KC Royals: Nicky Lopez finishes strong breakout season

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Although Nicky Lopez doesn’t have the immense pop KC Royals teammate Salvador Perez displayed this season, he made up for it in other ways.

Take a look at Lopez’s slash line of .300/.365/.378, .744 OPS, and 4.2 WAR. Not only did he improve his batting average by almost 100 points from last season’s .201, but he became the club’s first shortstop to ever hit .300 in a season.

In Sunday’s season finale, Lopez struck out in the first inning, dropping his average down to .298. In the bottom of the third, he squibbed a grounder to first and hustled down the line to barely beat out Miguel Sano’s throw and secure his .300 average. He was then replaced by Kyle Isbel to a raucous cheer from the Kauffman Stadium crowd.

Also impressive is that Lopez was hitting a mere .224 in mid-June, only to turn on the jets and steadily climb back up. He reached .292 in late August, and hovered around the .300 mark throughout September before locking it in for the season in Game 162.

Nicky Lopez has been a surprising bright spot for the KC Royals this season.

It’s a wonder what a single season can do for a player. This is especially true with Lopez.

After hitting poorly in spring training, slashing an abysmal .118/.231/.142 with 13 strikeouts in 16 games, Lopez was destined to return to the minor leagues. There was a change of plans, however, when regular KC shortstop Adalberto Mondesi suffered the first of the injuries that would sideline him for the majority of the season, and Lopez was called upon to take his spot.

Not only did Lopez hit .300, but he was nearly perfect around the base paths, swiping 22 bases in 23 attempts for a superb .956 base stealing percentage.

Lopez was a Gold Glove candidate at second base last season when he recorded a .991 fielding percentage with only two errors. Although he lost out on it, he is primed to potentially lock one up this year as a shortstop—a position he didn’t even expect to play when the 2021 season began.

Lopez’s .987 fielding percentage places him first in the American League among qualified shortstops. He recorded the fewest errors in the American League with seven; his 371 assists and 77 double plays both rank fifth in the majors.

Although fans must wait and see if Lopez and a few other Royals will win Gold Gloves for their fantastic defensive seasons, what’s true enough is that Lopez has proved himself to be a pivotal player for the club’s future.

Next. Merrifield clinches another 40-40 Season. dark

Nicky Lopez capped off a great 2021 season by becoming the first KC Royals shortstop to ever hit .300.