Simply put, 2015 was a tough season for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. They got off to a hot start as they worked their way through their non-conference slate, but they hit the skids once they got into conference play.
When it was all said and done, they had finished 24-30 overall with an 8-22 mark in SEC play. They won just one conference series, a home series against South Carolina in early-April, and they limped down the stretch, losing their last six games of the season, series sweeps at the hands of Mississippi and Tennessee.
But the program quickly turned over a new leaf, and now there is a lot optimism around the team heading into the 2016 season.
Perhaps foremost among the reasons for optimism is potential staff ace Dakota Hudson.
Last season, Hudson played a bit role out of the bullpen. He appeared in 17 games in relief and threw 16.2 innings. He had a 4.32 ERA, but he flashed dominant stuff in striking out 26 hitters.
His star turn, however, came over the summer with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks in the Cape Cod League. In 11 appearances, including five starts, he¬†threw 42.2 innings with a 1.68 ERA and 41 strikeouts on his way to being named to the All-Cape Team at the end of the summer. All the while, Hudson flashed a plus fastball running into the mid-to-high 90s. The combination of his numbers and his considerable stuff put him squarely in the first-round conversation for the coming draft. For example, Baseball America recently had Hudson ranked 20th on their list of top college draft prospects.
Now, going into the 2016 season, the expectation is that Hudson will put it all together and head up a starting rotation that will also feature Daniel Brown, who similarly turned heads¬†over the summer. Last year, like Hudson, Brown played a smaller role out of the bullpen, appearing in 16 games, all but one in relief, with a 4.78 ERA.
With Cotuit in the Cape Cod League, though, he shined, putting up a 1.80 ERA in 40 innings of work as one of the team‚Äôs most oft-used starters.
The Bulldogs will need to be improved in all phases to engineer a full turnaround in 2016, but if Dakota Hudson can fulfill his immense potential and become something of a staff ace, with Brown settling into a role behind him in the rotation, they will be well on their way.