 20.7 LD% | 48.0 FB%
Career Stats: .278/.368/.472 | 1901 AB | 134 2B | 14 3B | 69 Hr | 26/10 SB/CS | 482:253 K:BB | .340 BABIP | 36.9 GB% | 15.2 LD% | 47.7 FB%
Here is what I said about Koby Clemens in the 2009 Houston Astros Minor League Review, “He will always be at least a level behind Castro as they are the same age and Castro is the better prospect. However you look at it, those numbers are hard to ignore. He isn’t a ranked prospect [2010 Baseball America ranks him 20th in the Astros farm system) as there are several players above him at the catcher position. Just wanted to point out his year as he had the highest OPS in the entire system.” At this point, he isn’t a catcher, instead, he is playing first base and possibly some outfield because his defense was sub-par at catcher and even at third base. So far this year, his Home-Away split looks like: .327/.426/.643 at home and .230/.328/.478 on the road. The power looks like it’s here to stay (in top five among all minor league players in home runs and a .280 ISO), the strikeouts are a bit too high, but the walks are fairly good although average, and his BABIP, isn’t making his numbers look lucky this year like it did last year. Oh, and even though the sample size is small, he is hitting .346/.470/.750 with RISP in 52 at-bats.
What does the Crystal ball see? John Sickels says he’ll be a .250/.340/.450 type player at Double-A. Well, Clemens is exceeding that expectation (seems like he is doing that quite a lot). Kind of like making the Texas League All-Star Game, along with some other great prospects (eight from Kansas City’s farm team alone) and receiving the 6/7/10 Texas League Player of the Week award. Double-A is generally accepted as a make-or-break level for fringe prospects and Clemens looks like he’ll pass with flying colors. A midseason promotion to Triple-A looks to be in order. With the possibility of a Lance Berkman trade in the near future and with no highly regarded prospects at first base in Houston’s farm system, Clemens may make the majors in September of this year with a shot to become involved in a spring training battle in 2011. That’s the best case scenario. He’s not as close to the majors as a few other prospects, but I’m starting this hype-train before anyone else can, especially since many don’t believe in him. I may be spitting in the wind and overly optimistic, but there is just something about Koby Clemens that says, “HEY! Look at me!” I’m looking, watching, and now waiting. Hopefully you are as patient as me.