In Hudson, Nationals will get a look at prospect they could have had

Last summer, when the Nationals were entertaining trade offers for Adam Dunn, one name that kept coming up was White Sox prospect Daniel Hudson - a 6-foot-3 right-hander from Lynchburg, Va., who was at the center of Chicago’s package of players in return for Dunn.

You know how things ended: Talks broke down, the White Sox eventually dealt Hudson to Arizona as part of a trade for Edwin Jackson, Dunn left in free agency and the Nationals got two draft picks in return - which turned out to be Kentucky right-hander Alex Meyer and Miami Dade College outfielder Brian Goodwin, both introduced at Nationals Park yesterday.

But if the Nationals had made the deal for Dunn with the White Sox, who ended up signing him anyway, they might have wound up with Hudson. Instead, they’ll face the right-hander tonight for the first time at Nationals Park.

Hudson is in the middle of a solid first season in the majors, despite having received some bad luck; hitters have a .315 average on balls put in play against him, and his Fielding Independent Pitching rating, which measures a pitcher’s success based only on walks, strikeouts and home runs, is an impressive 3.18, better than his actual ERA of 3.83. Still, he has won 12 games, striking out 130 batters in 171 1/3 innings with a good fastball-slider-changeup mix, and he’s got a chance to pitch for the Diamondbacks in the playoffs.

We won’t know for several years if the Nationals did the right thing in taking draft picks instead of prospects for Dunn; considering the White Sox were willing to part with Hudson for Jackson, it seems likely they would have done so for Dunn. But at the very least tonight, the Nationals will face a solid young pitcher who’s setting a baseline for where some of their talented prospects could end up.