My baseball “career”, if that’s what you want to call it, started in what was a brand new Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA. The drive to work was 8 minutes from home. I interned, which means, “I did everything nobody else wanted to do.” Like vacuum. Little did I know that somewhere in one of the ballpark’s concession stands lurked someone as hungry as those to whom he was serving Pork Nachos. Someone who, like me, was deriving utility from work by looking over his shoulder every few minutes to see the field and getting lost for a moment before remembering to make sure the kids on the bouncy castle in left field weren’t wearing shoes.
That person is Hudson Belinsky, whose credentials are impressive before you consider his age and then, once you learn he’s not even old to toss back a Yuengling, make you feel like you’re…I don’t know….only reaching Double-A by 26. Most impressively, Hudson has already been offered internships with teams and has written things for Baseball Prospectus. Most relevantly, he’s composed a top 30 list for Lindy’s Phillies Annual, a project being spearheaded by Liz Roscher.
I’ve contacted Liz about plugging the book, which just went to press. Where to buy it, what’s all in it…that sort of stuff. She’s insanely busy right now and still needs to get some of that information herself, from Lindy’s. I’ll update this post when that information becomes available to me, but for now, I need to publish this talk I had with Hudson.
My conversation with him lasted nearly two hours and we covered, literally, the entire system. I omitted some things to a) make this piece more readable and b) so we didn’t usurp value from the Annual.
Eric- Hey man, how’s it going?
Hudson- Good man, just dealing with this Upton business.
(Conversation about Upton trade, Hudson likes the deal for Arizona more than most)
Eric- So tell me about your list for the book.
Hudson- Obviously I don’t want to divulge the whole list because I want people to go get the book, but I’ll give you my top five. This whole process was a lot of fun.
Hudson’s Top 5 Phillies Prospects:
- Jesse Biddle
- Adam Morgan
- Roman Quinn
- Maikel Franco
- Tommy Joseph
Eric- How close is the gap between Biddle and Morgan, because a running theme in these talks so far is that you could justify sticking Morgan at #1. (Eric’s note: Not that it matters, rankings don’t really matter, only a player’s individual evaluation really means anything. Morgan’s future isn’t any different because he’s ahead of Biddle on a list or all the way down at #7 on a list.)
Hudson- I almost did it (stick Morgan at #1). The thing is… you’re going off of one good year. There are a lot more scouts who are confident in Biddle’s ability to become a Major League pitcher. Nobody thinks Biddle is going to be less than a #3 or #4 starter. As young as he is, there’s unusual certainty there. There’s a greater variance of opinion on Morgan. There are some guys I’ve talked to that think he can be a #2 if things break right, but then there are some that wonder if this season was a fluke. Morgan plays with that slider a lot and can really do a lot with it. Average changeup (Eric’s note: Again, I seem to be more enthused about his change than everyone else) average curveball (Eric’s note: Hudson’s the only person I’ve spoken with who has confidently attached the phrase “average” to Morgan’s curve, everyone else has kinda danced around it, “flashes average” or “could be average” or “future average”) and 6 control and 6 command. What’s important about Morgan that people seem to miss is the fastball movement. Even if the little velocity spike he saw this season doesn’t stick and he only ends up working 87-90 with the fastball, I still think there’s a quality MLB pitcher there because the fastball moves. I was once told, “Major Leaguers will hit a bullet out of a gun if it comes out straight.”
Eric- Let’s talk about Ethan Martin and the chances he sticks in a rotation.
Hudson- He has believers that he’ll stick. He has to command his stuff. If he could command it then we’re talking about a #3 starter or better, and you’re more likely to be patient (Eric’s note: or stubborn) if the payoff is that big. If they stuck him in relief and just cut him loose then he has late inning stuff. They’re going to give him as much time as he needs, and it’s going to take time to iron out the command, if he does at all. I wouldn’t bet on it. (Eric’s note: The developmental plan for Ethan Martin would make for an interesting post on its own. How long do you leave him at Double-A? What merits a promotion to Triple-A? Does he need time to convert back to a reliever in the minors or can that switch be made immediately? There are dozens of options.)
Eric- One of the things everyone says about Martin is that he’s athletic. If he’s so athletic, and those guys repeat their deliveries so well and therefore command everything better, why doesn’t Martin command anything?
Hudson- If I could answer that someone would be paying me a lot of money to do this kind of stuff.
Eric- You spend a good amount of time in Lakewood so I wanna talk to you about some of these lower level guys that interest me. Tell me about Aaron Altherr.
Hudson- The Phillies love him. (Eric’s note: Of course they do) They love his athleticism, they love his makeup. I don’t think it’s going to work. Maybe he becomes a fourth OF. But what’s interesting about fourth outfielders is that, nobody is a career fourth outfielder. Fourth outfielders are always ex-regulars who have aged into platoon splits or lost a tool or two over the years. You never see a guy come up and be a fourth outfielder for a decade. (Eric’s note: I sat and thought for about 3 minutes and came up with Todd Hollandsworth, Reed Johnson and Gabe Kapler as possible career fourth OFs)
Eric- Brian Pointer
Hudson- I’m a little more optimistic about Pointer. Bat speed, power, speed. When I first saw him in Lakewood he was swinging at everything, but he became more selective as the year went along. Realistically…he won’t make it. But he’s an interesting long shot.
Eric- Kenny Giles
Hudson- Relief profile all the way. Very inconsistent. I’ve seen him up to 97mph with an average slider. He doesn’t command it. If he learns to, he can be an eighth inning arm.
Eric- Let’s discuss some older guys on the verge of….give-updom. Jiwan James. I’m out, how about you?
Hudson- A lot of people are out. The one thing that you could say for him is he had a knee injury last year and played through it the whole year. He can play center field, a terrific athlete. But yeah, many are done with that.
Eric- Tyson Gillies?
Hudson- I think he could be really good. Could be an average hitter, plus defense, plus arm, plus run. He needs to stay on the field, though. (Eric’s note: I’m….I’m mostly done with Gillies. I don’t know, he needs his own post early this season)
(Hudson and I discuss Gillies’ off the field stuff)
Eric- So yeah, the charges were dropped. I don’t know why he was shirtless.
Eric- You’ve got a lot of contacts in the Phillies system…
(I ask Hudson a question off the record about Phillies scouts’ opinions of….uh…the organization’s direction)
(Hudson and I discuss Delmon Young)
Hudson- …So it tells me they’re not optimistic about Brown.
Hudson- One guy I wanna mention as someone who I think could explode this year is Jose Pujols. He has huge raw power. There’s a huge gap in what he shows at 5 o’clock and what comes out during games, but there’s something there.
Eric- What about some other babies?
Hudson- Well Tocci is obviously the first guy you have to mention there. He could be special. Playing GCL ball at 16 years old is amazing. The defense is good and he’s a 70 runner with a plus arm.
Eric- Is the frame there to build on or is this a kid who’s going to be 160lbs forever?
Hudson- I think it’s there. It’s just a matter of adding muscle. (Eric’s note: Having the frame to add weight in the form of muscle doesn’t always mean it’s going to come. Some guys are broad shouldered and tall but can’t fill out. They stay skinny and look like human coat hangers. Look at Kelvin Perez in the Yankees system. 6’1”, 140lbs as a teenager. He’s now 27 years old. Still 6’1”, 140lbs and stuck in Trenton) We might see him in Williamsport. Ervis Manzanillo is another guy I like in the lower levels. Fastball is up to 94mph, the change flashes plus and he’s working on a curveball. He’s just never healthy.
Eric- I know you love Maikel Franco, too.
Hudson- Yeah, I LOVE Franco.
(Hudson and I talk about Franco and discussing a move to catcher, which some scouts outside the org would like to see. But you already knew that because you read my talk with Jason Parks, right?)
Eric- I just think moving him there would slow the development so much and take away from concentrating on the bat. Seems like right field is the fall back option if he doesn’t work at third.
Hudson- Yeah, and they’ve got Valle and Joseph already. Valle’s a backup (Eric’s note: The receiving is excellent, pop times are fine, bat is a wreck right now) but Joseph is going to be an everyday player. We kinda know what we’re getting tools wise, plus arm, receiving is meh, plus power, hit tool is meh, approach is meh…. but people need to start talking about the makeup. The makeup is crazy.
Eric- I didn’t publish it when I talked to Jason but Jason told me that he once couldn’t find a single scout who thought Joseph would stick at catcher and now it looks like he’s going to, and it’s all because he’s worked insanely hard to do it.
Hudson- I love how Joseph is like 22 years old and looks like he’s 35.
Eric- Should we talk about Ruf?
Hudson- I think we have to because I’ve talked to that scout that comp’d him to Matt Holliday (Eric’s note: HAS to be the same guy who Jayson Stark talked to who comped Ruf to Holliday) and he’s right A LOT. He’s been right on a lot of guys in the past. And he was sort of…not into Domonic Brown, too.
Eric- Have you seen him?
Eric- You’ve gotta see it. I was there for a bunch of games in August when he went apeshit and it was frustrating watching the bad changeups and the lack of adjustment as guys continued to pitch him down and in. Mistake after mistake. The raw power is there, there’s some bat to ball ability. It’s just not enough for first base for me.
Hudson- I’ve talked to guys who hate Ruf, too. I’m just saying…this guy is right a lot.
Eric- Why don’t you talk some more about your process and talking to scouts?
Hudson- Ok. I know a good deal of Phillies scouts and I put out emails to some guys and make phone calls to lower level scouts. I try to keep in mind… tendencies? Some guys don’t like anyone, and I need to filter that into my evaluations.
(Hudson and I talk for 15 minutes about trying to get better at what we do and discuss our amateur schedules for early spring)
You can check out Hudson’s work at Halos Daily and on Baseball Prospectus. You can find the link to my other conversations with prospect experts HERE. I’m working to nail down specific times to talk with with Jonathan Mayo from MLB.com (who has said he’d talk with me) and ESPN’s Keith Law (who I’ve had lite contact with and am optimistic about getting).