The Royals have selected the contract of Nicky Lopez from AAA Omaha and have sent down pitcher Jake Newberry. The team has yet to make a corresponding move on the 40-man roster.
The 24-year old Lopez is a middle infielder who was a fifth-round pick by the Royals in 2016 out of Creighton University. In 31 games for Omaha he was hitting .353/.457/.500 with three home runs and nine steals. He has a high-contact, low strikeout approach and is second among all minor league players with a strikeout rate of just three percent.
Lopez has good speed and decent power and has drawn praise for being a “gamer” from Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg.
“You can’t take your eyes off him, because he’s filled with energy. He can be a coaches’ dream when he walks out on the field, because he’s not going to have to tell him anything. Just tell him what time the bus leaves and he’ll be ready to play.”
It will be interesting to see where Lopez ends up playing. The Royals already have Adalberto Mondesi at shortstop and Whit Merrifield primarily playing second, although Merrifield can play all over the field. Dayton Moore urged patience with Lopez in addressing the media last week, with Rustin Dodd writing “the Royals do not see an obvious way for Lopez to receive everyday at-bats in the major leagues” and that Merrifield moving to the outfield raised concerns about the possibilty of injury.
Dayton said most important thing was to get buy-in from Merrifield. Whit will continue to move around and could even play some second. But Lopez will be primary second baseman for now. “The best thing to do for our team,” Moore said. He added: “Nicky Lopez has earned this.”— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) May 13, 2019
There is also the matter of getting Lopez on the 40-man roster. Potential candidates to get designated for assignment include Ben Lively, Arnaldo Hernandez, Tim Hill, Conner Greene, and Frank Schwindel. Chris Owings is not likely to get released, but this could significantly eat into his playing time.
The Royals host the Texas Rangers Tuesday evening at 7:15 at Kauffman Stadium.