When we talk about some of the top outfield prospects on the O’s farm, everyone mentions Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad, but fewer make note of Hudson Haskin. But after a very solid 2022 season, when he played all year for Double-A Bowie, Haskin deserves to be noticed.
He was on Monday in Sarasota. Needing more players on a split-squad day, the Orioles brought him over from minor league camp at Twin Lakes Park, and he went 1-for-3 with a homer against the Detroit Tigers. He didn’t get a non-roster invite to big league camp this year, but given a small chance this week, he flashed some of his considerable talents.
Talents that make Haskin the O’s No. 15 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and fourth among their list in the outfield, behind only Cowser, Kjerstad and Dylan Beavers. Haskin is ranked No. 21 by FanGraphs.com and No. 26 via Baseball America.
He made some news for Bowie last April 10, when he hit three homers against Richmond in the third game of the year. He hit one out to left-center, one to right-center and one to right.
“That was a surreal experience,” Haskin recalled when I interviewed him recently at Twin Lakes Park. “Something I am definitely going to remember for the rest of my life. Was just happy to do something to help the team, and it was cool how supportive all my teammates were.”
That got the 24-year-old right-handed hitter’s year off to a good start. The player the Orioles selected No. 39 overall out of Tulane in the 2020 draft went on to hit .264/.367/.455/.822 with 23 doubles, three triples, 15 homers, 58 runs and 56 RBIs in 109 games for Bowie. He produced a wRC+ of 126. Among players in the Orioles farm system who batted 300 times or more in 2022, he rated fifth in OBP, seventh in OPS and tied for eighth in homers. He had a 9.2 walk rate and 21.7 strikeout rate.
“I was happy with my year last year,” said Haskin. “Playing that many games at Double-A was a big learning experience. Definitely got a lot out of it. Went into the offseason with some things I want to try and do better. Biggest thing was just getting stronger (this winter). Trying to become more durable and be able to have my body feel good the entire season. And also, just continue to work on cleaning some stuff up with my swing. Felt like it was a really productive offseason.”
How did he work on his swing this winter?
“Just becoming more efficient with my lower half. I think if I can do that, hopefully that will allow me to be more consistent,” he said.
Haskin gets linked at times to Toronto’s George Springer, a four-time All-Star who has finished in the top 13 in the MVP voting in the American League three times. They are from the same high school - Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut - though they've never met. Haskin broke some of Springer’s school records.
“I didn’t know that would be my claim to fame,” Haskin joked. “But he’s a great player and hopefully I can continue to follow in his footsteps. It’s exciting in a way. He is someone I’ve always looked up to and someone that has been successful in my shoes at one time. It has given me some hope and motivation to try and get to where he is.”
The Oakland Athletics drafted Haskin out of high school, in round 39 in 2018, but he went to Tulane, where he went from round 39 to overall pick No. 39 by the Orioles two years later as a draft-eligible sophomore.
Now he seems to be thriving in the O’s hitting program on their farm. He produced a .787 OPS in 83 games in 2021 between low Single-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen. His season ended early due to a thumb fracture.
“I think they (O’s minor league hitting coaches) simplify things in terms of rewarding the process, as opposed to just the results. And that can be helpful. Because it encourages you as a hitter to focus on the things you need to focus on because that is where you are going to get rewarded.
Not that focusing on process more than on results is easy to do. “It’s tough, for sure. Way easier said than done,” he said. “But I think if you want to be successful in this game, you have to live and die by your process, not the results. Baseball is such a game of failure that, if you live by the results, you will drive yourself crazy. So, I think the Orioles do a good job of trying to change every player’s mindset in that way.”
So make sure the pregame work and focus is on point and eventually some results should come, and they did for Haskin. What eventually clicked during his process?
“Just the importance of managing the strike zone. Think that is the biggest thing," he said. "If any hitter can do that, they will put themselves in a good position to have success. For me, I try to make sure my body is in a good position or not when I am making the decision (to swing or not). If my body is in a good position the rest will take care of itself.”
MLBPipeline.com says Haskin gets 60 grades for his running and fielding, 50 for hitting and 45 for arm and power.
He has 20 career homers in 695 minor league at-bats, but wants to focus on his all-around play and not just his longball count.
“Sounds cliché, but I try not to think about it," Haskin said. "When I am up, I am trying to hit the ball hard. It if happens to go over the fence or is a double, great. But, most important thing is just controlling the strike zone and hitting the ball hard.”
And on an O’s farm where many players are getting noticed for their play, Haskin is finding his spot as one of that talented group getting some recognition. He enjoys the camaraderie among the players and provides a line heard often in places like Aberdeen and Bowie among players pushing each other.
“I think, you know, iron sharpens iron,” Haskin said. “So, to be around so many good players has definitely helped me become a better player. It’s a great opportunity to learn from others and see what works for them and try to push them as well.”
Click here, via Milb.com, for a look at Haskin's three-homer game from last April.