Next up in our series of examining Pittsburgh Pirates prospects with an important season ahead in 2022 is outfielder Hudson Head
Throughout the offseason there has been plenty of discussion surrounding the farm system of the Pittsburgh Pirates. While the highly touted Pirate farm system has plenty of prospects who are trending upward there are also plenty in need of a bounce back season in 2022.
This past weekend we identified right-handed pitcher Tahnaj Thomas as a Pirate prospect with an important 2022 season ahead. After struggling in 2021 Thomas slid down Pittsburgh Pirates prospect rankings, leaving him in need of a bounce back season. Another prospect that falls into this category is outfielder Hudson Head.
Head came to the Pittsburgh Pirates last offseason as the center piece of the Joe Musgrove trade. When Head was traded from San Diego to Pittsburgh he was viewed as a toolsy outfielder who had a MLB ceiling of a power hitting center fielder who could also play plus defense.
Obviously these tools remain for Head. However, after struggling in 2021 he plummeted down prospect boards. Head went from being ranked as the 11th best prospect in the Pirate system per FanGraphs to number 41. He also saw his future value fall from 45 to 40.
Head’s biggest issue in 2021 is the same thing that has plagued him throughout his professional career, a major swing-and-miss issue. Last season Head struck out at a 31.6% clip in 434 plate appearances for Low-A Bradenton.
When the Pirates acquired Head the big concern about him as a player was a swing that could be susceptible to swing-and-miss problems. These concerns came full circle in 2021 and were a contributing factor to Head posting a .213/.362/.394 slash line.
While Head struggled with contact last season he did not struggle getting on base. He drew walks at a healthy 15.7% clip. Also, when he did make contact, it was solid contact. The left-handed hitting Head had a career-best 22.1% line drive rate.
Head did struggle putting the ball in the air as well. His fly ball rate of 35.6% was a more than 5% drop from 2019. With a drop in fly ball rate came a rise in ground ball rate. Not only does Head need to work on fixing his swing-and-miss issue, he also needs to put the ball in the air more and on the ground less.
During the 2019 season, Head’s only other professional season, he struck out at a 20.6% clip in rookie-ball. If Head could get his strikeout rate back down to 20% the Pittsburgh Pirates would be ecstatic. This would lead to Head making more contact and being able to flash his plus power potential more, as well as getting on base more where he can be a game wrecker with his speed.
If the 2022 season does not see Head fix his swing issues that has led to him developing a swing-and-miss issue he could quickly begin to teeter on non-prospect status. He will turn 21-years-old on April 8th and still does not appear anywhere near ready for Double-A yet.
With a strong start to the season with High-A Greensboro, his likely starting spot for 2022, Head could garner a promotion to Altoona by the end of the season. If he continues to struggle with swing-and-miss issues however, then the former 84th overall draft choice could find himself willowing away in prospect purgatory.