With each run batted in, Hudson Haskin’s stock rose. Scouts wanted to see the Tulane freshman with the unique swing, the one who hit .372 with 52 RBIs and 10 home runs in 2019. They wanted to see the blossoming center fielder with a mix of each tool, from speed to power.
But the attention was a double-edged sword — a sign he’d be able to compete at the next level yet an invitation to criticism he was unaccustomed to receiving. As scouts descended on New Orleans, Hudson began hearing the negative comments, describing his swing as “unorthodox.” Others said it was “weird.” Haskin heard “ugly” thrown around from time to time.
The last-second crouch, the leg kick — some paid attention to that more so than the result.
“Those are things I’ve never heard before about my swing,” Haskin said. “I always had a vision that it was normal and nothing was ever wrong with it.”
The sudden exposure to the criticism rattled Haskin, sending him into an experimental mode that altered the swing he’d known all his life. In a shortened sophomore season, his slugging percentage dipped .147 points. And as he struggled in his first instructional league with the Orioles after they made him the 39th overall pick in the second round of the 2020 MLB draft, there came a realization.
As Hudson worried about the external opinions of his swing, he underperformed, continually changing his swing to find a solution that looked more pleasing to the general observer. It was exhausting.
So, in the 2020 offseason, Haskin made a resolution. He watched videos of his swings from his freshman year at Tulane. He wanted to revert to that version of himself — the version that got him to that point, before the tinkering took over. When Haskin relented and allowed himself to go back to his original swing, he began feeling looser. And the production soon followed.
“I think it was just the battle of trying to be somebody I wasn’t and realizing that your window of opportunity in this game is very small,” Haskin said. “And that, whatever happens, I want to go out my way. I don’t want to have any regrets. And I’ve had success throughout my amateur career being who I am as a player, so why am I going to change that?”
It doesn’t mean Haskin hasn’t made adjustments. Since arriving with the Orioles, his freshman year swing has gone through a series of changes as he aims to make it more repeatable.
Haskin credited a tight inner circle for helping him have the confidence to be himself and the Orioles for opting against a swing overhaul, focusing instead on his approach at the plate. Some of the movements — such as his crouch — are less defined. And his leg kick is more of a hover now, a timing mechanism that helps him against arms he faces for the Double-A Bowie Baysox.
“The biggest thing was mentally accepting that it was different and letting my body hit the way I know,” Haskin. “What really matters is: Does it work? Am I helping the team win? And am I being consistent? And if I’m doing those three things, then at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what someone else’s opinion of how my swing looks is.”
But even when he looks back at the previous iteration of his swing as a freshman, Haskin, the 22nd-ranked prospect in the Orioles’ farm system according to Baseball America, doesn’t understand the ever-present label that’s been thrust on him since.
Calling it unorthodox? Haskin points to his hands — the most important part of his swing — and how they are quick to the ball and stay through the zone. That’s a foundational approach for every great hitter. His lower half movement doesn’t change that.
“What he has works,” said Branden Becker, the hitting coach at Double-A Bowie. “And obviously, if there’s an adjustment we need to make, he’s an elite mover, an elite athlete able to make that adjustment.”
Haskin credits much of the unorthodox label to a video from the Prospect Pipeline, which posted a batting practice session of Haskin’s from 2020.
That was when he was undergoing a “swing overhaul,” and that particular session featured a high leg kick, with his foot leaving the ground at the beginning of his load. He’d go from upright to crouched, drawing comparisons to Hunter Pence in the process.
“A lot of people use that video as a baseline,” Haskin said. “But I don’t think that’s necessarily my swing. I was in an experimental phase, and I was in a bad round of [batting practice]. Because of that, people just kind of label me as, ‘Oh he has a super unorthodox swing.’”
At one point, that label bothered him. It forced him into all sorts of adjustments, getting away from what gave him success throughout his amateur career and at Tulane. But once he got over that hump, the label has become something more motivational, a way to drive him forward when others while others share doubt.
Entering Friday, Haskin holds a .483 batting average with four home runs for Double-A Bowie, the kind of production that validates his choice to revert to the swing style he’s known all his life. He’s not naïve enough to think there won’t be changes on the path to the majors. To be on that path as long as possible, though, Haskin will trust his own swing over any outside influences.
“I don’t have it figured out and I know I’m going to have to continue to make adjustments,” Haskin said. “But having people say I’m not going to be able to hit motivates me. I want to prove myself right rather than prove them wrong.”
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