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Nicky Lopez - Welcome to the Show!

Amidst a week headlined by the call-ups of top prospects Keston Hiura, Brendan Rodgers and Austin Riley, it was easy to miss the Royals’ promotion of middle infielder Nicky Lopez. However, Lopez has wasted no time proving he warrants to be fully on our fantasy radars just like the rest of the bunch.

Lopez has already shown the potential to be elite in both batting average and in limiting strikeouts. That’s a good starting off point, but there’s more.

How worthy is he of an add in fantasy leagues? Let’s take a look…

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Checking the Boxes

Lopez has hit second in the Royals order and started at second base in each of his first six major league games. He’s recorded a hit in all but one game and multiple hits in three of six. Many fantasy owners may shrug at the lack of power output in his first week in the big leagues, but those owners will miss out on what could be an elite contact hitter in a game that offers few of the sort.

Before his call-up this year, Lopez was hitting .353 at Triple-A Omaha, with 20 BB and just 5 K in 138 plate appearances. In 2018, which Lopez spent in Triple-A and Double-A, he hit .308 and totaled 60 BB and 52 K in 581 PA. Those are numbers that simply can’t be ignored, especially for someone who is soon to be eligible at the second weakest hitting position, 2B.

With nine stolen bases in 12 attempts at Triple-A this year, compared with 15 SB in 21 attempts all of last season, it’s clear the Royals are grooming Lopez into becoming a base stealer. Assuming he stays with the big league club (and healthy) the rest of the year, 10 or more steals from now until season’s end is almost a certainty with how often the Royals like to run.

Additionally, let’s consider Lopez sticking in the two-spot in the Royals order the rest of the way. Adalberto Mondesi, Alex Gordon and Hunter Dozier have all been fantastic run producers so far this year, and they would be the three through five hitters behind Lopez. That would give Lopez the potential to be an elite run scorer as he’ll be getting on base frequently and running often in front of three high RBI hitters.


Staying in the Yard

Where Lopez loses his allure is certainly in the power game. In roto and category leagues, he’ll hurt you in home runs for sure and he’ll likely hurt in RBI too. The hope is that he’ll be so good in all the other stats that you can afford the HR and RBI hits. Plus, remember, he’s likely slotting in at 2B for you so your adversary probably has some other shortcomings at the position as well unless they locked up one of the few elite 2Bs.

In terms of playing time, there really isn’t too much concern for Lopez as long as he continues to produce. Utility man Chris Owings, who is hitting .142 this year, figures to be the odd man out, which the Royals should be fine with. Leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield shifts from 2B to right field and Jorge Soler slots in at designated hitter. The left-handed Lopez is 3 for 6 with a double against lefties so far, so there’s no early indication he’ll be sitting against left-handers.

For season-long leagues, the interest you should have in Lopez varies greatly based on league type. In deeper leagues, he’s a must-add as he could provide elite value at a shallow position. In a 10-team league, he’s more of a 50/50 call. If strikeouts matter, he’s more on the add side and if they don’t, he’s more on the watch-and-see side.


Dynasty Value

For dynasty, he’s even more interesting. For leagues in which 150-200 players are kept, he needs to be added immediately. At age 24, with his high contact history and being part of a club that promotes SBs, he’s got a surprisingly high floor for a recent call-up.

Conversely, if your league only allows 50-100 keepers or less, he’s not as high of a priority. His upside is probably something like peak DJ LeMahieu at a worse park or Dee Gordon with considerably fewer steals. That’s an extremely valuable player, but it comes with a limited ceiling hindered by that low HR potential. So if you only have a small set of keepers you can select year-to-year, it may not be worth it to go out for a guy who’s going to cost you in the power department.

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice