Nicky Lopez ends strong breakout season
While Nicky Lopez doesn’t have the huge KC Royals pop teammate Salvador Perez displayed this season, he has made up for it in other ways.
Take a look at Lopez’s slash line of .300 / .365 / .378, .744 OPS and 4.2 WAR. Not only did he improve his batting average by almost 100 points from last season’s .201, but he also became the club’s first shortstop to hit .300 in a season.
In Sunday’s season finale, Lopez struck out in the first inning, lowering his average to 0.298. Late in the third, he crushed a Grounder in the first and rushed down the line to barely beat Miguel Sano’s throw and secure his .300 average. He was then replaced by Kyle Isbel to loud cheers from the crowd at Kauffman Stadium.
Also impressive is that Lopez was hitting a mere 0.224 in mid-June, only to turn on the jets and come back up steadily. It hit 0.292 in late August and hovered around the 0.300 mark throughout September before locking it in for the season in Game 162.
Nicky Lopez has been a surprising beacon of hope for the KC Royals this season.
It’s a wonder what one season can do for a player. This is especially true with Lopez.
After hitting poorly in spring training, slashing an abyss of .118 / .231 / .142 with 13 strikeouts in 16 games, Lopez was destined to return to the minor leagues. There was a change of plan, however, when KC shortstop Adalberto Mondesi suffered the first of the injuries that sidelined him for most of the season, and Lopez was called up to take his place.
Not only did Lopez hit .300, but he was nearly perfect around the base paths, sweeping 22 bases in 23 attempts for a superb base stealing percentage of 0.956.
Lopez was a Gold Glove second baseman last season when he posted a .991 defensive percentage with just two errors. Although he lost it, he’s set to lock one in this year as a shortstop – a position he didn’t even expect to play at the start of the 2021 season.
Lopez’s .987 defensive percentage puts him first in the American League among qualifying shortstops. He recorded the fewest errors in the American League with seven; his 371 assists and 77 double plays both rank fifth in majors.
While fans will have to wait and see if Lopez and a few other Royals will win some golden gloves for their fantastic defensive seasons, what is quite true is that Lopez has proven to be a vital player for the future of the club.
Nicky Lopez wrapped up a strong 2021 season by becoming the KC Royals’ first shortstop to hit 0.300.