A baseball season takes a long time and a ton of games are played. One of the greatest things about the game is how some players can seemingly come out of nowhere. Freakish rises from the past like Josh VanMeter come to mind. Sometimes players drop off, out of radar, but sometimes a player that wasn’t much of a prospect just clicks and figures it out. That’s the story of Alejo Lopez. To not slow the news before we get to my pedantic wonderings, news broke last night that Alejo Lopez would be getting called up. There had been rumblings about this happening for weeks due to the kid’s fire hot season in AA and AAA. The news originally broke from a tweet that was snipped from a Mexican Winter League posting its congratulations to Twitter. Lopez played in this league the past two years.
The more of aware of us, not me, also noticed that Lopez had posted a long thank you to his parents and all that jazz on his Instagram last night as well. So, in the age of social media we knew before we knew which was kind of cool because it allowed us all some late night and early morning speculation. The interseason Hot Stove run amok. The official word came this morning from the Reds and our good friend, C. Trent Rosencrans.
The minors’ hottest hitter is a big-leaguer: the Reds called up IF Alejo Lopez (#28) and designated for assignment OF Scott Heineman. Lopez was hitting .360/.437/.485 between AA and AAA.— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) June 28, 2021
Obviously, to create room for Alejo Lopez someone had to be dropped from the 40 man roster. It sucks for him, but Scott Heineman was the obvious culprit. While he got the start yesterday, Heineman only saw time against left handed pitchers and didn’t get the job done. He had 34 plate appearances and had three hits and three walks. While two of those three hits were dingers, that’s just not going to cut it. It seems the Reds are very comfortable with whatever conglomeration of Tyler Naquin, Aristides Aquino, and Shogo Akiyama they can patch together in center field.
What this move shows is a bit of aggressiveness by Nick Krall, who I think has been pretty aggressive with in season moves considering the handcuffs he has put on him by ownership. Alejo Lopez only has 229 plate appearances at AA or above and they’ve all come this year. He’s not a top drafted guy. His numbers have never been bad but they’ve never been awesome. He’s a 2B/3B guy that does not hit for much power. His career ISO is around .100. He can’t play shortstop. His time in the outfield is limited. He doesn’t have a starting position right now. However, Lopez has always been kind of an on base guy that can handle the stick a bit, and he’s hitting the shit out of the ball in 2021.
AA: 119 PA - .362/.437/.448 - 10.1 BB% and 9.2 K%
AAA: 110 PA - .358/.436/.536 - 10.9 BB% and 6.4%
He isn’t going to hit for much traditional power but those contact numbers, coupled with his walk numbers, are otherworldly. To give you an even more freakish stat, he has struck out only once against a left handed pitcher this year out of 56 plate appearances. Sure, his BABIP is really high, and that’s scary from a guy that’s not a typical power hitter, Alejo weighs only 170 pounds, but the one thing he’s done this season is find his doubles stroke. Lopez has hit 19 doubles and 2 home runs out 72 total hits this year. That puts his extra base hit percentage at right around 30%. That’s around where Jonathan India is this year. To put to it into an extra cool perspective, about 40% of Nick Castellanos hits have been of the extra base variety, and I believe he’s leading the league in extra base hits or is close to it. That’s good stuff.
What is the plan for Alejo Lopez? Well, Mike Moustakas is not coming back for a bit. Nick Senzel is not coming back for a bit. His call up does not answer the question of short stop, and he can’t play there. If something happens to Kyle Farmer it is Eugenio Suarez or Jonathan India playing at SS. However, the one added bonus Lopez has is being a switch hitter and he’s not a liability switch hitter against lefties like we so often see. He can hit from both sides of the plate and handle the bat well. He will put the ball in play, and the Reds have been valuing that more than ever this year. My best guess is Alejo Lopez at the minimum will pinch hit every single night. He will probably get two or so starts a week somewhere, and he is just insurance the Reds have in case someone else gets hurt. He won’t be a full time starter but there is nothing left for him to prove in the minor leagues. The Reds might as well squeeze some value out of him.
Alejo Lopez is a guy that was not expected to help the Reds this year. However, with his meteoric rise the Reds can improve the roster by putting him on it. He’s 25 years old, so his prospect development is near its end. He could come up and flounder, but his career stats signify he will be a tough out, a pesky hitter you want up in late situation spots. He’s certainly a better option than whatever Scott Heineman was giving you, and I’m not trying to be mean. I’m sure Scott Heineman is a great guy. Whatever you get from Alejo Lopez is gravy, and it’s nice to see the Reds making a sort of aggressive move like this.
It will be interesting to see if they will make anymore since the Reds are sticking around. Is Jose Barrero next? He should at least get pushed to AAA. Are Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo peeking around the corner? It could get fun come September.