Nicky Lopez (ATL): 4-6, 2B, HR, 3 R, 5 RBI.
Before Saturday, Nicky Lopez had only made one appearance in an Atlanta uniform since being traded over from Kansas City on July 30th. That happened to be a pinch-running appearance against the Pirates on August 8th.
In some cases, it makes sense why Atlanta has not utilized Lopez much so far in his short tenure.
Going into Saturday’s doubleheader against the Mets, Lopez only hit .213 with a .604 OPS in 196 plate appearances. Lopez struggled to do much with the bat and failed to get consistent playing time on a last-place Kansas City Royals team, especially with younger options available in the Royals infield like Maikel Garcia and Michael Massey.
Therefore, it seemed hard-pressed to think Lopez would be more than a defensive and base-running replacement in Atlanta, especially considering their depth in the infield.
On Saturday though, due to the doubleheader, Lopez got his first start in Atlanta and made the most of it, though most Atlanta hitters did as well in their 21-8 win (and no, this was not a preseason football game).
The 28-year-old former Royals infielder collected four hits in game one against the Mets, including a double, three runs, and five RBI. Lopez also hit his first home run since the 2021 season, albeit against position player Danny Mendick.
And if that wasn’t enough, due to the 13-run lead, Atlanta put Lopez on the mound to close out the game. He went one inning of work and walked only one on 12 pitches.
He hasn’t played much thus far with his new team, and it seems unlikely that will change much on a team that is so loaded and perhaps a World Series favorite. But at least Lopez made his first start with his new team memorable in more ways than one.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Matt Olson (ATL): 3-5, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB.
Olson hit his 41st and 42nd home runs on Saturday, which put him ahead of Shohei Ohtani by two. It’s a tough MVP race in the National League as teammate Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman are also certainly making their case. However, Olson’s stupendous home-run power and production will keep him in the hunt down the stretch.
Joey Gallo (MIN): 4-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.
Gallo hit his 19th and 20th home runs of the year against the Phillies on Saturday in the Twins’ 8-1 win. It’s been the typical year for Gallo: a lot of power (.770 OPS), but not much progress shown on the batting average end (.185). Because of that, Gallo has been a difficult hold in traditional 5×5 formats, though his high slugging and mediocre OBP make him more tolerable in leagues that use OBP and OPS instead of batting average.
Tommy Edman (STL): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
After losing game one of the I-70 Series in Kansas City, the Cardinals ensured the split on Saturday, as they won 5-4. Edman was the primary offensive catalyst, as he hit two home runs and drove in three of the Cardinals’ five runs on Saturday night. After a mediocre first half (.694 OPS), Edman has been on fire after the All-Star Break, hitting .325 with a 1.061 OPS.
Kyle Tucker (HOU): 3-4, HR, R, 4 RBI, BB.
It’s been another banner year for Tucker, who seemingly always gets overlooked when fans and fantasy players identify the game’s top hitters. After a three-hit, four-RBI night against the Angels, Tucker is now hitting .297 for the season with a .898 OPS. That includes 22 home runs, 88 RBI, and 24 stolen bases. Tucker appears primed for a 30-30 season at the very least and should be a Top-5 to 10 fantasy player in drafts this winter.
Kerry Carpenter (DET): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The Tigers haven’t been great, but Carpenter has been a promising player who has emerged in Detroit during another rebuilding season. On Saturday, he hit his 14th and 15th home runs of the year, and on the season he is hitting .281 with a .851 OPS in 273 plate appearances. Carpenter has lowered the K rate and increased the hard-hit rate from his rookie season in 2022, which makes his current breakout feel legit. At only 25 years old, Carpenter seems like he could be a building block for the Tigers.
Luke Raley (TB): 2-3, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.
The Rays scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to come back and beat the Guardians on Saturday. Though Raley wasn’t part of the theatrics in the ninth, he did help Tampa crawl back earlier in the game, as he hit a double and a home run, the latter being his 16th of the season. Raley has been a pretty consistent fantasy producer this year, as he is posting a .863 OPS this season and has swiped 12 bags to boot.
Christian Walker (ARI): 3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
There was some fear that Walker would fall back to earth in 2023 after his 36-HR campaign in 2022. After all, he only hit 10 home runs in 115 games in 2021, and with the exception of 2022 and a 29-HR season in 2019, his homer totals have been pretty paltry over his career. Thankfully for the Diamondbacks, Walker hasn’t missed a beat, as he has hit not only 24 home runs so far in 113 games, but he has improved his batting average (.268) and OPS (.859) from a season ago as well.
Ezequiel Tovar (COL): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, SB.
Tovar was seen as a dark horse this past draft season, and it really hasn’t come to full fruition. His .258 average and .717 OPS don’t really pop out, and though he has 12 home runs, he only has seven stolen bases. The latter feels low considering his well above-average sprint speed tool set (then again, Rockies manager Bud Black has been seen as a manager who doesn’t like to run much with anyone). Tovar in redraft leagues has been a bit of a disappointment, but he’s a more intriguing option in dynasty and keeper leagues and is worth holding onto for next season in those formats.
Yoán Moncada (CWS): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.
It’s been a brutal couple of weeks for the South Siders, and Moncada has certainly been a primary target. The White Sox traded fan favorite Jake Burger at the deadline (probably due to him and Moncada playing similar positions), and Moncada was mentioned as one of the players who has contributed to the White Sox’s toxic clubhouse environment. On Saturday, he was able to at least produce with the bat, as he collected two hits and his fourth home run of the year.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)