Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Season Preview: UTIL Otto Lopez
Next up in our 2023 Toronto Blue Jays season preview series is prospect and utility player Otto Lopez.
Addison Barger, Anthony Bass, Chris Bassitt, Brandon Belt, José Berríos, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Matt Chapman, Adam Cimber, Hagen Danner, Santiago Espinal, Matt Gage, Yimi García, Kevin Gausman, Chad Green, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Thomas Hatch, Spencer Horwitz, Danny Jansen, Leo Jimenez, Kevin Kiermaier, Yusei Kikuchi, Alejandro Kirk
Here's a quick refresher on the projection systems we will be taking into account and what they're saying about Lopez for the upcoming campaign.
STEAMER: 14 PA, 3 H, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .264/.327/.375, 102 wRC+
ZiPS: 486 PA, 112 H, 4 HR, 56 RBI, .253/.309/.343, 88 wRC+
THE BAT: 14 PA, 3 H, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .258/.314/.356, 90 wRC+
2022 stats (Triple-A and MLB): 401 PA, 107 H, 3 HR, 37 RBI, .306/.386/.421, 114 wRC+ (AAA), 307 wRC+ (MLB)
*Editor's note: ZiPS projections include minor and major league innings but the performance estimates are all major-league level. Steamer and THE BAT project only major league innings.
Lopez, 24, has been on the big club's radar for a couple of seasons now. He made his major league debut in 2021 and got into eight games last season.
His first five appearances last year came as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. When he finally got a chance to hit at the end of the season, he made the most of it, making a big impression in an early audition for a bench role on the 2023 squad.
In 10 plate appearances across three October games, he collected six hits, including his first MLB hit and three RBI. And it's his hit tool, on-base skills and above-average speed that he will have to rely on if he wants to stick with the big club.
The projections don't think he'll have a much different role this season, however. The Roster Resource Depth Chart on FanGraphs has him starting the season in Triple-A, but he's near the top of the next-man-up list. Currently on the 40-man roster, Lopez is an easy call-up if things go sideways with injuries this season.
Lopez, MLB Pipeline's 18th-ranked Jays prospect, has seen action all over the diamond in Triple-A, playing second, short and all three outfield positions. This flexibility is a big reason why he might be the first to get a call if and when the Jays are forced to dip into their minor league depth again this year.
As a new era of small-ball dawns on the majors, due to humidors, deadened balls and shift restrictions, players like Lopez will become valuable utility bench pieces. His MLB Pipeline scouting report agrees and thinks his value is "as a speedy contact hitter worth carrying in the lineup in any way, regardless of where his glove plays."
While it seems unlikely that Lopez will head north with the team after Spring Training, you never know what a strong showing could do for his stock. Luckily, he'll only be a quick phone call away in Buffalo, and the odds are that we'll see him in Toronto at some point in 2023.