Kansas City Royals: Assessing Nicky Lopez and other prospects from AFL

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ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 8: A general view of a MLB ball and glove taken before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark April 8, 2007 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 8: A general view of a MLB ball and glove taken before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark April 8, 2007 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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The Kansas City Royals had several prospects participate in the Arizona Fall League. Here’s a look at how the players, particularly Nicky Lopez, performed.

The 2017 season came to a close for the Surprise Saguaros on Thursday. The Arizona Fall League squad, which consisted of prospects from the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Texas, finished the campaign with a 13-17 record.

There were seven prospects from the Kansas City Royals farm system on the squad. Four of the players were pitchers, Jacob Bodner, Zach Lovvorn, Jared Ruxer and Matt Tenuta.  Three were position players — one each from catcher (Nick Dini), infield (Nicky Lopez) and outfield (Elier Hernandez).

Position players

Lopez proved to be one of the stars of the AFL. The 22-year-old split his time during the regular season with Wilmington (70 games) and Northwest Arkansas (59 games). In Arizona, he hit .383/.433/.568 for an OPS just north of 1.000 in 20 games. The left-handed hitting shortstop managed five doubles, two triples and two home runs. He scored 15 runs and drove in 10. Lopez was also the only Kansas City Royals prospect to land on the AFL West Fall-Star team.

As for the other position players, Dini saw action in 12 games but struggled at the plate. After hitting a combined .302 between Lexington and Northwest Arkansas during the summer, his batting average dropped to .211 in the fall. Granted, the sample size is much smaller. Still it isn’t encouraging that Dini managed just one extra-base hit (a double) in 38 at-bats. He did manage to score six runs and put up six RBI.

Like Dini, Hernandez saw a sharp drop off in the AFL after a solid regular season. After hitting to a line of .317/.355/.489 between 46 games across Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas, his slash line plummeted to .206/.286/.309 over 19 games. Hernandez, who will turn 23 in the coming days, also had one home run, six RBI and 10 runs scored.

Pitchers

Overall, the Kansas City Royals pitching prospects struggled in Arizona. Of the four, only Ruxer managed an ERA under 4.00. The 25-year-old pitched to a 3.75 ERA and 1-0 record over nine games. The right-hander’s biggest trouble came from walks, issuing nine of them in 12 innings.

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None of the other pitchers put together a winning record, while two of them posted an ERA north of 6.00. Bodner put up the second-best numbers over his 11 appearances. His 0-1 mark belies his 4.22 ERA and two saves. He built on his success at Wilmington during the summer. Over 54 2/3 innings, Bodner had a 5-1 mark and three saves to go with a 3.29 ERA. Most impressively, the right-hander struck out 70 versus 20 walks.

Meanwhile, Lovvorn and Tenuta couldn’t string together outs during their time with the Saguaros. Lovvorn pitched 21 innings over six starts. The 23-year-old righty finished with a 1-1 record and an ugly 6.43 ERA. Tenuta featured in 10 games and fared similarly to Lovvorn. The left-hander had a 1-1 mark and 6.39 ERA. He did manage to put up 11 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.

Next: Royals minor league award winners

Overall, it would have to be said that the Kansas City Royals prospects, as a whole, had a rather disappointing showing this fall. Lopez stood out as one of the best young players to participate in the AFL this year. Hopefully, this fall is a sign of things to come for him and can be considered a learning experience from the other players.

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