By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
Somehow Raffy Lopez turned the best offensive minor league season of his career into a big league backup job, at least for a little while. Lopez, now 30, had bounced around the minor leagues since being selected in the 16th round of the 2011 draft by the Chicago Cubs after attending Florida State University (where he succeeded Buster Posey as catcher and was a teammate of Devon Travis).
Lopez showed off some power in his debut season, hitting six home runs in the Northwest League and popped eight home runs in 2013 in double-A Tennessee over 95 games but had never really been thought of as an offensive threat, posting a .779 OPS that season, a career high outside of short-season A-ball.
Until 2017, Lopez had gotten some big league time with the Cubs in 2014 (seven games, hitting .182/.286/.182) and the Reds in 2016. His story with the Reds was pretty special as he had been released by the Detroit Tigers in early April, signed on to play in the independent Atlantic League and wasn't doing much there in seven games before the Reds came in and signed him as catching depth for triple-A. He reported to Louisville and hit just .213/.262/.297 over 47 games, hitting 10 doubles and one home run before getting called up to the majors for the final chunk of the season, going 0-for-7.
Then, in 2017, Lopez signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays before the season and was assigned to double-A New Hampshire where he went on a power tear, hitting .262/.380/.619 with a double, a triple and four home runs, producing his best numbers for any minor league stint he's ever had.
Moved up to triple-A Buffalo, he continued to hit, slamming five more home runs in his 19 remaining games in May and posting a .292/.370/.585 slash line for that period. He cooled off a bit in June but still hit .250/.313/.583 with six doubles, a triple and four home runs and cranked his average up to .338/.400/.500 in July with another two doubles and three home runs. By the time the Blue Jays came calling in early August, Lopez had smashed all of his career highs by hitting 16 home runs in the minor leagues in just four months while posting a .293/.368/.551 slash line in triple-A, over 200 points higher than he had even in his first stint in the Pacific Coast League.
Lopez made his Blue Jays debut on August 9 and continued to put up some power numbers backing up Russell Martin. He hit .222/.306/.463 with a double and four home runs in his longest stint in the major leagues, getting into 24 games and coming to the plate 62 times. His throwing from behind the plate was not good, however as he only threw out six percent of potential base stealers.
With an increased emphasis on fly balls (over 50% at any level in 2017), more balls were going out for Lopez as he also posted a strong walk rate (11.1% in the major leagues) despite striking out a third of the time.
Lopez has agreed to a minor league deal with the San Diego Padres that includes an invite to big league spring training.
2017 Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: C
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