When you are 18 and getting paid to play baseball, the question of maturity is one on the tip’s of people’s tongues.
Such is the case for a young Texan finding his way in pro ball in the upper Midwest.
Hudson Potts, a first-round selection in the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft (24th overall) out of powerhouse Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas, is providing an answer to experience-related inquiries as the everyday third baseman at Low Class-A Fort Wayne.
Potts came off the Parkview Field surface before a recent home game with the telltale dirty gear that comes from diving for ball after ball fed in practice by fielding coach Jhonny Carvajal.
“I’m just getting comfortable with different angles,” said Potts, who was a shortstop most of the time in spring high school, summer travel with the D-Bat Mustangs and fall scout baseball. “It’s quick over there (at third), that’s for sure.”
“I’ve got exposed on some balls.”
Potts has also picked up defensive pointers from Fort Wayne manager Anthony Contreras and from Padres roving infield coordinator Kevin Hooper.
Contreras addressed Potts’ adjustment to third base.
“His whole game is improving,” said Contreras. “In the infield, it’s a little different. I was a shortstop coming up and ended up moving to the corner a little later in my career. It’s a different adjustment in terms of reaction. He’s a tall, lanky guy that doesn’t have tremendous quickness so he has to position himself so he can react left or right. He’s still learning how to do that.”
“It’s different diving at short than it is diving at third. He has to adjust his timing at third base for balls to dive on or one’s he can drop-step on.
“His personality is professionalism. He wants to work. He wants to get better at that stuff. He wants us to come out and work with him on it and that shows his maturity.”
Potts, who does not turn 19 until October 28, was the second-youngest player selected in the first two rounds of the 2016 Draft. In Fort Wayne, he is starting in an infield that typically includes fellow 18-year-olds, Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, and Reinaldo Ilarraza at second base.
“We’re young, but we expect to do good,” said Potts. “We’re just one of the guys. It’s fun.”
The skipper has his take on all three talented teens.
“They’re still 18 years old. They still have a lot to learn,” said Contreras. “They are beginning to understand professional baseball and what it takes to come to work every single day and play at a high level.”
“They are starting to understand it and it is correlating to success for the team (Fort Wayne was off to an 18-10 start in the second half).”
How about the change from Carroll Dragon to minor leaguer from the offensive side of things?
“The pitching hasn’t been anything different from what I expected,” said Potts. “I have learned this first full season how to have an approach against different pitchers.”
“You make adjustments.”
Contreras also spoke about Potts, the hitter.
“With his approach at the plate, he’s starting to become a little more disciplined with his (strike) zone and understanding what type of hitter he is,” said Contreras. “He has a long way to go. He’s only 18 years old. He’s in his first full season. For the first four months of the season, his professionalism picks up him where he has flaws. He works hard on what his weaknesses are. He makes adjustments at-bat to at-bat, depending on what the pitcher’s doing. A lot of young guys have trouble doing that. He does a good job of understanding situations.”
Heading into play July 22, Potts was trending upward in plate power and patience.
After belting two home runs in his first 44 games, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound, right-handed swinger had launched eight homers in his last 42. He knocked out one in 59 total games at the rookie and short-season levels in 2016.
Potts drew just seven walks in 60 games in first half the MWL’s split season in 2017. He had already drawn seven free passes through the first 26 games of the second half.
The young Texan attributes the jump to more pro at-bats and his swing path.
“I’m starting to have some power this year,” said Potts. “I really haven’t changed too much.”
“It’s just working on my swing.”
Contreras said Potts’ awareness has helped his numbers.
“He knows what pitches he can hit and what pitches he can control,” said Contreras, a former Padres minor leaguer in his second season in charge at Fort Wayne. “The power numbers and walks correlate because he’s able to lay off pitches he can’t handle. He lays off pitches out of the zone and takes good swings on pitches he can drive. You take his talent and his ability to barrel up the baseball, you get the ball up in the air — especially here (in Fort Wayne) — they’re going to go. He’s also had home runs on the road as well. It’s all about his swing and what he can handle.”
Potts is also learning to adjust to the grind of what will be a 140-game season and how to take care of his body.
“I’m still 18 so I like to eat a certain amount of junk food,” said Potts, who does talk with Fort Wayne strength and coach Jay Young about the proper fuel. “I also get a lot of good tips from my roommates.”
Formerly known as Hudson Sanchez, Potts changed his last name to that of his stepfather after the MLB Draft.
Once he was drafted high, Potts decided to go pro instead of playing college baseball. He had verbally committed to Texas A&M as a high school sophomore and was going to study finance.
As a Padres product, Potts studies opposing pitchers and his own game but not the other players in the San Diego system.
“I do the best I can and just let it play out,” said Potts. “I can’t control all the stuff.”
A sportswriter for more than 30 years, Steve has covered many personalities around Indiana and beyond. His blog — Steve Krah’s Reporting Baseball in Indiana (www.IndianaRBI.com) — covers many diamond angles tied to the Hoosier State.