Patrick Ochs

Dakota Hudson isn't Mississippi's only top-end MLB Draft prospect

By PATRICK OCHS

pochs@sunherald.com

BRYNN ANDERSON/ASSOCIATED PRESSMississippi State pitcher Dakota Hudson is expected to be a high draft pick later this week.
BRYNN ANDERSON/ASSOCIATED PRESSMississippi State pitcher Dakota Hudson is expected to be a high draft pick later this week. AP

Mississippi's draft class as a whole is much deeper than just ace right-hander Dakota Hudson.

This season was historic on baseball diamonds across Mississippi, regardless of the level, and the upcoming MLB draft will reflect the state's success.

Both Mississippi and Mississippi State landed regionals and Southern Miss just missed out on being the third Magnolia State school to host games this weekend. On the prep ranks, there's another trio who should get plucked high enough that it'll make them decide between going to college or turning pro.

Overall, MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com senior writer Jim Callis sees Mississippi as having a strong draft class with a good blend of players, especially at the college ranks.

"I think it's really deep," Callis told the Sun Herald May 20. "You're probably going to have seven or eight players just from Ole Miss and Mississippi State who get drafted in the top 10 rounds."

The gem of the class is unquestionably Hudson (9-4, 2.35).

Lightly used at MSU his

first two seasons, Hudson shined in the Cape Cod Baseball League this past summer, striking out 54 in 56 2/3 innings for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. He carried that success over to MSU as a junior, striking out 107 in 103 1/3.

Most mock drafts have Hudson being selected in the top 20 picks. Callis had the Houston Astros swooping up the right-hander with the 17th overall selection in his latest mock, although he admits he'd be surprised if Hudson is still available at that point.

"At the beginning of the year he was probably as dominant and consistently good as any college pitcher in the country," Callis said. "He went through a four-start stretch where he tailed off a bit but I think he's been pretty good the last couple times out."

Callis went on to call Hudson's fastball-slider combo one of the best in the draft.

"They're both better than plus at times," he said. "The fastball has velocity and run and sink. Everybody says as good as his fastball is, that slider is even better because it has a lot of velocity and a lot of break.

"He can also throw a curveball and changeup."

Who's next?

Next off the board could be any number of Mississippi's college standouts, but Callis is leaning towards J.B. Woodman.

The Ole Miss outfielder hit a power surge down the stretch of the season and leads the SEC 14 homers. He's also hitting .327 with 54 RBIs, 12 stolen bases, a .418 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage.

Callis believes he could go as high as the third round.

"Coming into the year I think you wondered if he was a tweener - not really the power for the corner. He's a solid runner but not a plus runner, so it's a little tough," Callis said. " I don't know how many pluses you give him, but you could still give him average hit, average power. He's probably a little bit better than an average runner. I'm not sure he's a center fielder at the Big League level, but he'll get a chance to play center."

Mississippi's finest

After Hudson and Woodman, Callis said Mississippi State's Daniel Brown, Reid Humphreys, Jacob Robson, Zac Houston and Brent Rooker, plus Ole Miss' Errol Robinson, could go anywhere between the fourth and seventh rounds.

MSU's Gavin Collins, along with Ole Miss' Brady Bramlett, Chad Smith, Colby Bortles and Tate Blackman, are in the next tier of players who could get plucked.

Robinson is ranked by Baseball America at No. 182, but Callis said he might end up putting the Rebel shortstop a bit lower in his rankings.

"He's tough to figure out where he's going to go," Callis said. "To be honest, he hasn't had a good year with the bat and the scouts I've talked to aren't real high on him."

Robinson has hit .271 with a .327 on-base percentage this season. Both are the lowest marks of his college career.

"Even on the defense, he's a good shortstop but he's not wowing guys with the defense and hasn't hit for average or power," Callis said. "I don't know that there's much offensive upside there and I think that really hurts him. He is the rare college shortstop who can play shortstop at the next level, but I think it's more of an average to solid shortstop; he's not going to be a plus big League shortstop."

Another intriguing player is Poplarville's Houston. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound right-hander has put together a solid season in Starkville, posting a 5-0 record with a 1.93 ERA. In 32 2/3 innings, Houston has struck out 32 against 16 walks.

"He can reach the mid-90s and has a cutter as his second pitch," Callis said. "He's intriguing because he's a big body with arm strength. He's probably sixth to 10th (round) if he's signable."

Best of the rest

Pearl River Community College's Zachary Clark, an Alabama signee, could be Mississippi's first junior college player selected.

As a sophomore, Clark led PRCC with a .350 batting average, 11 homers, 37 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.

"He's an athletic shortstop who is probably more of a center fielder," Callis said. "He can really run and has some raw power."

George County's Walker Robbins, along with Oxford duo Thomas Dillard and Grae Kessinger, are expected to be the top three Mississippi prep prospects selected.

The draft runs June 9-11 and will be broadcast on MLB Network and MLB.com.

Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at pochs@sunherald.com or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.

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