It is not often a player who post strong offensive stats doesn’t have a position but that’s the case for Blue Jays Otto Lopez
The Blue Jays minor league system had its fair share of storylines in 2018. Although it doesn’t come close to the continued emergence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Cavan Biggio power outburst or Kevin Smith‘s ascension into Top Prospect status, the emergence of Otto Lopez was one of them.
I’m guilty of not following short-season prospects very closely. Lopez appeared on my radar which landed him on my Players of the Month piece (full article) with a hot July after a promotion to the Vancouver Canadians. He batted .311 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples, a homer, 8 RBI, 9 walks, and 8 strikeouts while stealing 7 bases. I’m a sucker for a high OBP and speed.
Side note: I cannot wait for the minor league season to start. I love doing the recaps and player of the month pieces.
I’m not the only one to take notice, Future Blue Jays tweeted:
Had a good look at Vancouver’s Otto Lopez.
Top of the order, spark plug-type.
Works the count well, good plate coverage, good speed on the base paths.
Looking forward to seeing him in full season next year.
— Future Blue Jays (@FutureBlueJays) August 5, 2018
Jeff Q of JFtC posted one his stat heavy pieces which everyone loves, myself included when Lopez continued to post strong numbers throughout August (full article).
The 20-yr-old out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic finished the year with Vancouver. In 51 games at Short-Season A-Ball, Lopez batted .297 with a .825 OPS, 7 doubles, 4 triples, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 26 BB, 21 K, and 13-for-19 in stolen bases.
Despite his outstanding numbers, Otto Lopez has yet to find a home on the baseball diamond. In 2017, his rookie season, Lopez split his time between 2B (19 GP), 3B (10GP), LF (8GP), and CF (7GP) playing for the Gulf Coast Blue Jays. Nothing changed in 2018. Once again splitting his playing time between multiple positions, 2B (16GP), 3B (14GP), SS (11GP), LF (6GP), RF (5GP), and CF (3GP). Across two seasons, Lopez has spent the most time at 2B (35GP) and the OF (29GP) with 3B (24GP) a close third.
A player with good offensive numbers who doesn’t get everyday at-bats at one position must be a defensive liability, right?
Not that I can see. Other than committing 3 errors in 9 games at short with the C’s, Lopez has a bunch of 1.000 FPCT and solid range factor across the board.
Could it be the Blue Jays are grooming Otto Lopez as a super utility player…..at 19-yrs-old in short-season? I know that positional versatility is being valued more and more at the major league level but this might be a little early for that kind grooming.
In my opinion, a guy with a career batting average of .293 and an OBP of .376 should be getting regular reps at one position until he is pushed off that one position by another prospect who plays said position better or adds more value to that position with a better offensive game.
Otto Lopez is expected to begin the 2019 season as a member of the Full-Season A-Ball Lansing Lugnuts. My guess is that 2nd base, RF and LF are open with Samad Taylor, Ryan Noda, and Chavez Young all moving up a level to Dunedin. Let’s eliminate 3B and SS which should go to one of Jesus Navarro, Ronny Brito, Bryan Lizardo, Cullen Large (wild card), Vinny Capra, or Jesus Severino. Just to be clear, 1B and CA not options here.
If we are to assume that 2nd, RF, and LF are the best options, who would push Lopez off those positions and which position offers the best path through the system.
Anyone of the 3B/SS candidates could push Lopez back into playing a different position every day. The path through the minors via 2nd base is a congested one. Bo Bichette could force Kevin Smith over to 2nd or 3rd. Bichette could, himself, be forced over to 2nd by Lourdes Guriel Jr laying claim to SS in Toronto. Other prospects ahead of Lopez to consider are Santiago Espinal, Logan Warmoth, Samad Taylor, and Kevin Vicuna. Behind Lopez in the system, there is Leonardo Jimenez, Rafael Lantigua, Miguel Hiraldo, Jordan Groshans, and Orelvis Martinez (3.5M IFA signing bonus).
In the outfield, Lopez will need to compete with the possibility of LF Norberto Obeso and CF Reggie Pruitt returning to Lansing. The C’s should be sending CF Tanner Kriwer and LF Mc Gregory Contreras to Lansing. I fully expect that one or both of Cal Stevenson and Dominic Abbadessa could bypass Vancouver for Lansing. The path to the majors for an outfielder in the Blue Jays system doesn’t appear to be any easier with Chavez Young, Brock Lundquist, Rodrigo Orozco (FSL co-batting champion), Joshua Palacios, Demi Orimoloye, and Forrest Wall in A-Advanced and AA.
There doesn’t appear to be a single position which would offer Lopez everyday at-bats. It seems Otto Lopez will once again spend the 2019 season as a man with many gloves.
Which position would you have Otto Lopez play for the 2019 Lansing Lugnuts?
*Featured Image Courtesy Of Ryan Mueller of JFtC
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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.