On Oct. 5, a Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore, the Blue Jays had already clinched a playoff spot, secured home-field advantage in the Wild Card round, and were playing out the last two games of their regular season in a doubleheader against the Orioles. Otto Lopez had enjoyed a few stints with the club throughout the year, soaking in life in the big leagues, but hadn’t had a chance to start a game until now.
The doubleheader served as a sort of audition for the young infielder, a chance to prove that he could be a valuable contributor to the team going forward. In the first game, he went 3-for-3, collecting his first career RBI. In the second, he got another two hits, finishing the two-game set 5-for-8 with three RBI. If he wanted to show the Blue Jays what he was capable of, he succeeded.
Lopez is now on the cusp of making the Blue Jays' 26-man roster out of Spring Training. He hasn’t slowed down, going 7-15 with two extra-base hits this spring. He’s also drawn two walks, reaching base in nine of his 17 plate appearances.
He has a few things working in his favour to be the last man to make the Opening Day roster. In contrast to fellow infielder Addison Barger, who only played eight games at Triple-A last season, Lopez has plenty of experience at the upper levels of the minors. He’s played 134 games in Buffalo the last two seasons, batting .297 with a .793 OPS in 2022.
Lopez also has the ability to put the ball in play. He struck out in just 16 percent of his plate appearances last season. Then there is his speed. Lopez stole 14 bases in the minors in 2022, a year after swiping 22. If the Blue Jays need a late-game pinch-runner to get a man in scoring position, Lopez is well-suited for that role. He has the versatility to play multiple positions, starting at least 10 games at five different spots around the field last year.
Lopez is also a sort of homegrown kid. Born in the Dominican Republic, he moved to Montreal at the age of nine. He’s currently representing his adopted home country at the World Baseball Classic, where he’ll be the starting shortstop for the Canadian team.
The Blue Jays have a loaded infield already, with Santiago Espinal, Cavan Biggio, and Whit Merrifield holding down the second base job. But Lopez has shown he’s ready to play any role the club has for him.
“I work my ass off to get a position on the team,” he said on Mike Wilner’s Deep Left Field podcast this week. “They have seen my work, what I have done last year and this year, what I bring this year. I’m trying to be ready for every opportunity. It’s being patient for it.”
Lopez’s opportunities have been limited. He’s received just 11 plate appearances in the Majors over the last two seasons despite multiple trips up from the minors. He’s been patient, waiting for his opportunity.
It should finally come this year.