Ricky Henderson was THE beast among beasts back in the day. In his rookie season, he stole 33 bases in 398 plate appearances. The following season? 100! Over the next six seasons, he pilfered 56, 130, 108, 66, 80 and 87 bases.

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Over his career, he swiped at least 50 bases in 14 of his 25 seasons. At age 42, he racked up 25. L. O. L. His sprint speed was clocked in at 31 ft/s. For perspective, Statcast has been tracking sprint speed since 2015. Tim Locastro is at the top of the list with 30.9 ft/s. Byron Buxton is at 30.6 ft/s. He also hit double-digit homers in 13 of those seasons with four above 20. On the historical Razzball Player Rater (1947-2019), Henderson’s 1985 season, in which he went scored 146 runs, clobbered 24 home runs, drove in 72, and stole 80 bases with a .314 batting average ranks 12th! As I said, beast. Nicky Lopez of the Kansas City Royals is the antithesis of Ricky Henderson, the tsaeb of fantasy baseball. Lopez won’t hit for power and….Well, he won’t do much of anything except get some steals. Will they be a “manna falling down from heaven” amount of steals? Niet, but steals are a commodity and many fall behind in the early part of the draft, forcing them to pay up later. You won’t have to pay up for Lopez, as he’s being drafted on average with the 269th overall pick in NFBC drafts from 3/2022 to 4/6/2022. Here’s why I think he can be useful:

Lopez is 27 years old, 5’11”, 180 pounds and bats from the left side. He was drafted by the Royals in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB draft.

He moved through the minor league system quickly, advancing a level after each season. The walk rate was over 10% while the strikeout rate never exceeded 11%. He did show a little pop, as the ISO was in the low-.100s, but he never hit more than seven home runs in a season.

When he made it to The Show in 2019, he didn’t do much. Over two seasons, he racked up 594 plate appearances and accumulated three home runs and one stolen base. The batting average was .240 and .201 while the BABIP was .260 and .273. The walk rate was under 10% while the strikeout rate was 12.7% and 21.4%. Nicky Mehpez.

Then last season happened.

He hit .300 with an 8.7% walk rate and 13.1% strikeout rate. He scored 78 runs and stole 22 bases. The batting average was fueled by a .347 BABIP. All the projection systems have him down for a BABIP around .300 with 15 stolen bases.

That’s fair and is the likely outcome but I think there is some upside that’s not being accounted for.

Last season, Lopez began hitting towards the bottom of the lineup; 309 plate appearances batting 9th and 23 batting 8th. Over that span, the slash was .271/.343/.340 with 47 runs and 13 stolen bases. On August 18th, he was bumped up to the two-hole. In 198 plate appearances, the slash was .352/.407/.449 with 31 runs and 9 stolen bases.

I’m thinking the projection systems are only factoring in the high-BABIP, which makes sense for regression, but Lopez is slated to be the starting second baseman and hit second in the lineup. Being at the top of the lineup will give him more plate appearances and better pitches to hit. I’m not saying he will replicate the .300 batting average but it’s possible that he maintains a high average.

The Royals stole the most bases in baseball last season and were first in attempts per game. I don’t see that trend changing this season. Last season, Lopez was averaging around 0.4 stolen bases per plate appearance. If we give him 550 plate appearances, that’s 22 stolen bases. Lopez was in the 79th percentile for sprint speed last season.

According to Rudy, there are only 10 players projected for at least 20 stolen bases this season.

Lopez won’t give you power, but he could score runs and provide some stolen bases with a decent batting average.

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Ante GALIC
Ante GALIC
2 months ago

SON!!

Awesome!!

Loved the article.

a. Love Nicky, signed him up in both redraft RCLs over CJ. (Kept CJ in my dynasty, dur.). Add to your article that he is like 29/30 or something for his MLB career in stolen base success. He only steals when the situation is 100% in his favor not like Marte who just runs wild, whenever. Lopez is cold and calculated.

b. Signed up Tsutsugo, Tellez, Robertson, Hoerner in a deep dynasty (23 roster, 12 bench and 15 MiLB slots) after last night dropping I forget, CJoe, Warren and D Castillo.

Cheers,
Ante

Son
Son
Reply to  Ante GALIC
2 months ago

Thanks, Ante! Always good to hear from you. Good to know we are on the same side with Nicky. Good luck, my man.

TeddyBallgame
TeddyBallgame
2 months ago

I hear ya man. He isn’t being talked about enough. For all we know, he could contend with the batting title this year. Check his 2nd half splits.

Fivepoundbass
Fivepoundbass
Reply to  Son
2 months ago

Guys that can run sometimes maintain high BABIPs

Son
Son
Reply to  Fivepoundbass
2 months ago

True that. Just looking at his history shows that the range of outcomes is wide in that regard

srpst23
srpst23
2 months ago

Witt’s batting 2nd/Lopez 9th today anyways