Royals' Lopez named AFL Player of the Week

Royals' Lopez named AFL Player of the Week

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Plate discipline has long been Nicky Lopez's strength. On Tuesday, he was rewarded for it.

The Royals' No. 11 prospect and Surprise infielder was named Arizona Fall League Player of the Week after batting .412 in four games with two home runs, six RBIs, four runs and a stolen base. He showcased his skills in a nationally televised game on MLB Network Saturday by hitting a go-ahead grand slam.

Marlins' Needy named AFL Pitcher of the Week.

"I don't really know where I got it from," Lopez said about his patience at the plate. "When I was young, I use to watch a lot of baseball and I've been around baseball my whole life. My dad used to play and my brothers used to play, too, so just being around baseball, being comfortable in the box and just knowing the strike zone. I think that's the biggest thing."

Lopez's go-ahead grand slam

He credits his college career for shaping him into a top prospect as well.

Lopez starred at Creighton University as a third baseman before the Royals selected him in the fifth round (163rd overall), making him the highest Creighton player selected in the draft in 17 years.

"Creighton prepared me the most for my professional career," he said. "Coach Ed Servais over there helped me a ton with infield when I got there and I take pride in my infield work. Then just learning how to become a better person and a better player as well, he taught me the competing aspect of the game and how to go about your business on the field and off the field."

While with the Blue Jays, Lopez had to adjust his game after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee. He was originally a third baseman, then he made the shift to the shortstop position after he recovered. Lopez is considered by many as having the best hands among the Royals' group of young shortstop prospects and is a candidate for a utility role if needed.

Lopez said he doesn't care what position he is assigned to, just as long as he gets to go out and compete every game.

"I'm not really sure what my position will be," he said. "That's up to the higher-ups. But to get to the Major Leagues would be a dream come true, and whatever position they want me to play, that's what position I am going to play. Any way to get on the field."

Lopez on Fall League

When Lopez is on the field, his passion for the game is evident.

"Ever since I was young, I've always been playing the game with some energy," he said. "I just try to have fun when I come out here. People sometimes take it for granted. They forget that it's a game and you're supposed to have fun. … I try my best and have as much fun as possible because you never know when you're not going to be playing anymore."

Heading into the final week of play, Lopez led the AFL in hits (29), ranked second in on-base percentage (.444), was tied in total bases (44) and was third in slugging percentage (.595).

Lopez is proud of his accomplishments but is most happy with the connections and relationships he's building with his teammates.

"The most valuable thing is meeting a group of guys that we have here and competing against the players that we're competing against," he said. "One is better than the next. It's unbelievable.

"This is one of the experiences that I will never forget in my baseball career."

Raven Boone is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.