Gabe Lopez: On the Prospect Radar

Gabe Lopez is the Thunder's 25 year old five foot eight second baseman who has torn up the Eastern League through the first six weeks. To start the season, Lopez wasn't on the Yankees 40-man roster and wasn't considered a prospect by most scouts and observers. Most baseball people considered Lopez to be too short to be an everyday major league second baseman.

That was before he was ranked fourth in the Eastern League in batting average after leading for most of the season and holding the outright lead in on-base percentage.

He has made a steady rise through the Yankees system since he was selected in the 17th round of the 2002 June Draft out of San Diego State University and has an insatiable competitive desire. Lopez is unconcerned about everything that doesn't involve his team being competitive and winning a championship. When Lopez was told of his Eastern League rankings, he claimed he wasn't even aware of his status.

"I didn't even know. I don't think any of us worry about our stats. Sure, we want to do well but our goal everyday is to win." said Lopez. Lopez isn't even concerned about his prospects for a trip to Columbus later this season. "I just worry about today. It's not up to me. I just have to play and if it happens this year, then it happens," said the 25-year old.

Winning is something Lopez and his Trenton teammates have experienced quite a bit lately, as they have gone 18-10 since hitting a nadir of 3-9 after the first twelve games. In fact, in their last 12 games the Thunder are 8-4 and have climbed all the way back from the basement of the Eastern League North to second place and playoff contention. The playoffs are something else that Lopez has yet to let cross his mind.

"I'm not even thinking about it. It's early," said Lopez. These are sentiments echoed by his manager, Bill Masse. "It's still early. Guys are still learning at this level and there are still going to be stretches and growing pains. We just need to concentrate and we'll focus on the standings when the summer starts to heat up," said the manager.

Of course with the numbers Lopez has put up this year, you might expect him to change as he shows the baseball powers that be that he can play and is a prospect, and you would think that their manager might change with his first taste of Double-A success. Masse believes Lopez has a Major League future.

"He has great instincts. The only skill he doesn't have is power. I guarantee you every team (in the Major Leagues) is looking for a guy like Gabe Lopez," says the Thunder skipper.

Lopez insists his skipper hasn't changed at all.

"Not at all. Billy's Billy. It doesn't matter if it's a different part of the country or a different level. Billy's not changing for anybody. He's still the exact same guy he always has been" said Lopez.

Lopez believes the most beneficial aspect of the minors that can help his game is the rovers coming around and helping him pick up little nuances that may make the difference between his making the Major Leagues or not. He believes that having guys like Andy Stankiewicz and Stump Merrill help guys make the transition from good to superb. He points to one such instance talking about a game situation that put the ball in the hole on the right side of the infield that Shelley Duncan fielded but first base was left open. The rover suggested to Lopez that he should call that ball so that Duncan could stay home and cover first.

Even though Lopez has cooled off recently, he still has a Major League future if he continues to play the game at the level he has through the first 6 weeks of the season. Lopez's talent and range have caused him to be dubbed "Mr. Angles" by his skipper, but he will be Mr. Big Leagues sooner rather than later with his current production levels. It is a fiery and "scrappy" guy like Lopez that will be crucial if this Thunder team hopes to make a play-off run this year.

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