It is difficult to know whether the Arizona Diamondbacks completely knew what they were doing in December of 2005 when they sent Troy Glaus and 2002 first-round draft pick Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Miguel Batista and 27-year old second baseman Orlando Hudson. The season before the trade, Hudson played in 131 games, scored 62 runs, posted a .315 on-base percentage, and walked only 30 times. Surely the Diamondbacks were acquiring him only for his defense.
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But the Diamondbacks got more than they bargained for. In 2006, Hudson played all but five games for Arizona. He doubled his walk total. He raised his batting average 16 points, his OBP 39 points, and his slugging percentage 42 points. His OPS went above league average. He finished with 34 doubles, 9 triples, and 15 homeruns, and one year after he struck out more than twice as many times as he walked (65/30), those numbers improved to 78 and 61.
Hudson was off to an even better start in 2007, and through 139 games, he was hitting .294 with a .376 OBP and a .441 slugging percentage. He also made the National League All-Star team, and his defense was being cited as one of the key factors in the resurgence of the Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, Hudson missed the last month of the season after undergoing season-ending surgery for a thumb injury. Nevertheless, Hudson established in 2007 that he is a key, perhaps even crucial, part of this Arizona Diamondbacks team.
There can be no doubt that Hudson's defense is key to the Diamondbacks success, but his offense is deceptively important as well. It would be difficult to argue that Orlando Hudson is an elite offensive second baseman – a mantle reserved for Chase Utley – or even that he is one of the top offensive second basemen in the majors – Jeff Kent, Brian Roberts, Dustin Pedroia, and a few others probably top Hudson at the position. However, on this Diamondbacks team, Hudson, oddly enough, is a key offensive player.
Consider: In 2007, Eric Byrnes led the team in hits with 179 in 160 games. Hudson finished second with 152 despite playing in fewer games than two other Arizona players. Byrnes led the team with 103 runs scored; Hudson's 69 were good for third. Shockingly, Hudson's 63 RBI were also good for third on the team, after Byrnes' 83 and Chris Young's 68, and he distantly led the Diamondbacks in walks with 70 while finishing fifth behind Byrnes, Young, Stephen Drew, and Mark Reynolds in total strikeouts. Perhaps most impressively, Hudson led the team in batting average (.294), and on-base percentage (.376), and bested both Byrnes and Young to lead the team in OPS with .817, compared with .813 and .762 for Byrnes and Young, respectively, despite finishing tied for eighth on the team in homeruns with 10.
Indeed, while Hudson appears on paper to be a defense-first second baseman, an argument could be made that Hudson is Arizona's most valuable hitter! There can be no doubt Orlando Hudson is a pivotal piece of the puzzle for the 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks.
Prediction: 83 runs, 15 HR, 78 RBI, .301/.378/.435
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