Lopez could be a positive for Diamondbacks

December, 15, 2008
Arizona signed Felipe Lopez to a one-year contract, giving the Diamondbacks a low-risk look at a former first-round pick who has been a disappointment for most of his big-league career, since he was rushed to the majors by Toronto in 2001. Despite his up-and-down (mostly down) history, Lopez has ability and I like the chance this signing gives Arizona to catch one of his up periods.

You wouldn't know it from his stat lines, but Lopez has good raw tools. He can run, albeit not quite as well as he did before he started putting on weight; he has at least average raw power; he has good bat speed; and once upon a time he was a rangy shortstop with a good arm. He's lost much of this to indolence, seldom putting forth the effort required to convert his tools into performance outside of his one outstanding year in 2005. His midseason release in 2008 seemed to be a wake-up call, which, combined with some extraordinary luck, led to the best 169 plate appearances of his career. He's capable of sustaining some parts of that surge, and a .275/.350/.420 season with average defense at second base and value on the bases is within reach if he shows up in shape and sustains his effort level all season. That would make him an above-average second baseman at a below-average salary, and he could easily slug .450 or more given his raw power and the homer-friendly ballpark in Phoenix.

The signing does have a downside for Arizona. Orlando Hudson's defense was declining, but still above-average, and Lopez is likely to be a downgrade, which would leave the Snakes with an average or worse fielder at every infield position, which might turn Brandon Webb homicidal by the All-Star break. Lopez entered 2008 in a walk year and still was out of shape and playing in first gear for much of the season, so there's no guarantee being in a walk year in 2009 will lead him to fare any better. Those caveats are why he was available for one year and a salary more typical of a player going through arbitration for the first or second time, but at least this one-year deal comes with a chance for some upside.

Keith Law

ESPN Senior Writer



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