Orlando Thill Hudson | 2B | 2002 - 2005
Orlando Hudson was born December 12, 1977, in Darlington, South Carolina. He played baseball, basketball, and football (quarterback and punter) in high school. Orlando was drafted in the 33rd round by the Blue Jays’ in the 1996 draft. We redrafted him in the 43rd round of the 1997 draft out of Spartanburg Methodist College, and this time he signed. The Mets picked David DeJesus with the next pick, the only 2 from that round to make the majors. Amazingly, 2 players selected consecutively in the 43rd round each played over 1000 games in the majors.
Orlando had a relatively slow but steady climb through the Jays minor league system. Players picked that late in the draft have to prove themselves at each level before moving to the next. In late July of 2002, Orlando was called up to the majors. Homer Bush started the season at second, but he didn’t hit much and was released May 10. After that, Dave Berg played the position, but he was more a utility player. Playing second every day was a bit of a stretch of his abilities. Hudson was hitting .305 at Triple-A Syracuse, so he was the logical choice to get a shot at the job. Hudson was pretty good, hitting .276/.319/.443 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI in 54 games.
Hudson started the 2003 season as our second baseman. He didn’t have a great year, hitting .268/.328/.395 with 9 home runs and 57 RBI. Orlando mostly hit at the back of the order. His defense was a work in progress, he wasn’t great with the glove right away, but he would learn. Fangraphs credited him with a 0.7 UZR/150.
In 2004 Orlando started putting everything together, hitting .270/.341/.438 with 12 home runs, 58 RBI, and 73 runs in 135 games. His defense improved too, Fangraphs had him at a 16.5 UZR/105. It was his best year with the Jays, Baseball Reference had him at a 5.2 WAR. He missed 20 games with a hamstring injury.
He had another good season in 2005, hitting .271/.315/.412 with 10 home runs and 63 RBI. He got his first Gold Glove that year.
The unfortunate thing is that he played with the Jays during a rather forgettable era. They did win 86 games in 2003, but that still left them 15 games back of the Yankees. In 2004 they lost 94 games. Beyond Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay (who had his second-worst season as a Blue Jays, going 8-8 with a 4.20 ERA, where he missed a good chunk of the season with a tired arm. The teardown period of JP Ricciardi’s reign wasn’t the best time to be a Jays fan. He had a way of putting together a team of average players.
After the 2005 season, he was traded along with Miguel Batista to the Diamondbacks for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santo. Getting Glaus got us Scott Rolen, who, in turn, got us Edwin Encarnacion, so I’m calling that trade a win. Part of the reason for the trade was to make room for Aaron Hill at second base, with Russ Adams penciled in for short.
Orlando played in Arizona for 3 seasons, then signed with the Dodgers as a free agent before the 2009 season. The Dodgers made the playoffs but put Ronnie Belliard at second for the playoffs. They lost in the NLCS to the Phillies. In the off-season, he signed, as a free agent, with the Twins, so Orlando got to the playoffs again, playing second, but they lost out to the Yankees in the ALDS. After the Twins, he went to the Padres and then the White Sox, where he finished his career in 2012.
After leaving the Blue Jays, he played on 2 All-Star teams and won 3 more Gold Gloves. He’s always been an ok hitter, but most of his value comes from his defense. Brian Butterfield gets and deserves a lot of credit for his defensive ability. He spent a lot of time working with Orlando. Orlando has great range and makes highlight-reel plays almost daily. He’s as good of a defensive player as we have ever had at second, depending on your view of Roberto Alomar’s glove.
In four seasons with the Blue Jays, he hit .270/.328/.418 with 35 home runs. Career, in 11 seasons with 6 teams, he hit .273/.341/.412 with 93 home runs.
Orlando is married and has a son and two daughters. He started a CATCH charity that raises money which “enables children with autism to enjoy a normal active life through the funding of outlets for proper therapy, education, and extracurricular activities.”
Hudson was a fun player to watch, he seemed to have a good time playing ball and he was a fun interview. He became a fan favorite in his time with the Jays.
He also made some news in 2010 by suggesting that there was racism against blacks in MLB, saying that Jermaine Dye and Gary Sheffield couldn’t get jobs because of it. I’m not sure that it was racism in those cases, but there is definitely racism in baseball, and good for him to point it out.
Orlando Hudson’s place among Blue Jay batting leaders:
Defensive WAR: 6th
Batting Average (>1500 PA): 21st, 270
OBP (>1500 PA): 30th, .328
Slugging average (> 1500 PA): 31st, 418.
Games Played: 45th, 462
Triples: 15th, 23
Orlando was the star of a rather odd commercial:
I wanted to find video of his defense, but I could only find this clip as a Diamondback: