Paging Daniel Hudson

Jake Peavy's detached muscle in his shoulder (which will likely end his 2010 season) clears a rotation spot for top Sox pitching prospect Daniel Hudson. Hudson, a 5th round pick in the 2008 amateur draft, has compiled a 2.90 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with a 43.5% GB% and a 364/87 K-to-BB ratio in 310.1 IP for his minor league career. Minor League Splits equivocates this production into a 3.94 MLB FIP.

Hudson has been relatively successful in the upper minors. Over 117.1 AAA innings between this year and last, Hudson has accrued a 3.38 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and a 132/40 K-to-BB ratio. A note of concern however: for the season, Hudson's AAA GB% has dipped to 40.7%. This may be a sample size issue, but this is the third consecutive year that Hudson has burned less worms than the last (falling from 50+% in 2008) and the Cell is not one of the better places in the league to lose groundball tendencies (per THT's "top secret" HR/FB% data, U.S. Cellular Field ranks second overall, behind only Citizen's Bank Ballpark, in HR/FB exaggeration with a 21.3% inflation index).

Let's take the above 3.94 MLB-equivalent FIP as the baseline for Hudson's MLB-projection. Assuming he takes over the role of SP5 and goes an average of 6 innings per outing, he would have at most 15 opportunities to start a game for a max innings output of 90. Given that he has already thrown 93.1 innings in the minors this year and only 147.1 innings last year, let's pretend the White Sox care about long term pitcher durability and innings totals and cap his season total innings at 177.1. That number would put Hudson approximately within the 30 innings range of the Verducci Effect and limit him to 84 IP in the majors this year. If Hudson does indeed throw 84 innings, he would allow, again assuming a 3.94 FIP, about 36.77 runs to score.

Right now, the White Sox are on pace to play ~1,444.1 innings of defense with team UZR total of -19.18 per 162 games. Assuming that Chicago's second-half defensive production remains constant, that would give the team a Runs Above Average Allowed per Inning (RAAA/INN) rate of approximately 0.0147. Per 84 innings of play, that would allow an additional ~1.11 runners to score compare with what the league-average defense would allow. If we add this to Hudson's defense-neutral runs allowed, supra, we get 37.88 runs allowed.

Finally, we look at park effects. Per Baseball Reference, U.S. Cellular Field has a park effects index of 8%, meaning total offensive output at the park is exaggerated by 8%. Since the Sox only play half their games at the Cell, we'll use a 4% index. This increases Hudson's theoretical runs allowed total from 38.01 to 39.40 (per 84 IP), yielding a 4.22 ERA.

Personally, I would peg Hudson's ERA over/under for 2010 slightly lower, between 4.00 and 4.20. He has demonstrated above-average control in the minors (2.5 MiLB career BB/9, 3.1 Triple-A) and a keen ability to miss bats (6.9 MiLB career H/9, 7.9 Triple-A plus 10.6 MiLB career K/9, 10.1 Triple-A). Hence, a sub-1.30 WHIP, provided the walks stay in check, would be entirely plausible in my estimation. K/9 might be a more fickle thing to predict. Minor League Splits pegs his career numbers as worth an upper 7's rate (7.69) and his Triple-A numbers in the low to mid-8's (8.67 for 2010). Given his consistent ability to whiff hitters in the minors, I would not be at all shocked if he posted a strikeout per inning. Still, I err on the side of conservatism and say he will post a K/9 somewhere between 8 and 9.

Juan Pierre, Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel and a struggling Gordon Beckham aside, the Sox still have three offensive juggernauts, who should provide plenty of run support, between Rios-Konerko-Quentin. Hence, my final over/under line on Hudson (which you can adjust based on your own IP beliefs) is 84 IP, 5 W, 4.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 79 K.

The bottom line is this: if you had Jake Peavy, you need Daniel Hudson. After Hudson, only Jordan Zimmerman, Edinson Volquez and possibly Brandon Webb stand out as reliable/tantalizing late season starting pitching options with the ability to help fantasy owners in need (with low ownership%).