In the coming months SeattleClubhouse will be giving subscribers in-depth scouting reports on the Top-50 prospects in the organization. We already took a look at some of the biggest risers (and furthest fallers) last month in the Prospect Stock Watch piece and highlighted the 10 best system debuts in 2012. One player who's name didn't appear on either of those lists but who may very well find himself on the Top-50 list is 2012 draftee Timmy Lopes.
Thanks in part to a successful 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft for the Seattle Mariners the Top-20 organizational prospects as rated by MLB.com took quite a shake-up this past week with the Mariners claiming the No. 1 overall system in baseball. Four members of the Mariners 2012 draft class were featured on this list; none more surprising than the 5-foot-11 180 pound Lopes, a middle infielder from Edison High. Call him what you will; Tim as ESPN.com lists, Timmy like his Baseballreference.com profile, or Timothy as he is listed on minorleaguecentral.com stat sheets but do be sure you refer to him as a ballplayer. He surely established this much for himself in his first professional season rocketing to 17th in the Mariners system according to MLB.com.
Christian Lopes, Timmy's brother, was a seventh-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011; cracking their Top-20 list as well coming in at #19 in 2012. Christian was ranked as California's #1 player at 13-years of age and went into the 2011 draft ranked as a five-star prospect by Baseball America. Why am I speaking so highly of a prospect outside the Mariners system? Straight from his MLB.com draft profile, "Lopes' older brother, Christian, was the Blue Jays' seventh-round pick in 2011, and Timmy has a chance to be even better than his older brother." The chance to be better than the former No. 1 overall player in California and a five-star prospect; does that make him a six-star prospect? Either way, sign me up, because the praise doesn't stop there. Edison High School head coach Steve Lambright told the Huntington Beach Independent he is a strong believer in Lopes ability to deliver in professional baseball saying "In my 18 years of coaching, Timmy [Lopes] is the best athlete that I have ever coached," Lambright said. "He's the whole package, physically, mentally, and has the make-up to be very successful at the next level." The converted shortstop played his freshman season in professional baseball with a kind of silent acknowledgement for his former coach's words putting together a top of the league performance with the AZL Mariners.
Lopes was the third of four middle infielders selected in the first ten rounds of the 2012 draft by the Seattle Mariners. He was selected in the sixth-round; the others being Joe DeCarlo (2nd round), Chris Taylor (5th round), and Jamodrick McGruder (9th round), further diminishing his chances of making an impact within the organization in 2012. The 18-year-old middle infielder, who says he models his game after Derek Jeter, doesn't believe in giving less than one hundred percent and did make an impact within the organization right off the bat. He became the youngest player to reach the California League in 2012 when he was called up to the High Desert Mavericks the final week of the regular season. I have heard him called a, ‘baseball rat', ‘spray-hitter', and my personal favorite ‘hard batter to strike out'. Although I cannot attest to Lopes work ethic, Kyle Glasler of the Victorville Daily Press calls him "very, very mature", his numbers do attest to the rest.Lopes put up thirteen triples, good for the fourth highest amount in all of minor league baseball, in an astoundingly low 57 games. With 227 at-bats in 2012 the right handed hitter tallied a triple every 17.4 at-bats; far exceeding minor league triples leader and fellow Mariners farmhand Leon Landry who hit one every 24.9 at-bats. He finished with a .358 BABIP amid being one of just three hitters (220+ at-bats) in the Arizona League to register a BB% within 2.5 total points of their K% (9.8/11.9) showing an advanced understanding of the strike zone in striking out only once every 7.41 at-bats; six times looking the entire season. His .358 BABIP placed him 0.23 points above the league average with the AZL Mariners while his 11.9% strikeout percentage is nearly half the league average of 20.7%. An impressive 1.20 K/BB ratio put him just behind Arizona Diamondbacks 2012 first-round pick Stryker Trahan who posted a 1.21 K/BB ratio in nearly the same amount of bats in the Arizona League. Although his BABIP tells the story of a kid who knows where to hit the ball if I did have to knock one thing of the 18-year-old it would be that you would like to see a higher line drive percentage than eleven percent from a kid with little projectable power and a 0.92 groundball to fly ball ratio on the season. Timmy led the Arizona League in outfield fly balls (61) and finished second in infield fly balls (24) all the while posting a league Top-10 .313 batting average. His success in reaching base despite the numbers above shows that he is simply getting under the ball and his fly-outs are not a more serious baseball make-up concern; a trend I expect to stop in his 2013 sophomore season.
From our draft analysis piece by SeattleClubhouse's own Rick Randall, "He uses the whole field with a level swing that stays in the hitting zone through his swing path well to hit line drives to all parts of the park." Those words were echoed by Scout.com's prospect expert Frankie Piliere who added, "He definitely is adept at hitting up the middle and the opposite way and I like him defensively." A scout from California who saw Lopes in his high school days added, "He doesn't wow you with tools, but he plays the game right and he gets a lot out of what he's got. I wouldn't be surprised if he became a big leaguer."
Lopes showed his ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field as he recorded 22 multi-hit games; an astounding 42% of the games he played in the Arizona League. His best performance of the season came on July 27th going 4-5 and scoring twice with a single, double, two triples, and seven runs batted in. I don't have the energy to comb through hours of baseball data but when was the last time you saw a seven RBI ballgame from a player who ended the season with no home runs? That is the kind of strike zone smarts and field of play understanding this kid brings to the plate with him. Lopes made the transition to second base as many felt he would fielding 43 games from the position in turning 23 double plays as opposed to just six games played from shortstop; the position he manned in high school. Lopes' quick release and footwork have received higher marks than his arm with John Klima of Baseball Prospect Report saying, "Tim reminds me of a smoother, more effortless looking (David) Eckstein." Lopes posted a 4.74 range factor per game from second base comparable to a 4.80 range factor per game average over the past eight seasons in the major leagues.
It's not just on the field that he makes his presence known. Tyler Pike, fellow 2012 Mariners draftee and roommate of Lopes with the AZL Mariners told SeattleClubhouse this today when asked of how Timmy handles himself away from the field, "one of the nicest kids you will ever meet, very humble, and an all-around great guy." MLB.com lists Pike and Lopes as being major league bound in 2016. Until then here's to wishing them both healthy successful seasons within the Mariners organization and maybe a few more stops as roommates.
Looking for more Mariners prospect player interviews, news and articles? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse Contributing Writer Josh Dobner on Twitter at @JPDobner and site Editor Rick Randall at @randallball.