The Kansas City Royals were able to cap off their series against the Chicago White Sox with a win on Sunday, and catcher Salvador Perez was one of the stars of the show. In typical Perez fashion, he shifted the positive light to someone else on the team: shortstop Nicky Lopez.
Lopez, who leads the Royals in batting average and is having one of the best second-halves in all of baseball, has been playing away from his traditional position this year. It didn't take him long to adjust and as a result, the void of Adalberto Mondesi being out of the team's lineup for all but 13 games hasn't been as large as many originally figured it'd be.
Once Mondesi got promoted from his rehab stint, the Royals' managerial and coaching staff had a plan in place for a return-to-play program. It includes spending time at designated hitter and third base, thus keeping Lopez at shortstop and Whit Merrifield at second base. In postgame media availability on Sunday, Perez tipped his cap to everyone involved in the planning process.
"I think that was a pretty good move," Perez said. "Mondi (Mondesi) was fine with that, everybody agreed — just play third base for the last month and let Nicky (Lopez) at least have the opportunity to win a Gold Glove. He's doing a pretty good job, you guys see him."
Perez is right: Lopez is doing a pretty good job and truly does have a chance to win a Gold Glove award at shortstop this season. He's second among all American League shortstops in Baseball Savant's Outs Above Average metric, which is commonly used to determine how many outs a player has saved. Within that same group, he's first in FanGraphs' double play runs, ultimate zone rating and defense metrics. No matter how you slice it, he's been phenomenal at a position he wasn't expected to play in 2021.
Mondesi is a fantastic defender in his own right, but Lopez has earned the right to finish out the season at short. The Royals agree, and Perez agrees as well. While it remains to be seen what the organization's long-term plan will be for the left side of the infield, things shouldn't change too much in the month of September. With a potential career-defining award like a Gold Glove possibly hanging in the balance, it's safe to say that it's best for everyone involved.