The KC Royals could use a few gifts for the 2021 season, and the Kings of Kauffman staff has just the thing for Nicky Lopez.
Happy Holidays and welcome to the first installment of Kings of Kauffman’s “KC Royals Wish List.” For the next 12 days, our writers will share their holiday wishes for the Royals. Whether they’re more offseason improvements, success in 2021, or hope for the future, anything could be in store. Today, our wish is for Nicky Lopez.
Nicky Lopez has a major league glove. There’s nothing wrong with his defense; if baseball measured success by glovework alone, the KC Royals wouldn’t give a second thought to who should play second base.
But Nicky Lopez also has a minor league bat, and that’s why his future with the Royals remains unsecure. How long the club should wait for him to hit is a legitimate question.
That’s why we want Lopez’s holiday gift to be a new bat. He needs it.
Take the 2020 season, for example. An excellent argument could be made that Lopez deserved to win a Gold Glove, and there simply isn’t a credible counter argument that he shouldn’t have been a strong candidate. But he failed miserably to show up offensively. He didn’t hit (.201 average) and didn’t get on base enough (.286 OBP).
Lopez went hitless in exactly half the games he played (28 of 56) and had only six multi-hit games.
His two-season big league slash is .228/.279/.307. He has a two-year OPS+ of 57.
As his three home runs in 594 trips to the plate strongly suggest, Lopez will never be a power hitter. A second baseman doesn’t need to hit balls over the fences, but he does need to knock them down now and then, something 44 doubles, 21 triples and 20 home runs in four minor league seasons prove he can do.
And therein lies part of the mystery of Lopez’s frustrating inability to hit at the major league level. His .296/.378/.403 minor league slash played no small part in the Royals’ decision to call him up and make him their second baseman two years ago. That good minor league work certainly came as no surprise—Lopez ranked as mlb.com’s 11th best Kansas City prospect in 2017 and its seventh best in 2018. But projections aren’t always accurate; in Lopez’s case, only the defensive component of those rankings have been correct.
A new bat would, if it turns him around, be a fine gift for Lopez and, of course, for the Royals. He needs to get on base more, where the kind of base-stealer speed he has, and manager Mike Matheny covets, could wreak havoc. More hits would well-complement the uptick in walks he worked pitchers for in 2020—his walk rate jumped from 4.5 percent to 9.4 percent.
So, Terry Bradshaw, muster up all your hitting coach skills and acumen and help Lopez find that new bat.
Nicky Lopez hasn’t hit for the KC Royals. We wish him great success at the plate in 2021.