Popular former KC Royals player poised for key role with rival

It looks like Nicky Lopez may start at second base for Chicago.

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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A bit of controversy clouds the second base situation of the KC Royals. Michael Massey, to whom the keystone has belonged for most of the last two seasons, isn't displaying quite the kind of hitting some think he should, while others, probably relying on the strong rookie showing he made late last season, believe Nick Loftin is the Royal best suited for the position.

Add the recent acquisition of veteran Adam Frazier to the mix, and the club has a second base muddle that may require all of spring training and part of the upcoming season to resolve.

Such is not the situation in which former Royal fan favorite Nicky Lopez finds himself. Indeed, it appears more than likely that he's the second base front-runner for American League Central Division rival Chicago.

And that might be a good fit for the versatile infielder who for parts of four seasons was a staple of Kansas City's bench, and for the 2021 campaign its regular lineup, before the team traded him to Atlanta last summer.

Why might he be returning to a starting role?

Nicky Lopez is the leading candidate to play second base for Chicago

As it stands now, Lopez, who came to the White Sox via a November trade with the Braves, appears destined to start at second for the White Sox: so reflect depth charts appearing at FanGraphs and on Chicago's official website. And perhaps more importantly, the Sox haven't acquired any other veteran replacement for Elvis Andrus, their regular 2023 second sacker who elected to test free agency this winter and remains unsigned.

Chicago's other possible options are limited. The club signed veteran Paul DeJong in November, but he's a shortstop with little second base experience and appears set to replace free agent Tim Anderson unless the Sox somehow lure Anderson back. Former Royal and present free agent Whit Merrifield is also available but, at 35, he may seek out a stronger contender than the Sox are likely to be this year.

So it is that at least for now, Lopez is Chicago's best choice. But that isn't a bad thing. He's well-experienced at second, where for his career he has 16 OAA and eight DRS, and a well-above-league-average .991 fielding percentage.

Lopez's hitting is a different matter. Although he's best known for his stellar 2021 season, when he replaced injured Adalberto Mondesí at shortstop for almost the entire campaign and became the first Royal shortstop to hit .300, he's never had a year in which he hit better than .240. Perhaps the opportunity to start again, and for a club that now boasts so many former Royals players and executives, will jump-start his bat.

Whether the White Sox end up securing the services of a more accomplished starting second baseman remains to be seen. For now, though, consider the chances good that Lopez will be starting at second for the Sox when they pay their first visit to Kauffman Stadium in early April.

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