Vermont Lake Monsters

Oakland A's 2016 top-50 prospects scouting report: Jesus Lopez

Our Oakland A's 2016 top-50 prospects list is out. Now find out more about the players on that list. In this piece, a close look at top-50 prospect Jesus Lopez. Lopez is still getting his feet wet in professional baseball. Can he make the jump to full-season ball in 2016?

Name: Jesus Lopez   
Position: IF
Height/Weight: 5’11’’, 180
Bats/Throws: B/R
Age: 19
How Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent on July 2, 2013

Since signing with the Oakland A’s as a 16-year-old out of Nicaragua, Jesus Lopez has been on a fairly aggressive development track. While the numbers aren’t yet indicative of his talent, Lopez has one of the highest ceilings amongst the A’s middle infield prospects.

Lopez was one of two high-profile amateur signings made by the A’s on July 2, 2013. The switch-hitter signed for a $950,000 bonus. He made his US debut mere months later, joining the A’s fall Instructional League that season as the youngest player in camp.

The A’s were impressive with Lopez’s maturity and brought him to the US for the 2014 season, as well. He spent the entire season in Arizona, participating in extended spring training before joining the AZL A’s roster at the start of the short season. Lopez appeared in 42 games with the AZL A’s and hit only .221 with a .316 OBP, but he finished the year strong, hitting .270 with a .349 OBP during the second half of the AZL season.

Jesus Lopez Stats

2015 VER 202 .203 .233 .228 0 6 40
Career 338 .210 .268 .248 0 25 69

This year, Lopez participated in the A’s regular minor league spring training. He was one of the standout performers of the spring and there was some consideration put towards sending him to full-season ball despite the fact he was just 18. In the end, the A’s decided to keep Lopez back in Arizona for extended spring training because the A’s had too many other older middle infield prospects in Low-A and High-A in need of regular playing time. Lopez continued to play well during extended spring training and he was assigned to the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters roster at the end of camp. At 18, he was the youngest position player on the Vermont squad.

Lopez got off to a decent start with the Lake Monsters, hitting .262 over the first 20 days of the season. However, he slumped badly after that and finished the year with a .203/.233/.228 line. His BABIP was only .247 and his pop-out and strike-out rates were decent, which implies that Lopez was a bit more unlucky than over-matched in the New York-Penn League. His plate discipline waned from what it was during his AZL season and he rolled over on a lot of softer offerings.

Lopez fared much better during the A’s fall Instructional League, however, earning praise from A’s player development staff as one of the most improved players in the camp. Vermont manager Aaron Nieckula spent the entire season with Lopez, starting with spring training all the way through fall Instructional League. Nieckula believes fatigue had an impact on Lopez’s numbers with Vermont.

“For the amount of talent that that kid has, he never really hit his stride [with Vermont],” Nieckula said. “He showed flashes of brilliance both offensively and defensively, but I think the length of the season may have fatigued him a little bit. I will say that once he got to the Instructional League, he was a new man. It was impressive to watch him develop from the end of the Vermont season through the end of the Instructional League. I would say he was one of the most improved players from the end of Vermont to the end of the Instructional League.”

When Lopez signed with the A’s, he weighed about 160. He has put on roughly 20 pounds of healthy weight over the past two years. Lopez is an excellent athlete who runs well and is able to repeat his swing mechanics consistently from both sides of the plate. He has a swing that should generate line-drives from both sides and could eventually lead to some homerun power as he matures. He is still looking for his first professional homerun, however. Lopez's plate discipline and pitch recognition improved during Instructs and will need to continue to improve for him to reach his ceiling.

Defensively, Lopez has played two-thirds of his games at second base with the other one-third coming at shortstop. Second base is his likely longterm home. He has good hands and the ability to range up the middle, but Lopez doesn’t have the pure arm strength of a true shortstop. He is very coachable and has handled being the youngest player on the field admirably over the past two seasons.

Despite the poor numbers with Vermont this year, Lopez is still in position to make his full-season debut in 2016 with Low-A Beloit. The A’s will need to balance up-the-middle playing time at the A-ball levels between Yairo Munoz, Richie Martin, Mikey White, Trace Loehr and Lopez, among others, but they should be able to move those guys around enough to get Lopez to Beloit, especially if Lopez has another strong spring. Lopez will be 19 throughout the 2016 season.  

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