Historical Comparisons: Nicky Lopez

In the next piece of my historical comparisons series, I’ll be analyzing minor league players to post similar numbers as Royals top infield prospect Nicky Lopez. Here is a quick link dump for the other 8 comparison articles that I’ve done, feel free to give them all a read when you’re done with this article:

In case this is the first time you’ve read one of these articles, let me quickly explain how the process works. I take a few things that our Royals prospect (in this case Nicky Lopez) does really well, or really poorly, and try to find historical examples of other prospects that did those things well, or poorly.

In the case of Seuly Matias and MJ Melendez, we found that nearly every player to hit for as much power as they did in the SALLY turned out to be really good. In the case of Scott Blewett, we found that there aren’t very many pitchers that have been able to overcome some of his deficiencies.

The process is by no means perfect. It’s just a fun experiment that I do that I think some of you enjoy reading so I publish my findings. Let’s get to Nicky Lopez.

Some of the things that we know Lopez does at an elite level are:

  • Make contact (SwStr%)
  • Not striking out (K%)
  • Get on base (BB% (OBP can be too inflated from BABIP))
  • Create offensive production (wRC+)

Some of the things that he doesn’t do as well would be:

  • Hit for power (ISO (again, SLG can be a bit too influenced by BABIP))
  • Run at an elite clip (Spd (Lopez is certainly fast, but he’s no Whit Merrifield))

So those are the five statistical categories we’ll work with. First we’ll run similar seasons to Lopez at age 23 in AA. Before we start, here were the results from a very quick look up I did a while back with a much smaller sample size:

Here are the requirements for our new study:

  • Age 22-23
  • Min. 200 PA in AA
  • BB% between 7% and 12.5%
  • K% between 7% and 14%
  • wRC+ between 115 and 140
  • ISO between .060 and .125
  • SwStr% between 3.5% and 8.5%

The first thing that I did for the study was narrow down the list by ISO. As good as Nicky Lopez is, his biggest downfall as a prospect right now is his lack of plus-power. The next thing I did was narrow down the list by SwStr%, because arguably the best thing that Lopez has going for him as a prospect is his ability to make consistent contact. That still left us with about 218 guys (way too many), so I jumped straight to offensive production (wRC+) to weed out the weak overall hitters, as well as some uber elite performers.

That left us with 42 guys and we were in business. Touch up the strikeout and walk rates and we had our list. Without further ado, here is a list of players with the 14 closest seasons to Nicky Lopez’ 2018 season at AA:

  • Todd Cunningham (OF, career 40 wRC+)
  • Andrew Knizner (C, one of STL’s top prospects)
  • Max Schrock (2B, struggled mightily at AAA this year for some reason)
  • Adam Frazier (UTIL, underrated guy for PIT, posted a 116 wRC+ in 2018)
  • Elias Diaz (C, posted a 114 wRC+ in 2018)
  • Christian Colon (hey there)
  • Chesny Young (2B, struggled mightily at AAA)
  • Josh Bell (1B, career 110 wRC+)
  • Boog Powell (OF, posted a 109 wRC+ in 2017)
  • Jayce Boyd (OF, didn’t play in 2018)
  • Christian Vazquez (C, career 67 wRC+)
  • Myles Straw (OF, career 193 wRC+…in 10 PA…)
  • Ramon Cabrera (C, career 74 wRC+)
  • Brian Mundell (1B, still at AA)

So there is some good and bad here. Here’s the good news: Nicky Lopez has the 4th best speed rating among this group and he’s the only one that plays SS at an above average level. He’s more than likely bound to play 2B in the big leagues, while Adalberto Mondesi mans SS, but he’s one of the two or three best athletes on the list.

There are also some favorable comps on this list. Josh Bell has been a consistent producer at the plate since debuting in 2016. He hits for more power than Nicky Lopez ever will, but he also doesn’t run at all and has suffered from some odd BABIP bad luck. If Lopez can post a 110 wRC+ consistently, steal 20 bags, play good defense at 2B, he could get up to being worth 3-4 wins per year.

Using the offensive outcomes from Nicky Lopez’ minor league comparison list, I went to FanGraphs and started sorting through second baseman. Here are two players that I think Nicky Lopez could very well fall between in terms of overall value:

  • Joey Wendle: .354 OBP, 16 SB, 7 HR, 116 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR
  • Ketel Marte: .332 OBP, 6 SB, 14 HR, 104 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR

I think both of those outcomes are both extremely achievable and favorable outcomes for Lopez. Lopez probably doesn’t ever become 5.2 fWAR Whit Merrifield unless he starts hitting for more power, or steals 40+ bases, but nothing is impossible.

So there ya go. Another write up looking for historical comparisons for some current Royals prospects. I’m really excited to see him in Kansas City in 2019. I’m not sure when it will be, but I’d be willing to be you my life savings that, barring injury or some other unforeseen disaster, Lopez will be in the big leagues by September 1.

 

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