Lopez has smashing PCL homecoming

Royals No. 6 prospect raps four hits, homers in PCL debut

Nicky Lopez has reached Triple-A just three years after he was drafted out of Creighton. (Minda Haas Kuhlmann)

By Vincent Lara-Cinisomo / MiLB.com | June 29, 2018 11:59 PM

Even though it was his first game at a new level, Nicky Lopez felt right at home.

The Creighton product had a smashing Triple-A debut in Omaha on Friday, going 4-for-5 with a homer, double and three runs scored in the Storm Chasers' 10-1 rout of Nashville at Werner Park.

"I'm familiar with all these guys, and what's great is that even though this is a new team, I feel comfortable in the clubhouse," the Royals' sixth-ranked prospect said. "And being back in Omaha, I didn't have pregame jitters. I saw some people I know and recognize some familiar faces."


Gameday box score


Lopez's big game came a day after his promotion from Double-A Northwest Arkansas -- which followed playing in the Texas League All-Star Game -- and about a week after he hit for the cycle for the Naturals.

"It's just a feeling of comfort, just being able to know the team and live in a town that you spent three pretty important years of college life. Being able to do that, it's really comforting," he said.

After batting .250/.368/.275 in 22 games in April, the Illinois native has caught fire. He hit .367/.408/.458 in 30 games in May and batted .358/.413/.494 in June before getting bumped up a level. Overall, he's got a .340 batting average.

The 2016 fifth-round pick wasted no time acclimating to his new team. He ripped a single to right field in the first inning and later scored on a ground-ball single by Royals No. 16 prospect Ryan O'Hearn.

Video: Omaha's Lopez homers

Lopez grounded out against right-hander James Naile (5-7) in the third but singled to center to start the fifth against Kyle Finnegan and stole second for his 10th theft of the year.

Scouts say Lopez has below-average power, but the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder drove his third homer of the year out to left in the sixth, scoring Donnie Dewees. The lefty hitter capped his big night with an opposite-field double in the eighth.

Defense and makeup were Lopez's calling cards when he was drafted, but his bat has been better than expected, especially this season as he's shown more extra-base power.

"I think it's maturity," Lopez said of his improved power. "I'm growing up a little bit. Even though I'm 23, I'm not the typical 23-year-old; I look like I'm 18. But I made some minor tweaks to my hands, and then in the [Arizona] Fall League, I put up some productive numbers. I just made some minor tweaks."

His surehandedness and poise have helped him move through the system quickly as he reached Double-A in just his second pro year.

"I had two goals in Spring Training: one was getting to Triple-A and the second was getting to the big leagues," he said.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised, but I kind of lose track of how fast I have moved. I'm pretty tough on myself. I was pretty tough on myself in April, but this is just [my] second full season and I'm trying to make some positives. But I wouldn't want it any other way. I want to play at this level. I'm looking around and I'm playing with Paulo Orlando, [Trevor] Oaks, [Scott] Barlow[Billy] Burns, [Ramon] Torres, all big leaguers. I'm in a locker room full of big leaguers."

MiLB include

Lopez sparked a power surge for the Storm Chasers. Facing veteran left-hander Jeremy Bleich in the seventh, Frank Schwindel and O'Hearn hit back-to-back homers, with Torres going deep two outs later.

The 14-hit attack was more than enough to back Oaks, the Royals' 13th-ranked prospect, who allowed a run on six hits over six innings. He struck out four and walked one.

O'Hearn added a double and a single, while Torres singled in addition to his homer.

Anthony Garcia hit his 13th homer for Nashville's only run.

Vince Lara-Cinisomo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @vincelara. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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