On paper, Hudson Head is off to a good start this year.
The outfielder in Greensboro has a .286/.415/.429 line with a home run and three doubles in the early 2022 season. This followed a Spring Training where Greensboro manager Callix Crabbe felt that Head — prone to strikeouts from a longer swing — was making a lot of better contact.
“The swing definitely doesn’t look as loose,” said Crabbe at the end of camp. “That’s evident by the fact that he’s hit a lot of hard hit balls. Loose swings usually don’t product a lot of hard contact.”
There’s no question of the power potential from Head. Last year, in his first full season of pro ball, he had a .181 ISO with 15 home runs in a very pitcher friendly league. This year his numbers are down a bit, to a .143 ISO, with one homer and three doubles.
The issue with Head is that his swing isn’t consistently compact enough to not be exposed to breaking stuff. He has a 32.1% strikeout rate this year, compared to a 31.6% rate last year. The positive side to that is his walk rate is high, at 11.3%, although that’s down from 15.7% last year.
This has all of the markings of that dreaded three-outcomes path, which usually sees a hitter declining in power and walks as they move up and maintain striking out a third of the time.
Head has an advantage in that he can provide some defensive value. He can play all three spots, and gets a lot of time in center. He’s getting more time in right field this year, but the center field work isn’t far behind in playing time. He profiles better as a right fielder long-term, and has the power potential to fill that role.
You can expect some regression to the mean for Head as his sample size gets bigger. He’s benefitting from a .440 BABIP right now, which is why that three-outcomes profile doesn’t show as clear at the moment. He’s also benefitting from the home park in Greensboro, with a 1.030 OPS at home and a .743 OPS on the road.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that Head just turned 21 years old at the start of this month. He’s still young, and has very little experience. This year will be huge for him to follow and see if he can carry that raw power into games, while limiting the swing and miss tendencies.
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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.