New second baseman Felipe Lopez appears to be an awful lot like original Diamondback Jay Bell if statistics from the early stages of their careers can be believed.
Felipe Lopez and Jay Bell have almost identical production numbers through their first eight pro seasons. Their slugging percentages are an identical .395, and Bell has a slight edge in RBI (335-334), batting average (.268-.262) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.732-.725). The sample includes 933 games for Bell and 873 for Lopez.
The two have more in common -- each was the eighth player taken in the June draft out of a Florida high school: Bell in 1984 by Minnesota and Lopez in 1998 by Toronto.
Bell made a splash when signed by the Diamondbacks as a free agent in 1997, the day before the expansion draft to stock Arizona and Tampa Bay. Bell played shortstop most of that season before moving to second base and was an integral member of the team in its early success, scoring the winning run in the 2001 World Series.
Lopez, 28, signed a $3.5 million contract to replace free agent 2B Orlando Hudson, although his one-year deal makes it unlikely he will have as much of a long-term impact as Bell or Hudson (two Gold Gloves in three years).
"It was kind of a no-brainer," said Lopez, who played with Washington and St. Louis last season. "This team is young and has a lot of positive stuff going on. I just want to win. That's the main goal."
Lopez had his best season as Cincinnati's starting shortstop in 2005, when he won the NL Silver Slugger Award by hitting .291 with 34 doubles, 23 home runs and 85 RBI. He had less success after being traded to Washington in 2006, going from a severe hitters' park in Cincinnati to a severe pitchers' park at RFK Stadium. He was eventually phased out by the Nationals and released in July.
Lopez rebounded to hit .385 with St. Louis in the final two months of 2008, padding his average by going 16-for-31 against the D-backs. Only Manny Ramirez (.396) had a higher average in the NL over the final two months.
"I wasn't getting a lot of playing time over there in Washington," said Lopez. "They are a new franchise, and they are still trying to figure things out. I was not the right fit for that team. It was a good thing for the club to let me go. They were kind of holding me back."
--RHP Brandon Webb, who tied for the major league lead with 22 victories in 2008, has decided to bypass the 2009 World Baseball Classic. "While I am excited for Team USA and the World Baseball Classic, I am not going to participate in 2009 as I want to fully prepare for the 2009 major league season and hopefully bring the playoffs back to Arizona," Webb said through agent Jonathan Maurer. Webb has finished first, second, and second in the past three NL Cy Young Award ballots and would have been a strong candidate for Team USA.
--LHP Scott Schoeneweis was obtained in a trade with the New York Mets for RHP Connor Robertson on Dec. 12. Schoeneweis is due $3.6 million in 2009, but the Mets are picking up $1.6 million of that. He is expected to support LHP Doug Slaten in the role of left-handed specialist . Schoeneweis held left-handed hitters to a .178 batting average in 2008, the second-lowest by a lefty who faced at least 100 at-bats.
--2B Felipe Lopez, who will take over for Orlando Hudson, spoke to Hudson about the D-backs' atmosphere before agreeing to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. The two were teammates in Toronto in 2001-02, Lopez's first two seasons in the majors. "He is a good friend of mine, and he spoke highly of the Diamondbacks and everybody there," Lopez said. "I know my role. I know what I have to do at the plate. I just want to win."
--1B Tony Clark's camp continues to have discussions with the D-backs about returning, and it seems likely he will be back to reprise his role as a pinch hitter, platoon first baseman and clubhouse leader. Clark hit .249 with 17 home runs in 211 at-bats with the D-backs in 2007 but signed with San Diego last winter when the D-backs did not offer a contract. He returned to Arizona at the 2008 All-Star break.
--Lorenzo Bundy returned to the organization after a two-year absence when he was named the D-backs' first base coach. He replaces Lee Tinsley, who joined new manager Don Wakamatsu's staff in Seattle. Bundy spent four seasons in the Arizona system as a minor league hitting coach and filled in as the D-backs' first base coach in the second half of 2004 after a staff shakeup in which manager Bob Brenly was let go. Bundy was the hitting coach for Pacific Coast League champion Tucson (Class AAA) in 2006 before spending the last two seasons as the manager at Class AAA Las Vegas in the Dodgers' system.
DIAMOND STAT: 7 -- Regular second basemen in the D-backs' first 11 seasons -- Andy Fox, Tony Batista, Jay Bell, Craig Counsell, Junior Spivey, Scott Hairston, and Orlando Hudson. Felipe Lopez will make it eight in 2009.
QUOTABLE: "He is a great fit for our club. He can do a lot to complement our roster -- defensively, as a baserunner, offensively." -- D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes, on the addition of 2B Felipe Lopez.
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