Royals' Lopez continues to rake in Fall League

Royals' Lopez continues to rake in Fall League

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nicky Lopez has made a name for himself in this year's Arizona Fall League with his pure hitting ability. On Tuesday afternoon, however, it was the shortstop's power which stood out most as he helped lead Surprise to a 6-1 win over Glendale at Camelback Ranch.

Lopez, Kansas City's No. 11 prospect, belted the third pitch he saw from Glendale starting pitcher Andrew Sopko over the wall in right field for a leadoff home run, his first homer in the Fall League.

"I haven't had [a leadoff home run] in a while, so when I hit that it felt pretty good," said Lopez, who hit two home runs during the regular season while slashing .279/.348/.356 in 129 games between Class A Advanced Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Box score

The left-handed-hitting shortstop would later add a line-drive single to the opposite field before finishing 2-for-5 with two runs scored. He improved his AFL average to .385 in the process, while the pair of hits gives him a league-leading 25 through 16 games with Surprise.

Lopez's leadoff shot ignited what would be a four-run top of the first for the Saguaros, who capitalized on a pair of walks and two errors in the frame while also receiving RBI singles from Yanio Perez (Rangers' No. 11) and Edmundo Sosa (Cards' No. 12).

"I just try to get on base and let my team do the rest of the work," noted the 22-year-old Lopez. "We had a pretty good first inning, and I'm just happy that I was a part of it."

Surprise didn't score again until the seventh inning, when, after loading the bases with one out, Oscar Mercado (Cardinals' No. 18) walked to force in a run, and Brett Sullivan (Rays) followed with an RBI on a fielder's choice.

That run support proved more than enough for Burch Smith, as the Saguaros starter tossed four scoreless innings to record the win in what was easily his best performance in the Fall League.

The 27-year-old right-hander, a Rays farmhand who reached the Major Leagues with the Padres in 2013, allowed two hits and struck out four in the performance. More significant, he did not issue a walk for the first time in five AFL starts, ultimately throwing 36 of his 50 pitches for strikes.

"It's easy to play defense behind a pitcher who throws strikes and is around the zone," said Lopez. "You don't stand flatfooted on the infield and you're in the game.

"[Smith] kept a good tempo and threw strikes and let them put the ball in play. That's easy to play behind."

The Desert Dogs produced their only run of the game in their final at-bat, courtesy of a Yusniel Diaz RBI single. The Dodgers' No. 5 prospect (No. 76 overall) collected one-third of his team's hits in the contest, finishing 2-for-4. On the mound for Glendale, right-hander J.T. Brubaker (Pirates) impressed by throwing 2 1/3 scoreless frames with four strikeouts and three ground-ball outs in relief of Sopko.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.