Royals’ Nicky Lopez says he’s open to playing a position other than shortstop in 2022

·3 min read
Charlie Riedel/AP

When the Gold Glove award finalists were announced in early November, Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez was admittedly irked that he didn’t make the cut.

FanGraphs’ stats showed Lopez led all American League shortstops in Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Above Average. Statcast’s numbers showed Lopez had 25 Outs Above Average, five more than any other shortstop.

Yet, the finalists in the American League were Houston’s Carlos Correa (who won the award), the Twins’ Andrelton Simmons and Mariners’ J.P. Crawford.

“Yeah, it was tough, kind of a sour taste in my mouth because do I think I put together a good campaign this year? I do,” Lopez said Monday in a conference call after he won the Royals’ Joe Burke Special Achievement Award for 2021. “I think it was a little bit more special because the past couple years I’ve been playing second base, and to go over to play short and play it well and lead the league in multiple categories, but then nothing to show for it. Kind of a little sour taste in my mouth.

“But like I said to numerous people, it’s in the past. There’s nothing I can change and we’ve got other things to look forward to and take care of. I was sick and tired of watching other teams play in October. I want to play in October, I want our team to play in October. So it was one of those things, I had a sour taste in my mouth for a couple days but then I had to flip the switch and be like ‘All right, how can we how can we get to where we want to be?’”

Lopez played second base in the 2020 season but switched over to shortstop this year after Adalberto Mondesi was injured. In addition to strong play in the field, Lopez was the first shortstop in Royals history to bat .300.

When he returned late in the season, Mondesi played third base, which would seem to open the door to Lopez remaining the Royals’ shortstop.

However the Royals’ top prospect, Bobby Witt, Jr., has mostly played shortstop in the minor leagues. Witt has worked at third base, too.

“We have three really talented shortstops that we believe can all play that position, play at a high level,” Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore told The Star shortly after the World Series ended. “We also believe all three of them can be impactful on the offensive side in multiple ways.”

Lopez was asked Monday if the Royals have told him to work during the offseason at a specific position or multiple spots.

“Yeah, just working on everything, whether it’s short, whether it’s second, whether it’s catcher,” Lopez said, before stopping himself and laughing. “No, but I’m just working at everything, whatever they want me to play.

“Obviously, no one really knows at this time what’s going to happen but I’ll be ready to play second base, shortstop, whether they want me to play at third base, you know I’ll be ready.”

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