Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Nicky Lopez Gathering Bulletin Board Material Amid Low Expectations

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Fresh off a 101-loss season, nobody is expecting much from the South Siders this year. The pitching staff was gutted at the trade deadline, reclamation projects were brought in to try and patch the holes on the roster and early projections have the White Sox finishing near the bottom of the AL Central standings. However, don’t tell Nicky Lopez that. 

The White Sox newest infielder has already begun collecting bulletin board material. According to White Sox beat writer Vinne Duber, Lopez has been “grabbing negative tweets and takes” as fuel for the upcoming season.

“I know we’re getting projected last or whatever it is,” Lopez told reporters during a team visit to South Side Boys and Girls Club. “It’s more of a motivator, to be honest. It’s more to prove us right than to prove anybody wrong.” 

Motivation was something that the White Sox seemed to lack last season. There were nights when the team looked disinterested in playing, quit after trailing early in games, and had little regard for fundamental baseball. Chris Getz is trying to change that. The fresh group of faces he has brought in this offseason all have something to prove in 2024. 

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Mike Soroka went from being an NL Cy Young contender in 2019 to missing two consecutive seasons due to injury. Paul DeJong was traded by the Cardinals, the only team he had played for since 2017, and then was released by the Blue Jays and Giants in the same season. The Antioch, Illinois native is itching for a bounce-back season. 

Erick Fedde had to move to Korea to revive his career in the KBO to get another MLB opportunity. Max Stassi has not played in an MLB game in over a year. Martin Maldonado lost his starting catcher job in Houston and will now be battling Stassi to be the White Sox lead backstop. 

Lopez may be the most motivated of the bunch. The 28-year-old was a non-tender candidate for the Braves before being included in a package deal for Aaron Bummer. Lopez grew up in the Chicagoland area, attending Naperville Central High School. He now has an opportunity to be the starting second baseman for his hometown team. 

It is an opportunity that Lopez is not taking lightly. On Tuesday he posted a photo of the White Sox facilities in Arizona despite not having to report to camp until February 20th. 

Lopez fits another common theme of position players that Chris Getz has acquired this offseason. Athletic and good with the glove. 

Lopez was tied for 10th in the MLB with 31 Outs Above Average since 2020. He was also in baseball’s 88th percentile with a  Fielding Run Value of 8.  In 2021 Lopez ranked third in the AL in double play and assists at shortstop. 

However, the offensive numbers leave a lot to be desired. Lopez doesn’t make much hard contact. He has ranked in the MLB’s bottom four percent in exit velocity in three of the last five seasons. Last season he hit .231 with a .632 OPS and hit one home run and 25 RBIs. For his career, he owns a .249/.312/.319 slash line. 

While offensive production may be a concern, it is clear effort will not be an issue. Shortly after being traded Lopez talked about why he was excited to join the White Sox after hearing what Getz’s vision for the team was

“Just the vision of playing hard baseball,” Lopez told reporters during a Zoom interview after the trade. “A hard 90, playing 110 percent, creating an identity that we are going to play the game hard, we’re going to do the little things right. We’re going to pick it we’re going to throw it. 

“All this stuff is obviously cliche when you’re talking about winning baseball. But I’ve seen this team be really, really successful being across the diamond and playing against them for the last five years and not many of it is different. The team is not different… It’s just a cultural change, or maybe it’s a change of the way we believe in ourselves or think. Mentality is a big thing.”

In the face of low expectations, Nicky Lopez is embracing the challenge.

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BW
BW
Feb 2, 2024 8:48 am

Good for Lopez. He’s a keeper.

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