White Sox promote fast-riser Dan Hudson to majors

The White Sox promoted 22-year old Dan Hudson to the major leagues Thursday, capping off what has been a whirlwind season for the right-hander.

Hudson reaches his fifth level in two years — fourth this year alone — with the move after absolutely dominating the competition since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. If you recall, their first-round pick was shortstop Gordon Beckham, who is turning heads as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate for Chicago, manning third base.

Hudson had to wait a little longer to join Beckham in the bigs.

In 2008, Hudson made 14 starts for the Rookie club, posting a 3.36 ERA in 69.2 innings, striking out 90 and walking 22. It was a harbinger of things to come.

Hudson kicked off 2009 in Single-A Kannapolis, annihilating the competition in four starts (1.23 ERA, 22 IP, 30 K, 2 BB) before batters in the league were finally granted a reprieve. For Single-A Advanced Winston-Salem, his ERA wasn’t as good — 3.40 — but his 0.98 WHIP showed that he was more than comfortable against the competition. In his final three starts for the club, Hudson posted a 2.14 ERA, with just three walks after his first five starts totaled 10 walks. Following that eight-start stretch, he was sent to Double-A Birmingham, his first true test.

People have long said the adjustment to Double-A from lower levels is far more significant than that of Double-A to Triple-A, or even Triple-A to the bigs. Hudson blew that notion out of the water, posting a 1.60 ERA in nine starts in Birmingham. That ERA came along with what is fast becoming typical gaudy numbers for Hudson: 56.1 IP, 63 K, 10 BB. The White Sox couldn’t hold him back any longer, so sent him to Triple-A Charlotte.

Hudson slipped big time. He posted a 3.00 ERA in 24 innings, walking nine and whiffing 24 for a 1.29 WHIP — the highest WHIP of his career to date. I’m surprised the ChiSox didn’t cut him right then and there.

All kidding aside, Hudson’s total 14-5 mark with a 2.32 ERA in 26 starts in 2009 was very impressive. In 217 career innings, Hudson has sat batters down by way of the K 256 times. Can’t argue with that

Hudson throws a fastball that tops out around 93 miles per hour, but Triple-A pitching coach Richard Dotson said the fastball seems harder, given Hudson’s “closed-off” delivery. Hudson mixes in a slider and changeup to keep batters honest. I can’t really see Hudson dominating in the majors with just three pitches. And it’s great that his delivery is “closed-off” but he needs three above-average pitches to succeed at the major league level. I’m not sure he has that repertoire yet.

FutureSox.com ran a comparison of Hudson to other Chicago pitchers that skyrocketed through the ranks. His results:

Hudson (Low-A, High-A, AA, AAA): 2.26 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9
Jon Rauch (High-A, AA): 2.66 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
Brandon McCarthy (Low-A, High-A, AA): 2.67 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
Gio Gonzalez (Low-A, High-A): 2.82 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Fautino De Los Santos (Low-A, High-A): 2.65 ERA, 11.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9

Interestingly enough, Hudson posted the best ERA despite the lowest K/9 ratio. However, he paired that low ratio with a 1.9 BB/9, better than anyone save Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy is currently with the Texas Rangers, posting a 4.61 ERA in 12 starts on the year. His K/BB ratio is 1.64, a far cry from the 2.82 he put up as a rookie with the White Sox in 2005. Injuries have robbed him of his effectiveness, although he could still bounce back. Gonzalez is bouncing up and down between Triple-A and Oakland, trying to establish himself. Rauch is a career middle reliever who turned in a couple stellar years in Washington. He just got traded to Minnesota from Arizona. De Los Santos has been injury-riddled the last two years, having rarely pitched in that time span.

Hudson’s rise certainly has been remarkable, but as that list above shows you, it’s not a recipe for success.

Hudson will probably contribute out of the bullpen and could grab a couple spot starts here and there. If the White Sox are smart, they’ll shut him down once he’s gotten about 20 innings at the major league level, then look for him to compete for a big-league spot out of spring training.

The White Sox may have had a disappointing 2009 campaign, but they’ve set themselves up well to compete in 2010 and beyond: most of their fat contracts are coming off the books — which was a motivating factor in acquiring Jake Peavy and Alex Rios — and with a couple shrewd trades and signings in the offseason, could be the favorite to capture the AL Central crown next year.

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