Former High Point-Thomasville HiTom Nicky Lopez made long-awaited MLB debut Tuesday night for the Kansas City Royals, becoming the 13th HiToms player in the Coastal Plain League era to play in the Major Leagues.
Lopez, 24, is the eighth-ranked prospect in the Royals organization and will anchor a young, promising middle infield in Kansas City. The former HiTom and Creighton Bluejay batted 2nd in the Royals lineup and played second base in his debut outing against the Texas Rangers. The second baseman finished 1-for-4 in his debut, driving home Whit Merrifield with his first career hit.
Lopez starred for the HiToms in 2015, batting .327 in 43 games played to go along with seven home runs, 22 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases. He also showed remarkable defensive ability, a trait that has helped him quickly rise through the ranks of Minor League Baseball.
"I'm so excited for Nicky and his family," said HiToms head coach Brian Rountree, who coached Lopez in 2015. "I can't wait to see everything that is in front of him in his career. Nicky brings all the intangibles to the game - the commitment, the hard work, the hustle, the desire - all those things you can't necessarily measure with a radar gun or a stopwatch."
Lopez bilstered the minors after Kansas City selected him in the 5th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. His offensive performance last season in Double-A and Triple-A earned him the Royals' George Brett Hitter of the Year Award.
This season, he batted .353 in 31 games with the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers, swatted three home runs, and stole nine bases. He also drew 20 walks and struck out just five times in 116 at-bats.
Lopez becomes the second former HiTom to make his MLB debut this season - on April 25, pitcher Matt Ramsey ('09) took the mound for the first time for the Los Angeles Angels.
Watch below as HiTom head coach Brian Rountree and the voice of the HiToms John Thomas discuss Nicky Lopez's time in High Point-Thomasville and his future as a Royal.