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A Written Apology to Nicky Lopez

Despite a bumpy start to his career, the Kansas City Royals infielder has turned things around in a major way.

I write this with apologies to Nicky Lopez.

First off, I am glad Nicky Lopez has proven me wrong. If I was cynical, it is probably because the Kansas City Royals and their constant touting of “potential” have made me that way. I have seen enough highly touted prospects in their system not pan out, so waiting before making judgments is typically a smart decision. I should have waited before making a judgment here as well.

While I have never been against Nicky Lopez, my main comp that drew ire was calling Lopez Chris Getz with a good eye. I thought his ceiling was a useful utility player with a below-average bat. He has been much more than that this season — and exactly what the Royals have needed.

Lopez has been one of the few Royals players who has lived up to their billing in the minors. We were told to expect Gold Glove-caliber defense. He has shown that at second base as well as shortstop, although he did struggle a bit at short to start the season. He has been great ever since and the fact that this is his secondary position makes it extremely impressive. 

We were told to expect a great eye and a better that will walk. This is now the case, evidenced by Lopez's .344 on-base percentage and his 32 walks to 48 strikeouts, which is a fantastic ratio in today’s era of baseball. He plays great "small ball" and his ability to put the bat on the ball in the era of the 3 true outcomes makes him a tougher out while driving up the opposing pitcher's pitch count.

The reason why I wasn’t high on Lopez was based mostly on the current state of the game. With analytics serving as the driving force behind my initial judgment, Lopez has bucked the trend of what most successful players do in today's game. He doesn’t have power, as evidenced by his .345 slugging percentage. He isn’t a complete game-changer on the basepaths either, boasting elite speed but only swiping 10 bags on the year. 

Lopez gets it done the old-school way. He doesn't swing out of his shoes. He doesn't strike out non-stop. He uses the whole field to his advantage. With zero home runs this year, he still has an OPS of .690. This isn't too far off from Whit Merrifield's .707. Now I understand that Merrifield is having a down year but I think that puts into perspective how solid Lopez has been without hitting a single home run. Couple that with elite defense and you have yourself a very solid, starting-caliber player.

The reason why I thought Lopez fit more as a super-utility player was because I thought Getz with a good eye was the correct comparison and I didn’t believe that was a starter on a playoff team. As it turns out, that is a useful player as a starter. His ceiling will never be extremely high based on lack of power and base stealing but if he continues to play at this level, he is a perfect back-of-the-lineup hitter or even a throwback-style No. 2 hitter. 

He is the perfect embodiment of the “keep the line moving” Royals. In Getz’s best year, he batted .275/.312/.360 with nine stolen bases while Lopez is currently slashing .273/.344/.345 with one more stolen base. Maybe the comp wasn’t so bad, and maybe that’s not a bad thing at all. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Lopez and his growth this season. Here’s to him holding down the second base job in a Royals uniform for a long time.