Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Next up is Nicky Lopez.
When Nicky Lopez had a bad 2021 Spring Training—he hit just .118—he was assigned to begin his season in the minor leagues. However, Adalberto Mondesi’s injuries forced Lopez to step in and play shortstop for the Royals.
Lopez started out slowly and hit a mere .209 in May. But suddenly, he seemed to figure out a way to turn his game around and get out of his funk—he played to his own strengths instead of trying to hit for the fences.
This change in mindset worked miracles for Lopez, who managed to hit over .315 in each month from June to September. Lopez finish out the 2021 season with a .300/.365/.378 line and .743 OPS with 22 stolen bases. He even became the first Royals shortstop to hit a qualified .300 in a season.
But can Lopez keep up his excellent play?
How do Baseball Reference & FanGraphs project Nicky Lopez for the KC Royals?
Baseball Reference and FanGraphs don’t expect Lopez to maintain his high level of play. Baseball Reference predicts Lopez will slash .264/.329/.361 with a .689 OPS and five home runs.
FanGraphs (Depth Chart version) sees Lopez in a slightly more favorable light, projecting a .270/.334/.359 line with 16 stolen bases and five home runs.
What kind of season will Nicky Lopez actually have for the 2022 KC Royals?
One thing that’s noticeable is that Baseball Reference’s prediction is similar to Lopez’s career slash of .262/.321/.341. However, FanGraphs’ predictions are more in tune with what can be expected of Lopez. While a .270 average seems like a major decline when compared to his .300 mark of last season, it still shows that Lopez will continue his play at a steady pace and continue his improved hitting.
His .365 OBP from last season proves he can be trusted to get on base. And that percentage can only improve if Lopez gets more time at the top of the lineup when compared to the ninth spot he batted in most of 2021.
Although Baseball Reference and FanGraphs both predict a slight decline in Lopez’s performance, expect him to maintain an average above .270 and continue to shine on defense.
As long as Nicky Lopez continues the approach that helped turn his game around for the Royals in 2021, he’ll fare well in 2022.