It hasn’t been the conventional path to highly-ranked prospect status for Hudson Haskin. So it makes sense that he doesn’t have the conventional look of such a player.
Haskin, an outfielder from Tulane University, is the 16th-ranked prospect in the Orioles’ system after he was drafted in the second round with the 39th overall pick last year. It was Haskin’s second time being drafted; he was also taken in the 39th round by the Oakland Athletics out of high school in 2018.
The second round is a high slot to be taken, but Haskin wasn’t someone who seemed destined for the major leagues from the beginning. He was 5-7 and 135 pounds in his first year of high school at Connecticut’s Avon Old Farms School, but after considering the path of former Avon player and fellow late bloomer George Springer, never doubted where he could take himself.
“I can remember sitting there, I was 5-7, 135, and I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got 6 inches and 25 pounds on him,’” Haskin told the Baltimore Sun. “That’s just been my mindset. If somebody’s been successful in my shoes, there’s no reason why I can’t.”
Now 6-2 and 200 pounds, Haskin is a player with a skill set that makes perfect sense for a major league team to covet. He’s got a mix of speed and power, and is a patient hitter at the plate, and has good range in the outfield.
He’s generated this kind of draft stock with a swing that, while quick and effective, doesn’t have a conventional look. He loads while the pitch is on its way, but then drives down during his swing, with his head moving down towards the ball rather than remaining still while the bat goes through the zone. By the time the bat makes contact with the ball, his head is about a foot or so lower than it was when he started the swing.
But that’s the thing. The bat makes contact. Despite his eye level changing constantly while trying to track a 90-plus mile-per-hour pitch, it all lines up in the end.
“It’s been something that’s kind of evolved over time,” Haskin said during an online conference after being drafted. “I think as I get older, I now have an understanding of what works for me. ... It may be a little unorthodox, but that’s what works for me and that’s how I’m comfortable hitting. It’s taken me 21 years to get to this point, but I feel really good with where I’m at now, and where I need to be moving forward.”
It’s hard to argue with the results. Haskin batted .363 in his Tulane career, with 11 home runs, a .457 on-base percentage and a .612 slugging mark in 73 games. Haskin was ranked the No. 74 in MLB Pipeline’s list of prospects going into the 2020 draft, and the Orioles clearly believed in his ability to translate that performance into success at the professional level, signing him for the maximum pick value of $1,906,800.
Haskin’s multiple tools allowed him to earn a high spot in a strengthening Orioles farm system immediately. He makes hard, consistent contact, and his speed has drawn comparisons to Springer, who hasn’t turned his fleet feet into many stolen bases, but rather into status as a strong defensive right and center fielder.
The hope is for Haskin to develop into a center fielder for when his Baltimore time arrives. There are some areas for improvement, however. According to his MLB.com draft profile, his arm is average, and he isn’t aggressive on the basepaths despite having the speed to be so.
Unlike other prospects on the Orioles’ rankings, who have played minor league seasons and thus given at least a hint for how they’ll fare with Baltimore’s affiliates, Haskin’s next minor league team will be his first, and so he’s almost entirely an unknown at this point. He did play a season in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, which uses wood bats, and he batted .306 with an .840 OPS there. It doesn’t appear switching to lumber will be a hurdle.
As for how well he fares against the improved pitching, that’s a different question. He’s on the Orioles’ Gulf Coast League roster and will play rookie level ball early, and provide the first glimpses of what’s to come.
And though that swing might look strange, hopefully the hits keep on coming.