2020 KC Royals player season preview: Nicky Lopez

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images /

Nicky Lopez had a rough 2019 season with the KC Royals. After a successful offseason, he should be poised for a much better 2020.

Welcome to the continuation of Kings of Kauffman‘s 2020 KC Royals season previews. Leading up to spring training, we’ll be breaking down 30 different Royals. Our analysis will include what they accomplished last season, what to expect this season, along with any other information pertinent to the player. Today’s subject: Nicky Lopez.

Lopez was a fifth-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. After putting together an excellent junior season at Creighton, he joined the Royals organization and spent the next few seasons working his way through the minor league system. He ended up splitting time between AA and AAA in 2018, and the results after the promotion were promising.

In 57 games with Omaha, Lopez posted a .278/.364/.417 line with a career-high seven home runs. To open up the following campaign, a .457 OBP and .500 SLG made for an amazing .957 OPS. Despite not being a power hitter, Lopez had clearly mastered Triple-A pitching and was ready to join the MLB squad.

What did he offer last season?

Lopez debuted with the Royals on May 14 and played a total of 102 games in 2019. There’s no beating around the bush: His season stats are hard to look at (.240/.276/.325 line with an OPS of .601). A deeper dive into the splits, though, will show that he improved over the course of the season.

In Lopez’s first 75 games of the season, he hit .221 and had an OBP of .261. He walked 15 times and struck out 41 times. Overall, the guy known for his professional approach at the plate looked completely lost. Then, something seemed to click.

Lopez had a 12-game hitting streak that ran from the middle of Aug. to nearly the end of the month. From the beginning of that streak to the final game of the season (a 28-game sample size), he posted a .298/.320/.436 line and struck out just 10 times. In the month of Sept., the second baseman’s OPS was .778. How Lopez finished the season leaves a lot of hope for 2020. He did it all while battling a hand injury, too.

What should we expect in 2020?

Here are two stat line projections for Lopez’s 2020 season, courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs:

B-Ref: 401 PA, .251/.302/.376 line, 2 3B, 2 HR, 30 RBI, .677 OPS
FG: 560 PA, .272/.326/.377 line, 4 3B, 7 HR, 52 RBI, .703 OPS

Neither projection system loves Lopez in 2020, but both of them expect him to improve on what he did last year. This seems like more of a regression to the norm scenario rather than a breakout. Many of the members here at Kings of Kauffman are high on Lopez this year, so the FanGraphs projections seem more accurate. With that said, he put on 18 pounds of muscle in the offseason and very well could (and probably should) outdo the .703 OPS.

The verdict

Nicky Lopez has always taken some time to adjust to a new level after being promoted. The proof is in his splits with any minor league team. Heck, the proof is in his splits last season. Despite dealing with a minor injury and the pressure to perform well as a rookie, Lopez’s play got better and better as the season went on. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him have a great sophomore campaign.

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Do you think Nicky Lopez will bounce back in 2020 and prove he’s here to stay? Let us know in the comments below, KC Royals fans!