Hudson shows speed, power
By Jack Magruder
Early returns indicate evidence of success.
Hudson (Blue Jays) had two home runs and five stolen bases in the first two weeks of the Fall League season, spraying his name all over the leader board. He was leading the league in steals (five), triples (four), extra-base hits (nine) and slugging percentage (.942) while hitting .457-2-14. He ranks second in the league in RBIs.
"Stealing and dealing," said Scottsdale manager Willie Upshaw, who managed at Double-A Akron in the Indians system this season. "He's pretty daring. He has no fear out there--no fear at the plate, no fear on defense. He knows his strengths and weaknesses. He has some pop. He's a complete player."
A switch-hitter, Hudson hit both of his homers from the left side, one an opposite-field shot in spacious Scottsdale Stadium the first week. He also stole three bases in a 6-5 victory over Mesa on Oct. 9.
"That's not my type of game," Hudson said of his home runs. "That's one of those lucky spells. That's when the baseball gods are looking down on you.
"My game is to hit the ball in the gaps and get it in one of the holes somewhere. My game is not big fly. Maybe seven, eight years down the road it might be that. But right now, I'd rather stay within myself and hit the ball in the gaps or just drive the ball up the middle."
Hudson, 23, is building on the good production he showed over the summer, when he combined for .306-12-79 between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Syracuse. He also had 36 doubles, 11 triples, eight homers and 19 stolen bases, a career high, all while making the switch from third base back to second.
"Down here, I'm just trying to work on quality at-bats and try to work counts," he said. "I know I'll see good pitching. There is so much talent here, there is a lot of good pitching. There's not just one dude on each team. Pretty much everybody can do the job."
A 43rd round draft pick in 1997 out of Darlington, S.C., Hudson is just beginning to refine his skills as a base-stealer, learning pitchers' moves and tendencies, and the counts on which it can be most profitable to run.
"I'm not the fastest guy," Hudson said. "I just never thought about stealing bases. I'm going to try to make it part of my game, some way, some how, just try to do a little something on the basepaths."
Hudson, who played second base in rookie ball in 1998, returned to second this year after spending most of the previous two seasons at third base. The Blue Jays, in need of help at third in the big leagues after losing Tony Batista on a waiver claim, will continue to have him work at second base in the AFL.
"He still needs to work on turning the double play, but his range is outstanding," Upshaw said. "He reads the ball off the bat real well."
The difference for Hudson comes in reaction time.
"You have some big guys coming at you pretty hard," Hudson said about playing second. "You have to be heads up. At second you have a lot of ground to cover. I think second is a little harder. It's one of the hardest positions to play besides catcher.
"I'm loving this. I'm doing something I love to do. Wake up, come out and hit baseballs. Catch ground balls. That's my living. That's my motivation. You couldn't be happier to have a job like this."
Grand Canyon outfielder Austin Kearns (Reds) led the league with 15 RBIs and was tied for the home run lead with Maryvale's Bill Hall (Brewers) with three through the first two weeks. Kearns, a first-round draft choice in 1998, is already halfway to his summer home run total after a season in which played only 59 games with Double-A Chattanooga because of injuries. Kearns hit two homers in the second game of the Fall League season and was 5-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs on Oct. 8. Hall went 4-for-8 with five RBIs in a doubleheader Oct. 6.
Grand Canyon's Michael Cuddyer (Twins) wasted little time getting into the swing of things, hitting a three-run home on a 3-2 pitch in his first at-bat of the season. Cuddyer reported a week late after spending the final weeks of the major league season with Minnesota.
Maryvale outfielder Chad Hermansen (Pirates), who reported late after spending time with the parent team in September, was 3-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs in his first game. This is Hermansen's third season in the AFL.
Scottsdale catcher Josh Phelps (Blue Jays), also a late arrival, was 2-for-4 in his first game Oct. 12. Phelps was Southern League's MVP at Tennessee this season.
Peoria outfielder Kory DeHaan (Padres) was a single short of the cycle in a 16-6 victory over Mesa on Oct. 8. He scored twice and drove in three runs.
Maryvale outfielder Carl Crawford (Devil Rays) had 10 hits in his first four games, spread out over 10 days while he attended a wedding the first weekend of the season.
The AFL is experimenting with roster composition this season, with each team designating a small group of players to be active on Wednesdays and Saturdays only. The teams play doubleheaders every Saturday of the season.
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