Breakout Or Bust: Will Shed Long Or Nicky Lopez Prove Valuable In 2020?

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Fantasy owners are constantly looking for the next big thing, but not every hyped play delivers on the promise. Let’s take a look at two young middle infielders and determine if they will breakout in 2020 or if they are better off being ignored:

Shed Long – Second Baseman – Seattle Mariners

Long has shown both power and speed as he worked his way through the minors and gave a sneak peek of what could be possible upon making his debut in ’19.  Over 168 PA with the Mariners he hit .263 with 5 HR and 3 SB, while adding 12 doubles and 1 triple.  With Dee Gordon remaining on the roster there’s a chance he takes some AB away from Long, though for a rebuilding franchise that makes little sense.

Instead we need to focus on what Long can do on the diamond, with the power (14.3% HR/FB) and speed there to post 20/10 seasons.  The question comes in his approach, though he wasn’t abysmal last season with a 10.7% SwStr% and 27.3% O-Swing%.  Of course he had a 12.0% SwStr% while at Triple-A, though these Whiff% in the Majors (albeit in a small sample size) gives further hope:

  • Hard – 9.71%
  • Breaking – 13.95%
  • Offspeed – 20.43%

It was a small sample size and he only saw offspeed pitches 14.37% of the time.  Considering he hit .150 with a .250 SLG against changeups it’s easy to envision opposing pitchers showing him more and more of them.  That could lead to sophomore struggles and lost AB, especially in a sprint as opposed to a marathon season.

Verdict – Worthy of a Bench Spot (High Risk Though)

Nicky Lopez – Shortstop – Kansas City Royals

Lopez was never viewed as a high-end prospect, as we handed him a “C+” grade prior to the 2019 season.  At that time we said:

While many of the Royals’ hitting prospects come with questions about their approach, Lopez is a different animal.  Playing between Double and Triple-A he posted a 5.5% SwStr%, leading to a 9.0% strikeout rate and 10.3% walk rate.  The problem is, what else does he bring to the table?  In 504 AB he hit .308 with 9 HR and 15 SB, and while it’s possible he develops into a 10/20 producer from a middle infield spot that’s not quite a given.  If he gets there he’s going to have some appeal, and that makes him worth monitoring.

He did continue to show that same type of approach at the highest level, including a 6.4% SwStr% and 31.6% O-Swing%, but he didn’t show anything to suggest the power and speed would play.  Over 402 PA in the Majors in ’19 he managed just 2 HR and 1 SB.  There is more upside in his SB total, assuming he starts to get on base more…

That’s a big assumption, however, as he simply didn’t hit the ball hard enough (25.4% Hard%) and owned among the worst Barrel% in the league (1.5%).  Throw in an immense number of groundballs (62.2%) and bottom level exit velocities (83.8 mph) and it’s impossible to get excited.

Verdict – Hard Pass

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
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PositionLast Updated
Catcher04/13/20
First Baseman--
Second Baseman04/15/20
Shortstop04/17/20
Third Baseman04/20/20
Outfield04/24/20
Pitcher--

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