March 22, 2010
By David Driver
For the The Columbian
Used with permission
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Last season, Kyrell Hudson made his pro baseball debut in the Gulf Coast League with the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Now the Vancouver product is taking another step to a possible Major League career with his first spring training.
Hudson, a third-round pick by the Phillies in 2009 out of Evergreen High School, is rated as the No. 14 prospect in the Phillies’ system by Baseball America, the industry leader in the coverage of minor league baseball.
“I am excited to work my butt off and get on a team,” he said in the opening days of spring training. “Right now we are in the conditioning mode. I want to feel comfortable with my swing and get in a groove.”
Hudson hit just .162 in only 37 at-bats over 10 games last season in the Gulf Coast League. But the Phillies are high on the speedster, who turned down a scholarship to Oregon State that would have allowed him to play baseball and football.
“I made my decision, and there is no looking back,” he said. “I am pretty much looking forward.”
Hudson said the last time he was clocked in the 60-yard dash was about three years ago and he turned in a time of 6.3 seconds. Chuck LaMar, the assistant general manager for player development and scouting for Philadelphia, said Hudson is “an outstanding athlete. He has a chance to be an above-average center fielder.”
Hudson hopes to begin the minor-league season in April with a full-season club, which would mean a jump to Lakewood (N.J.) in the low Class A South Atlantic League.
“That is a good goal to work towards,” he said.
A more reasonable goal might be Williamsport (Penn.) in the short-season New York-Penn League, which begins in June.
“We don’t want to put him in over his head,” said LaMar, the former general manager of Tampa Bay, during an interview in the Phillies’ minor-league complex in Clearwater. “We are thrilled to have him in the organization.”
Hudson is not the only Washington product in the Philadelphia system. Pitcher Trevor May (Kelso) is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the system, and pitcher Matt Way, who played at Washington State, starts the year at No. 28. All three were signed by Phillies scout Tim Kissner, who is based near Seattle.
“We make a concentrated effort in cold weather areas and we have had success in the Northwest,” LaMar said.
What did Hudson learn last year off the field as a pro athlete?
“Be more mature. I represent the Phillies. I have to be on my best behavior,” said Hudson, who is staying in a nearby hotel with another minor leaguer during spring training.
This is what the Baseball America 2010 Prospect Handbook said, in part, about Hudson:
“His tools aren’t in question, but area scouts in the Pacific Northwest questioned Hudson’s desire and makeup. He was suspended for two football games as a senior for breaking team rules and showed inconsistent effort during the spring (of 2009). That’s why a player with his tools was available with the 106th overall pick.
The Phillies hope to channel Hudson’s competitiveness in the proper direction and were encouraged his his progress and behavior in instructional league. His spring performance will determine whether he opens 2010 in low Class A or extended spring training.”
Hudson had an on-base percentage of .225 with two steals, three walks, nine strikeouts, two doubles, six hits and six RBI in his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League.
“Honestly, I wasn’t ready,” he said. “My body was tired because basically I had been playing ball all year. It was a good experience.”
Minor league spring training games for the Phillies began last week.
This is not the first time Hudson has been to Florida. He attended seventh and eighth grade in the Orlando area, less than two hours east of the Phils’ minor league complex. So far he has seen big leaguers such as Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard in the batting cage, since the big league training camp is about 100 yards from the minor-league complex.
“I haven’t talked to them. They are busy,” Hudson said.