Despite dealing with a hand injury during the final month of the season, Nicky Lopez showed remarkable improvement for the Kansas City Royals.
In his first full season in the big leagues, Nicky Lopez played sparingly but saw more time in the absences of Adalberto Mondesi who went down twice with a dislocated shoulder. Mondesi is expected to be ready by Opening Day next season but the Kansas City Royals could have quite the log-jam on the infield, especially with a new and improved Nicky Lopez.
Lopez, 24, will be starting his offseason diet and exercise program shortly with the hope that he can take a second-year leap similar to Whit Merrifield from 2016 to 2017.
"“This offseason I will be spending it in Arizona working with the staff at the complex every week”, Lopez recently told me. “I am super excited and ready to get after it. I have met with the nutritionist and will be looking to go on a strict dietary plan to help me eat the right stuff that will benefit my body. I look to get stronger this offseason and I am excited to see it carry over into the season.”"
Lopez was in the bottom 4 percent of the league in terms of average exit velocity at just 83.8 mph but put together a pretty convincing September, including a 0.289/0.333/0.444 line with 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 5 RBI in 48 plate appearances. And he did that all dealing with a hand injury, that should have, theoretically, hampered his production.
"“Towards the end of the season, I was battling a little hand injury that was nagging for about a month or so. I got jammed pretty bad a couple times and then got slid into at second base that aggravated it as well. We have a great training staff that helped me out a ton and mad it possible to keep playing every day. I feel great now and am ready to get after it this offseason.”"
As far next season goes, a great Spring Training could very well get Lopez into the everyday starting second base gig which would likely move Merrifield to the outfield on a permanent basis. It raises the question of where Lopez should be batting order as he did well in the second and ninth spot in the order with a 0.278/0.350/0.367 and 0.265/0.282/0.325 line, respectively.
"“Next season, I just want to build off of this season. There is a big learning curve when you get to the big leagues. You are playing against the best in the world every single day, so it is something that I’ll take time to get adjusted too. Like every level I have been too, it takes me a little bit to get used to. But I expect to just build off of this year and I think our team can do great things in the near future.”"
Lopez taking that next step is just one in a series of moves that need to happen for this team to keep progressing in the right direction. By the way, a big shoutout to Nicky for taking the time to chat with us.