KC Royals: Is Nicky Lopez beginning to breakout this year?
By Trey Donovan
Nicky Lopez was set to be a breakout performer before the season and he has begun to breakout in recent games for the KC Royals.
Last year was not a great year statistically for Nicky Lopez, and for many KC Royals fans, including me, the thought was that he was not ready and will not be ready for another year or two. Before this season started, the big news regarding Nicky was that he bulked up and a decent amount of people believed this was going to be a breakout year for him. Then that hype died down due to the season being shortened and once the season finally started Nicky got out of the gates slowly. In his first seven games, Nicky was hitting .143/.250/.143 with an OPS of .393, which is a pretty abysmal start.
The start of the season for Nicky was not the greatest first impression for many fans and it seemed that Nicky was going to have another bad year. Then something clicked near the end of the White Sox series with Lopez and since then, he has been great and playing winning baseball.
Since that series, Nicky has a 6-game hit streak while hitting a slash line of .300/.364/.619 with an OPS of .983 which is amazing for most players, according to BaseballReference.
Nicky has made an improvement in his ISO power, albeit in a small sample size, from .084 last year to an ISO of .143. That is a good jump and it shows that Nicky is starting to hit for a little more power compared to last year.
Two more offensive statistics that have improved immensely for Nicky have been his WOBa and wRC+. Nicky’s WOBa increased from .260 to .313 and his wRC+ increased from 56 to 100. He has gone from awful to league average in both of these categories, according to FanGraphs.
In this stretch, Nicky has also hit more balls at a higher launch angle, from 3.2 degrees in 2019 to 11.4 this year. With this increase in launch angle, Nicky is also hitting the ball a little bit harder at an 87 MPH clip this year compared to 85.1 MPH last year, based on graphs by Baseball Savant.
With all of these statistical increases this year, Nicky is becoming more well rounded, but how long can this streak go before he cools off? If I am honest, this could last all this season due to it being shortened, but it will probably last for another week or two before he cools off slightly.
Moreover, with Nicky’s stats looking more league average and a whole lot better than last year, he can use this season to refine his skills and have a full breakout season next year. What I mean is that this year Nicky is having a small breakout, where it is a statistical increase in most stats, but it is not so immense that he is a superstar, though, is on his way to being a stud.
For Nicky, this year is a prove-it year to see if he can improve at the plate to become a reliable everyday starter. So far he is proving that he is a reliable bat and he is showing that he can improve drastically in most batting categories. Another thing that helps Nicky is the fact that this season is shortened and he could use this year as a stepping stone to becoming an all-star in the majors. For this season, Nicky needs to keep this production while trying to improve even more to have a big breakout next year.
So this yea,r as I stated, is a small breakout, but I believe that if Nicky keeps working and putting up good numbers, next year will be the big breakout year people are waiting for. Nicky has all the tools to be a consistent and reliable player for the KC Royals for years to come.