O-Hud Versus F-Lop

Bad nicknames aside (personally, I like F-Lop...), two fairly solid everyday players remain on the free market, and they both happen to be second baseman: Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez. Similar to last offseason, there has been tons of talk about potential destinations for Hudson, while Lopez's name hasn't been bandied about with nearly the same frequency. It's compelled me to wonder why.

Now, Hudson is certainly a solid player in his own right, but his 2009 performance was markedly worse than Lopez's, and Orlando's reported asking price is fairly high, while there has not been much talk of what kind of contract Lopez is expecting. I just think it's worth begging the question: Is Lopez a better player than Hudson going forward?

Hudson will be playing the 2010 season at the age of 32, while Lopez doesn't turn 30 until May. Each player has proven to be pretty durable, as each player has played 130+ games in the past five years with the exception of Hudson's 2008, during which he still played in 107 games.

Hudson has consistently been a slightly above average hitter in recent years, coming off a third consecutive season with a wRC+ in the 112-114 range. But his contact rate and ISO have decreased in four consecutive seasons, indicating some decline in his raw skills. CHONE projects him for a 103 wRC+, while Marcel is the most optimistic projection among the ones available at FanGraphs, projecting a 111 wRC+. It seems reasonable to believe that Hudson will be around 3-5 runs above average as a hitter next season over the course of 600 at bats.

Hudson has also a reputation for being a plus defender at second base, but he's posted below average UZR's in two consecutive seasons and three of the past four years, accumulating a -9.2 UZR in the past four seasons. Jeff Zimmerman's UZR projections have him at 3 runs below average over 150 games for next season. Combine it all together, and Hudson looks to be about a 2.5 WAR player going forward, a slightly above average everyday player.

Lopez looked like a star shortstop after a breakout season with the Reds in2005, but consistency issues and a mysterious decline in power led him to lose his everyday job with the Nationals after a mid-season deal in 2006. After being released by Washington during the 2008 season, he parlayed a scorching finish with the Cardinals into a one-year signing with Arizona to be Arizona's second baseman. Lopez broke out in a big way, splitting 2009 between Arizona and the Brewers after another mid-season trade.

He posted a .310/.383/.427 line supported by a high .360 BABIP, but he showed major development in his approach at the plate, posting the second best walk rate and best strikeout rate of his career. His BABIP also was only partially luck, as he had a high line drive rate and a low pop-up rate, which indicate that he should have had a .340 BABIP in 2009 according to xBABIP from The Hardball Times. He no longer has the power that helped him to hit 23 HR and 34 doubles in 2005, but he has sufficient gap power and is a solid baserunner. CHONE projects him to post a .324 wOBA, but other projections are more optimistic.

The big thing worth noting is that Lopez appeared to take major strides defensively at second base, posting a +7.8 UZR in 2009. Small sample size warning apply, obviously, and Zimmerman's projections take this into account, projecting Lopez as one run above average at second base for 2010. Lopez posted a 4.6 WAR in 2009, matching his career high from 2005, which reflects the big time upside that he has. Projecting Lopez as about league average offensively, maybe a run or two below average, and one or two runs above average defensively, and you get another approximately 2.5 WAR player for 2010.

Factoring in everything, I see two very similar players in terms of value, one whose value lies more on the offensive side of the spectrum, and one whose value lies more on the defensive side. Lopez likely has more upside if he can maintain his offensive performance from last season though, and his asking price is likely lower than Hudson's as well, considering their reputations. If I had to choose one guy to pursue, it would probably be my boy, F-Lop.

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