Gabe Lopez Hit Better At The Top Of The Order
"Splitsville" is a series of articles on the Yankees' prospects that we'll be doing throughout their minor league careers. In version one/chapter one (v1.1) of Gabe Lopez, we'll look how he did against the right-handed pitchers versus the southpaws, how he hit with runners in scoring position, and more.
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Doubling Up: Gabe Lopez, known as a defensive wizard at second base in the Yankees' farm system, had a career year at the plate in 2005. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2002 MLB Draft out of San Jose State University, Lopez hit 8 home runs in two stops between AA-Trenton and AAA-Columbus, doubling his career total entering the 2005 season. While the home run total was a welcomed surprise, it was also the first time in his last three seasons that he failed to rack up at least 20 doubles.
Polar Opposites: Gabe Lopez, normally one of the more consistent hitters in the Yankees' farm system, had extreme differences in his home versus road splits between his time in Trenton and his first taste with Columbus. For Trenton, Lopez was a better hitter at home and equally as good on the road for the Columbus Clippers in 2005.
Lopez, who hit .311 at Waterfront Park, home of the Trenton Thunder, hit slightly worse on the road (.273). But four of his five home runs came at home at the AA level and he tallied more RBI and runs scored at Waterfront Park despite playing four more road games for the Thunder. For the Clippers, Cooper Stadium wound up being a house of horrors for Lopez. He hit just .129 at Columbus' home and an outstanding .301 in visiting International League ballparks. Throw in the fact that all three of his AAA home runs came on the road, there's no disputing where Lopez would rather have batted at the highest minor league level this past season.
If there's one consistent tendency to be taken from his home versus road splits in 2005, it would be that Lopez is not phased at all hitting on the road. He hit a combined .283 on the road between his two minor league stops this past season, 27 points higher than his overall career batting average entering the 2005 season. That is what many would call serious progress.
Hot Out Of The Gate: Gabe Lopez hit .291 for the AA-Trenton Thunder in 2005, his highest career batting average at any minor league level. That in itself is enough is very impressive. However, his numbers were inflated this past season because of an incredible hot start right out of the gate. Lopez hit .364 with three of his five home runs this past season with Trenton in his first 21 games. In fact, not only did 60% of his AA home runs come in those first 21 games, but 28% of his hits came in the first month of the season - a huge reason for the surprisingly high batting average with the Thunder.
Still, his .270 batting average with Trenton the rest of the year was considerably higher than his .256 career average. His lowest monthly batting average was in July (.188), a month that saw him split time with Columbus and Trenton. Otherwise, his monthly totals were quite consistent along that .270 mark the entire year.
More Power Against Southpaws: The right-handed hitting Lopez not only hit left-handed pitchers better in 2005, he hit them for power. Lopez, who hit .290 against southpaws, this past season, hit just .259 against righties in the Eastern League and International League.
21.5% of his hits against lefties went for extra-base hits, which was actually slightly lower than his 22.4% extra-base hit percentage against right-handed batters. However, half of his season home run total came against lefties despite accumulating 197 less at-bats against them in comparison to righties. His power against left-handed pitching could give him a legitimate shot at the Major Leagues someday.
Better At The Top: His splits in 2005 show he's a better hitter at the top of the lineup than he is at the bottom. Lopez hit a combined .282 with eight more walks than strikeouts while batting second in either the Columbus or Trenton lineup. Batting ninth, where Lopez' lack of power is probably better served, he hit just .191 with more strikeouts than walks.
7 of his 8 home runs in 2005 came batting either first or second in the batting order. The majority of his at-bats came hitting atop the lineups, giving him more of a consistent approach at the plate. The Yankees would most likely like to see Lopez have more success at the bottom of the order, especially in 2006, if Lopez is to get some time as a bench player for the Yankees in the future.
Versatile Situational Hitter: Gabe Lopez, despite having varying performances in the clutch for both Trenton and Columbus, was pretty consistent hitting in various situations this past season. Just a .189 hitter with runners in scoring position for Columbus, Lopez was a world beater in the same situations with Trenton, hitting .369 during those times.304.
Overall, between his two stops, Lopez hit a combined .304 with runners in scoring position in 2005 and .283 leading off an inning, showing his versatility in different hitting situations in 2005. He hit a combined .270 with runners on base for Trenton and Columbus and .266 with the bases empty. While his splits show he was better in the clutch, overall they show he's more than adequate in any hitting situation.
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