Pittsburgh Pirates 2021 Prospect Preview: Outfielder Hudson Head

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

One of the most exciting prospects for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates to watch this season will be outfielder Hudson Head

This past offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates traded away many of their veteran players. Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, and Jameson Taillon were all dealt for decent prospect packages. In the Musgrove trade, one of the main prospects heading to Pittsburgh was outfielder Hudson Head, a high-ceiling prospect who could be one of the team’s best by the end of 2021.

Head was the San Diego Padres’ 3rd round pick in 2019. However, based on his talent potential, he could have easily gone in the 1st round. He got 1st round money, receiving a $3 million signing bonus. He received the 22nd most money among all players selected in the first three rounds. Head only went so late because he was his high school team’s quarterback and baseball scouts didn’t get to watch him very much.

After being drafted Head immediately started to perform in the minors. Through his first 161 plate appearances, Head put up a .283/.383/.417 line while racked up 7 doubles. All told, he came out to a .375 wOBA and 119 wRC+. Despite being just 18-years-old, the outfielder showed outstanding plate discipline. He walked 10.6% of the time to combat a strikeout rate of just 20.6%.

Head’s a highly athletic outfielder who primarily plays center field. He’s a good enough fielder to stay in center field as well. Currently, he has a 55-future fielding and arm grade on FanGraphs. He can also run very well with a 60-current/future speed grade.

Head is also a good hitter with the potential to be a five-tool player. His hit tool has a 60-future grade. Based on his plate discipline and ability to put up a decent batting average, he has the making of a strong contact bat. His power shouldn’t be overlooked either. While he currently has just a 45-future game power grade, he had an average exit velocity of 89 MPH at just 18-years-old, which is slightly above MLB league average in comparison. This gives his raw power a 55-future grade.

Many experts see Head as a potential 55-60 grade power hitter. After all, his high exit velocity for being just 18-years-old, elite level bat speed, and his 6’1″, 180-pound frame at 20-years-old are indicators that he has more power than his .133 isolated slugging percentage in his first taste of professional action suggest.

In terms of batted ball rates, Oakland A’s center fielder Ramon Laureano is a good Major League comparison. The A’s outfielder has a career 89.2 MPH exit velocity and 39.7% hard-hit rate. Laureano has been a pretty decent hitter throughout his career batting .267/.340/.468 and averaging over 35 doubles and 20 home runs a season. However, Head does have the upper hand in plate discipline as Laureano has struck out at a 26.2% rate while drawing a walk just 7.5% of the time.

A good comparison in terms of frame is Washington shortstop Trea Turner. Turner comes in at 6’2″, 185 pounds. Turner has, of course, been one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball the last handful of seasons. Since 2019, he’s batted .290/.365/.528 with a 131 wRC+ and .375 wOBA. Turner was also about the same size when he was a draft prospect at 6’1, 170 LBS. At that time, he was about the same age as Hudson Head is now and Head already has 10 pounds on him.

Overall, you’re looking at a guy who could be a consistent 3-5 fWAR player on a yearly basis. He could easily hit .290/.370/.480 regularly, which is very close to what Anthony Rizzo hit from 2018 to 2020 (.277/.382/.481) as well as outfielder Michael Brantley (.309/.368/.484). Not only could he be a consistent threat with the bat, but he’ll also provide above-average defense in the outfield. Granted, that is a very high mark.

Head already has the plate discipline and contact skills to make it work. After all, it’s easier to teach a batter to hit the ball hard than to hit the ball entirely. With Travis Swaggerty on hand, one of the top tier defenders among center field prospects, Head might have to move to a corner spot, but his bat should still play in either left or right field.

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Head is still a very young prospect. He just turned 20 on April 8th. His only professional action has come at Rookie-Ball. He’ll likely spend the 2021 season at the A-Ball levels starting at Low-A. It will be another 2-3 years before we see him in the majors and getting regular playing time, but Hudson is an advanced hitter that could be a fast riser.