2013 Top Prospects #12: Christian Lopes
By Kyle Matte
The number twelve prospect on the Jays Journal top 30 countdown has become one of my personal favorites over the past year, though to be fair, a lot of that has to do with the revolving door of mediocrity that the Blue Jays have utilized at second base over the last three seasons. He’s still a few years away, but this prospect could provide stability to a position that hasn’t had much since Aaron Hill’s 36 home runs in 2009.
Christian Lopes playing for Team USA (Image via MLBDraftCountdown.wordpress.com)
Name: Christian Lopes
Position: Second Base
Date of Birth: 10/01/1992 (20)
Acquired: Drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 draft ($800,000 USD)
High School: Edison High School (Huntington Beach, CA)
College: Had commitment to USC
Height/Weight: 6’0”/185 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 Top 30 prospects list
- 2011 Rawlings 1st Team All American
- 2011 California All-Region 1st Team
2012 Statistics and Analysis
223 AB, .278/.339/.462 (.801 OPS), 17 2B, 6 3B, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 6 SB, 17/40 BB/K
After signing very late in the summer of 2011, Christian Lopes made his professional debut this past June with the Bluefield Blue Jays. The roster was stacked with prospect talent, but Lopes was one of the few to truly shine in short season ball. Despite a late season promotion to Vancouver, he still led the team with 16 doubles (the second place hitter was Jacob Anderson with 10) and 5 triples. From a middle infielder, that type of in-game power is excellent to see, particularly at such a young age. While more situational and less talent dependent, Lopes also led the team in runs scored (33) and runs batted in (29). The rate stats understandably took a bit of a dip after the promotion to Low-A, but that’s to be expected from a 19 year old playing against a lot of college-age competition.
Video (via MLBProspectPortal.com)
Lopes faces the pitcher with an open stance, allowing him to track pitches well as they approach the zone. He’s very quiet at the plate, holding his hands low before gearing up for the swing. He double taps his front foot – something that may eventually need to be cleaned up – before striding and spinning his hips with nice weight transfer. Marc Hulet of Fangraphs noticed that in addition to keeping a low base, Lopes isn’t afraid to hog the plate, standing very close. While this gives him an edge in covering the outer half – and is likely the reason Lopes is so good at using the opposite field, Hulet fears it’s going to make him susceptible to the hard stuff inside. His bat speed is good, but as he faces better fastballs in the upper levels he may be forced to either cheat on the swing or make an adjustment to his footing – preferably the latter. Baseball America noted that Lopes has a tendency to tinker with his swing mechanics a little too much.
Christian Lopes may be best described as a jack of all trades but a master of none, which in reality truly defines the second base position. Second base prospects are few and far between, as most second baseman were originally shortstops that didn’t have the defensive chops to stick, the speed to move to center, or the offense to move to third. The best tool Lopes has to offer is his bat which, according to both Baseball America and Marc Hulet of Fangraphs, projects to be somewhere between average and plus. He showed impressive plate discipline for a teenager, and Lopes has good bat speed and a short swing that is very quick to the ball. The power potential is a notch below, as his already mature body limits the ceiling to fringe-average – or a 45 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. Fringe-average power from a middle infielder is more than acceptable, as every team in baseball would love to have a second baseman that possesses an ability to make good contact while launching 30-plus doubles and 10-15 home runs annually.
The move off of shortstop was necessitated for two reasons. Lopes’ arm is an average tool at best, and while that is satisfactory making the short throws from second, it’s simply not good enough to make the long throws from deep in the hole between third and short, particularly when your momentum is moving away from first base. Secondly, Lopes has some quickness to his game, but according to Baseball America, his speed has degraded from average to below average since his early years in high school. That’s a severely limiting factor at shortstop, particularly when a player like Lopes has a tendency to sit back and wait for balls, which he reportedly did. Both Baseball America and Fangraphs report that Lopes’ hands are good and his defensive actions are smooth, so he could develop into a solid defensive second baseman. There’s no questioning his competitiveness, and he shows natural instincts around the diamond.
The perfect world projection for Christian Lopes would be an everyday second baseman; second division starter.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
As I covered in the 2012 statistics and analysis section, Lopes had an excellent professional debut and it has set him up for a potentially huge second year. Despite just a 10 game cup of coffee in Vancouver to close out last season, I fully expect Lopes to be given a full season assignment out of spring training. Lansing has a glaring hole at second base, and like the rest of us, I’m sure the Blue Jays front office would love to see what Lopes could do with 500 or more plate appearances. He’s just 20 years old and has a lot of development and refinement to go, but I’m surprisingly comfortable in classifying Lopes as just medium-high risk. His skillset is the type that should handle the lower minor leagues quite well, so he may not face a true challenge until he rises up to the Double-A level, perhaps as soon as the summer of 2014. Realistically, Lopes could be a September call up at the end of the 2015 season as a 22 year old, which would be a huge victory for both the amateur draft and minor league development branches of the front office.