Happy New Year and welcome back! We have now been writing about the Royals farm system for 18 months and it’s only going to get better from here. We started off our original prospect rankings with 30, expanded to 100, and now we’re coming back to earth a bit. Are there 100 worthy names in the Kansas City Royals system? Absolutely. Are there always 100 names worthy of being on the list…well…
So here we go. The Kansas City Royals top 75 prospects as brought to you by six members of your Royals Farm Report staff. Joel, Drake, Drew, Josh, Pat, and I voted on our top 75 Royals prospects and then ran a collective ranking. We will release five prospects a day, starting with 75, working our way down to #5 where our top 5 prospects will all get their own article. So, without further ado, here we go!
5. Nicky Lopez, 2B
DOB: 3/13/1995 (23 YO)
Ht/Wt: 5’11″ 175′
Levels Played, 2018: AA, AAA
Acquired: 2016 MLB Draft
2018 Stats (AA): 325 PA, .331/.397/.416/.813, 8 2B, 9 SB, 10.2% BB%, 7.1% K%, 127 wRC+
Projected level to begin 2019: AAA
Nicky Lopez is one of the best people in the Kansas City Royals organization. Not just a great ball player, but he’s a fantastic kid as well. We’ve had the chance to interact with Nicky a bit at the site and there’s not a better class of person to talk with. He is exactly the type of person that Royals General Manager Dayton Moore wants in the clubhouse and he’s exactly the type of player that the Royals love as well.
There’s not much that Nicky Lopez doesn’t do well. If you look at his prospect grades over at MLB Pipeline, Nicky received the following grades:
- Arm – 60
- Run – 55
- Field – 55
- Hit – 55
- Power – 30
- Overall – 50
To put this into reference, Nico Hoerner, the last infield prospect to make MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list in 2019, was given a 55 overall grade with the following grades:
- Arm – 50
- Run – 55
- Field – 50
- Hit – 60
- Power – 45
As you can probably gather, Nicky Lopez has four tools that are worthy of being a top 100 prospect in baseball. If you combine his arm, field, run, and hit grades, Lopez grades out higher than MLB Pipeline’s #61 prospect Nolan Gorman. The only tool currently keeping Lopez from being one of baseball’s best overall prospects is in the power department. With that being said, let’s take a look at some prospects who posted similar ISOs as Nicky Lopez (.139) in the PCL (AAA) last year:
- Alex Verdugo (MLB Pipeline’s #35 prospect) – .143
- Willie Calhoun (Former top 60 prospect in baseball) – .137
- Luis Urias (MLB Pipeline’s #23 prospect) – .155
- Ryan O’Hearn – .159
Nicky Lopez certainly lacks the power you’d like to see from any elite level prospect, but he’s not incapable of hitting for extra bases earlier. In parts of three minor league seasons before arriving in AAA, Nicky Lopez had totaled 10 total home runs in 1,185 PA. In 256 PA with AAA Omaha in 2018, Lopez hit 7 HR. It’s not good power by any means, but it’s in there somewhere.
What Nicky Lopez does well are the things that separate him from other prospects. He has elite plate discipline skills, elite bat-to-ball skills, and an elite knack to get on base, as evidenced by his CAREER .371 OBP. That is insane. To put that into context, Whit Merrifield, who posted a .367 OBP in the big leagues in 2018, had ONE SEASON in which he posted an OBP greater than .371 in his minor league career. Nicky Lopez’ CAREER AVERAGE OBP is .371. That is elite.
Although Lopez doesn’t steal a ton of bases (24, 21, and 15 in three minor league seasons), he does run the bases well and should be a threat on the base paths in Kansas City. He plays both SS and 2B at above average levels and while I don’t personally believe he’s a legitimate option at 3B, there are plenty of scouts who believe otherwise. He has an under rated arm and his footwork on the infield is impeccable.
While Lopez doesn’t currently find himself on the 40-man roster, and the Royals front office insists that he doesn’t need to be added until next off-season, I have a feeling that Nicky Lopez will force their hands by June. He’s an elite talent that should have a long MLB career as a starter. I’m not exactly sure where he’ll play just yet, but if he goes out and posts a 120+ wRC+ in Omaha, the Royals won’t be able to keep him there for long. They found room on the 40-man roster for Ryan O’Hearn last summer and I can promise you they’ll find room for Nicky Lopez as well. Get ready folks, ’cause he’s comin’.