Strong 2016 Allows Blue Jays Christian Lopes to Regain Prospect Status

Once considered a Top Prospect in the Blue Jays farm system, Christian Lopes is having a renaissance season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Christian Lopes turned heads early in his baseball career. As a teenager Lopes was once considered 1st round material; unfortunately, Christian’s development stalled. This allowed the Toronto Blue Jays to pick Christian Lopes in the 7th round of the 2011 Draft.

As a 19-yr-old, Lopes was projected as a 2nd baseman if he ever made to the Major League. He was said to have a strong glove, but lack the range required for short. Lopes bat was said to lack power, but a mature approach to an at-bat would allow him to find success in the minor leagues.

A weak Toronto farm system allowed Lopes to received accolades as one of the system’s ‘Top Prospect’ in 2012  and 2013. He didn’t dissuade the label when he won the Bluefield MVP award in his first professional season in 2012.

Flying under the radar since then, Lopes has quietly gone about his business. He has seen fellow prospects surpass him on the Blue Jays depth charts and on Top Prospect lists. Lopes seemed to fall out of the spotlight, being overshadowed by middle infielder prospects like Franklin Barreto, and Richard Urena. Despite a few bumps along the road, Christian Lopes steadily moved through Toronto’s system.

A year in Lo-A Lansing as a 20-yr-old, a year in Hi-A Dunedin as 21-yr-old, and 2 years splitting his time between Hi-A and Double-A New Hampshire. The 6’0″ right-handed bat has cemented himself as the Fisher Cats everyday 2nd baseman in 2016.

At every level Lopes manages to produce at or above league average, posting wOBA between .301 and .358 in seasons/level where he played greater than 50 games. His .259 career batting average may not cause fans to get excited or label him as the future 2nd baseman of the Blue Jays. The fact that he owns an impressive career 15.6K% and 8.7BB% which has allowed him to consistently post +.300 OBP, will also do nothing to entice other organizations to mortgage the future to acquire him.

Christian Lopes is one of those prospects that lacks a plus tool…until 2016. At the time of writing this piece, Lopes is batting 30 points higher than his career average and climbing.

So what’s changed? What has he done differently to work his way back into ‘Prospect’ status?

Short answer…nothing.

Lopes started the 2016 season in Hi-A Dunedin. He hit 3 home runs in 15 games and was promoted to Double-A on April 28th. A veteran of 5 minor league seasons and over 500 games, Lopes has gone on a tear since being promoted.

Credit: MLBfarm.com
Credit: MLBfarm.com

In his first full month with the Fisher Cats, Lopes slashed .282/.367/.397. He exploded in June, hitting .311 with 10 doubles.

July saw Lopes batting average come back to his career norm, batting .252 in 27 games. Numbers don’t always tell the whole story as Lopes appeared more comfortable at the plate than any other month. He worked the count better. He drew more walks, walking 8.4% versus 6.3% during May and June.  He struck out less, lowering his K% from 19.0% down to 14.4%.

Then came August. The aspiring major league 2nd baseman has taken his game to the next level.

In 19 games, Christian Lopes has slashed .342/.402/.481 while posting an impressive .883 OPS. Closing out the season on a high note is one thing, Lopes is crushing it.

Lopes took over the lead-off duties when Jon Berti went down with a concussion, batting .302 with 17 doubles and 17 walks. Christian Lopes continues to bat lead-off with Jon Berti back in the fold.

Queue the cliche. ‘Breakout Season’ anyone!

Yes, 2016 been a huge breakout season for Lopes.

With just over a week left in the season the 23-yr-old has set career highs in doubles (29), runs (57), SB(9)and HR (6). He stands a good chance of eclipsing his 122 hits he achieved in 2013 while with the Lugnuts.

Christian Lopes 2016 Stats 

Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2016 Dunedin 15 56 8 11 1 1 3 10 1 0 11 12 .196 .324 .411 .734
2016 New Hampshire 98 364 49 105 28 1 3 38 8 4 29 65 .288 .352 .396 .748
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/26/2016.

Season stats like these typically are followed up by an off-season of projections and debate over the legitimacy of Lopes as a future Blue Jays 2nd baseman candidate. Unfortunately, there’s a dark cloud hanging over the native of Huntington Beach, California in the form of Devon Travis.

Sorry Devon, you’re not a dark cloud. I take it back.

That fact that Travis is only 2 years Christian’s senior, it is unlikely that Lopes will get a chance to grab an everyday role with the Blue Jays any time soon; however, it’s been a challenge for Devon Travis to remain on the field in his first two season’s with the Blue Jays. This could provide Lopes with playing time.

Sometimes all you need is a chance.

 

 

 *FEATURED IMAGE Credit: Trevor Pritchard UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.

Ryan Mueller

Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.