The Nicky Lopez period with the Kansas Metropolis Royals has introduced its justifiable share of highs and lows. In 2019 and 2020, the previously reliable hitter struggled immensely in a mixed 159-game pattern dimension to the tune of a .228 batting common, .279 OBP and 55 wRC+. By all accounts, he was removed from an on a regular basis participant and his complete -0.3 fWAR confirmed for it.
Then 2021 occurred.
Final season, Lopez was a person possessed. Throughout 151 video games, Lopez posted a .300/.365/.378 line whereas driving in 43 runs, swiping 22 luggage and enjoying some terrific protection within the infield. Lopez’s 105 wRC+, mixed along with his velocity and protection, made him an extraordinarily helpful participant for Kansas Metropolis. Per FanGraphs, his 5.9 fWAR was value a staggering $47.3 million. Merely being a barely above-average hitter was sufficient to fully remodel his profile and switch him right into a participant who was objectively good.
Now, in 2022, Lopez is again to struggling. His 65 wRC+ is healthier than his 2019 and 2020 figures, though he is nonetheless been a really clear destructive on the plate this season. His “energy” is at an all-time low, his BABIP has dropped again down after spiking final yr and he is strolling much less usually than he has since his rookie season. His protection and baserunning, whereas nonetheless being web optimistic traits, have not been nearly as good as they have been a yr in the past. Conversations with a number of sources have indicated that Lopez has been enjoying by way of nagging minor accidents this season, however that does not come near explaining his full-scale regression. What’s modified?
Scroll to Proceed
For starters, let’s get again to that BABIP. After posting figures of .273 and .260 in 2019 and 2020, Lopez’s 2021 BABIP was a scorching .347. That sharp improve signifies loads of luck coming into play, and 2022’s decline again all the way down to .284 reinforces that. Moreover, the aforementioned drop in stroll price additionally performs a job. When including in additional infield fly balls (5.2% to 10.4%), extra swings (44.4% to 48.6%) however much less contact (86.3% to 83.9%) and much less laborious contact (25.1% to 22.9%), all of it provides up.
The cherry on high — or the ultimate nail within the coffin — is that Lopez is not having remotely near the identical success towards fastballs or changeups. His runs above common towards these pitches have declined from 5.5 to -2.5 and 0.2 to -4.8, respectively. All of this knowledge, together with large adjustments and small variations alike, helps clarify why somebody who bumped into quite a lot of luck for one heck of a sizzling stretch final yr has been unable to duplicate that success now.
With all of that in thoughts, there is a silver lining that comes with Lopez’s struggles: Kansas Metropolis now not has to wonder if he is an on a regular basis participant transferring ahead. Roughly 1 / 4 of his big-league video games have been worthy of that title and for a participant who will probably be 28 years previous by the point the 2023 marketing campaign begins, there is not a lot left to study him.
Lopez very effectively might put up barely higher numbers subsequent yr and if the Royals have been completely loaded at each different spot within the lineup, together with Lopez within the lineup regularly would not be the tip of the world. They don’t seem to be, although, and Lopez’s worth with the bat has gone from satisfactory to an issue. There will probably be no Nicky Lopez renaissance in 2022, and that is okay. There’s nonetheless a spot for him on the membership transferring ahead, however he would not look like a routine starter if Kansas Metropolis is severe about successful loads of video games transferring ahead.