Maybe the hottest topic of the Royals offseason, if you ignore the fact that their two best players from a season ago left for free agency, was the performance of Nicky Lopez in the Arizona Fall League. After getting off to a scorching hot start with High-A Wilmington, Nicky Lopez cooled off a little bit in AA with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He slashed a combined .279/.348/.356 in 2017 between High-A and AA, and was sent to prospect finishing school in the fall: better known as the Arizona Fall League.
Once Lopez got to the AZFL, he lit the world on fire like he had to begin 2017. Slashing .383/.433/.568 in the Fall League, Lopez showed off some power hitting 2 HR and 9 total XBH, and damn near winning the MVP of the entire league (he lost out to the top prospect in baseball, Ronald Acuna).
After making a joke of the AZFL, Lopez had continued success in Spring Training this spring with the big league club. He’d hit so well, in fact, that I kinda wondered if he wouldn’t start the 2018 season with AAA Omaha. He didn’t, he’s currently back with NWA, but he’s starting to hit his way out.
On April 10th, Lopez was hitting just .133, and was once again struggling to handle AA pitching. Over his last 10 games however, Lopez is hitting .333 with 7 walks and 2 SB. His batting average is up to .280 for the season and Lopez looks a lot more like his old self. The only questions left seems to be: “How long can he keep this up, and how long until he’s in Omaha?”
I have a theory.
Assuming Nicky Lopez is still hitting come the second week of May, I think he’ll be on his way to Omaha. Adalberto Mondesi shouldn’t need to much longer in extended spring training, and he will soon be rejoining AAA Omaha. My theory is that when Mondesi heads back to Omaha, Lopez is going with him.
At the same time, Ramon Torres will rejoin the big league club and Ryan Goins will be DFA’d, never to be heard from again. This will allow Torres to man the utility role on the big league club, while Mondesi and Lopez man the middle infield for Omaha until…
Whit Merrifield is traded in July. Whit’s value will never be higher than it is right now, and the Royals have their heir apparent awaiting in the minor leagues. Mondesi will come up and play 2B with Esky at SS until Lopez is ready, and then Mondi will slide back to SS while Lopez mans 2B.
Adalberto Mondesi will be in Kansas City long before Lopez, but Humberto Arteaga will still be in Omaha playing SS with Lopez at 2B. Once the Royals deem Lopez ready for major league action, or September 1 rolls around, I believe we will see a Mondesi/Lopez MIF in the big leagues.
So there ya have it, Royals fans. I believe that Nicky Lopez is not long for AA and I expect to see him in Kansas City sometime this season so long as he keeps hitting. September baseball may not be meaningful in terms of a playoff hunt in KC this year, but man is it going to be fun to watch. Your potential lineup consisting of Lopez, Mondesi, Sal, Jorge Soler, Jorge Bonifacio, Bubba Starling, Hunter Dozier, and Ryan O’Hearn will have “future” written all over it. They may not win much, but it’ll be fun to watch the next generation of Royals grow right before our very eyes.