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After a Successful 2013 season, 2B Christian Lopes Focuses on 2014

After a Successful 2013 season, 2B Christian Lopes Focuses on 2014

January 14, 2014

In the first half of his 2013 season, INF Christian Lopes batted .274 with 11 doubles, a triple, four home runs, and 37 RBIs with the Lansing Lugnuts (photo credit: MWL Guide)

In 2013, the Lansing Lugnuts’ were excited to have second base prospect Christian Lopes on their roster. The Blue Jays 12th highest ranked prospect by MLB.com didn’t disappoint as he was a force at the plate as well as the field every game.

Selected in the 7th round of the 2011 MLB draft out of Edison High School in Huntington Beach California, Lopes remained high on the Blue Jays boards throughout the signing process due to his plate discipline and ability to hit the ball to the opposite field.

“I was very excited to be drafted by the Blue Jays. I know Toronto is a good organization that induces winning,” Lopes said.

“I also looked up the coaches and liked the guys they had in their system to learn from.”

Lopes success in baseball should come as little surprise as he was rated the best 13-year old player in the USA in 2006. An honor the young infielder is proud of, but knows there’s still a lot of work ahead of him.

“Being named the best player in the USA was great.  It was a long time ago now, but it’s always good to have that accolade, but I still have a lot of work to do from there. You’re always learning in this game.”

Four years later, Lopes would get the opportunity to represent his country in the U18 Junior Championship. He indicated that this game was one of his favorite moments of his baseball career.

“Playing for Team USA was fun. There were a lot of great players on that team and they’re doing great things with their organizations. I can’t say enough about that USA organization and it’s always great to represent your country!”

Beginning his professional career in 2012, Lopes saw action in the Blue Jays advanced rookie ball team, the Bluefield Blue Jays. In Bluefield, Lopes batted .280 with 16 doubles, five triples, four home runs and 29 RBIs in 186 at bats.

One of Lopes greatest strengths is his above-average defense which improved significantly in 2013. (photo credit: Dan Jarrett).

The great numbers in Bluefield earned him a late season promotion to the Vancouver Canadians. In Vancouver, Lopes batted .270 with a double, a triple, and four RBIs in 37 at bats.

“Bluefield and Vancouver were great opportunities. It felt great that the Blue Jays thought enough of me to send me up there to play under the lights. Both were great atmospheres with great fans. I had a lot of fun with my teammates just learning and growing in both cities.”

The late season promotion also gave Lopes the chance to play in the postseason as the Vancouver  Canadians won their second straight Northwest League Championship . This, however, was Lopes’ first professional championship.

“Winning the NWL Championship was incredible. Clayton McCullough was a great coach and if I’m not mistaking he threw batting practice to Jose Bautista which says a lot about him as a coach.”

Joining Lansing in 2013, Lopes was an instant impact at the plate in the first half of the season. In the first half, Lopes batted .274 with 11 doubles, a triple, four home runs, and 37 RBIs.

The great first half earned Lopes a spot on the Midwest League all-star team. A huge honor and memorable moment for the 21-year old.

“My all-star experience was awesome. I got to meet a lot of good guys and I got to see my brother, it was a good experience.”

In the second half Lopes numbers declined a bit at the plate. Batting .216 with 13 doubles, two triples, a home run, and 29 RBIs. The decline is likely due to fatigue from the length of the season. Although his numbers dropped a bit his defensive play got better as the season went on.

“I feel my season went really well. It was a productive season. I learned a lot and I got a lot more to learn, but overall it was productive.”

Lopes defensive play caught the eye of many of his teammates especially the pitchers who appreciated the work he did in the field.

Lugnuts’ teammate and starting pitcher, Ben White easily recognized his strong defensive abilities, indicating, “Lopes defense progressed significantly throughout the season. He was a little unsure of himself early in the year, but by the end he was one of, if not the most solid second baseman in the Midwest League. That’s fun to watch.”

Commenting on the differences between the Midwest League compared to the Northwest League and Appalachian League, the young second baseman shared his thoughts on each experience.

“Hitting in the Midwest League is similar to the Northwest League. The only difference is the pitching is a little better. The pitchers are tighter around the zone and locate their pitches better, but it’s still baseball 90 feet to first base. It’s the same game.”

“The biggest difference between the Midwest League and the Appalachian League is consistency of players. The pitchers in the Midwest League are better and more around the plate and I’m sure it’s like that at every level you move up too. Just guys getting the job done a little bit more is the only difference.”

Speaking again on his enjoyable experience in Lansing, Lopes added that what made it memorable and successful was his coaches. He indicated specifically that he enjoyed working with Lugnuts’ Manager John Tamargo Jr. and Hitting Coach Kenny Graham.

“You can’t ask for a better stadium to play in than the one in Lansing. I really like John Tamargo and Kenny Graham the Lugnuts’ do it right! And I’m very thankful for everything I was taught and learned while playing here.”

The Huntington Beach California native earned the respect of his coaches as well. Tarmargo and Graham both appreciated the hard work Lopes brought to the ballpark every day.

“Lopes was outstanding [this past season]. He’s swung the bat really well. He plays great defense. He’s doing a really great job out there,”  Tamargo indicated.

Graham added, “Lopes has done a tremendous job. This is his first full season and that’s always a challenge for young players, but Lopes worked hard and did well all season. He’s been consistent and that’s all we ask of the guys is to show up, work hard, and be consistent at the plate and that’s what he’s done. He’s done very well.”

With the 2013 season in the books, Lopes is focused on his off-season as he prepares for a better 2014 season.

“In the off-season I like to take a little time off. I like to be active and do a little kayaking than I’ll get in the gym to get stronger. After that I’ll start hitting and throwing. It’s a progression, but it’s a lot of the same things we do here.”

Here’s hoping that Lopes can find the same success he found this past season, in 2014.