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.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.