Nicky Lopez, 2B (KC) - One of the most underrated minor leaguers finally joins a major league roster after the Royals announced they were moving Whit Merrifield to the outfield to give way to Lopez.
The diminutive infielder has one of the strongest eyes at the plate and he’s turned that skill up to 11 this year, with a 20/5 BB/K in 138 plate appearances at Omaha. Matt Thompson ranked him sixth in the preseason Royals Top 30, citing his quick hands and ability to choke up on the bat with two strikes as a reason for his above-average plate approach and why he won’t succumb to the strikeout very often. The former fifth round 2016 pick was hitting .353/.457/.500 with three home runs and nine steals prior to his call up.
It’s encouraging to see him running more this year, as he had 15 steals all of last year. He needs to sharpen the instincts on the bases because he’s not a true burner. Don’t expect much power from the lefty. He pounds the ball into the ground (above 50 GB% all his career), often to the opposite side of the field, using doubles to account for most of his extra-base hits.
In fantasy, be sure to snag him in points leagues and OBP leagues where his value will be greatest. The Royals aren’t afraid to run either, and with everyday playing time Lopez could be a sneaky add.
Oscar Mercado, OF (CLE) - Traded from St.Louis in the Jhon Torres/Conner Capel swap, Mercado cracks a depleted Indians outfield by hitting his way out of Columbus with a .294/.396/.496 line with four home runs and 14 steals. This is someone who’s stolen at least 26 bases in each season dating back to 2014, and 108 total bags in his last three minor league seasons. However it’s fair to note that some of that is because of sheer attrition. Mercado has a poor 68 SB% in his career, though it’s improved to 72 percent since the start of 2018. Expect 20 steals over the course of a full season.
Mercado, who ranked ninth in our Indians Top 30, has notched 15 XBH in 30 games, most of them doubles. His pull-side power might play to above average now thanks to the ball, making him really intriguing at the plate. He has a discerning eye with the ability to walk at an above-average rate which should translate into more stealing opportunities.
Mercado should take over right field with Tyler Naquin headed to the 10-day DL. He easily has the ability to run away with a starting role, but because Naquin was not a black hole, if Mercado sputters he could find himself heading back down. Regardless, he’s an add in 14-team mixed leagues and higher because of the all-around potential at the plate.