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Nicky Lopez Continues Meteoric Rise

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Shortstop Nicky Lopez knows how to make a grand exit and a spectacular debut.

Lopez hit for the cycle for Double-A Northwest Arkansas on June 21, then started in the Texas League all-star game a few days later. He received a promotion to Triple-A Omaha immediately afterward.

In Lopez’s first game with the Storm Chasers, he delivered four hits, including a home run.

Lopez has made a meteoric rise in the Royals’ system after being drafted out of Creighton in the fifth round in 2016.

"I can’t say I thought that was going to happen," said Lopez, 23, "but I put together a couple of good seasons and I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”

Lopez was a high Class A Carolina League all-star selection last year, hitting .295 in 70 games at Wilmington before finishing the season at Double-A.

The lefthanded batter then opened eyes in the Arizona Fall League, where he ranked second with a .383 average and made the league's the all-prospect team.

"I just had fun with it,” Lopez said. "I tried to play loose, go out there every day with a fun attitude and just an open mind. I tried to learn by playing with the best prospects in baseball. It was a cool experience.”

Now, Lopez is back in Omaha after playing three years at Creighton. He is from the Chicago suburb of Naperville but went to Creighton on the recommendation of close friend Mike Gerber, who is now a Tigers outfield prospect.

If Lopez produces in the Pacific Coast League, he could be in Kansas City by September or some time in 2019. He is the same age as Adalberto Mondesi, who replaced veteran shortstop Alcides Escobar in July. Lopez has a chance to be Mondesi's double-play partner.

"That would be a fun opportunity," Lopez said. "As long as we’re on the field, that’s the big thing . . . I’ll play any position they want me to play.”

Lopez admires all-star second basemen Jose Altuve and Dustin Pedroia, both for their hard-nosed playing style and for the underdog mentality they project for being labeled as short players.

"They just prove people wrong over and over again," Lopez said. "That’s what I try to present.”

The Royals generously list Lopez at 5-foot-11, but as a high school freshman he stood just 4-foot-11.

"I’m just glad I’m not that anymore,” Lopez said. "In high school, I was like eye-level to the locker combinations, while other people had to bend over. My dad nicknamed me 'Shorts,' but now I’m taller than him.”

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ROYALTIES

** The Royals signed 16-year-old Japanese righthander Kaito Yuki for $322,500. He is believed to be the youngest player ever from Japan to sign with a major league organizations. Instead of attending high school, Yuki will participate in Instructional League in Surprise, Ariz., and make his pro debut in 2019.

** The Royals promoted outfielder Khalil Lee to Double-A on June 27, one day after his 20th birthday. He had a .402 on-base percentage with 55 walks in 71 games with Wilmington.

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