The Milwaukee Brewers recently claimed Tim Lopes off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Seattle designated Lopes for assignment to make way for the addition of Chris Flexen. Lopes will turn 27 in June and brings two elements essential to any Brewers’ acquisition these days: versatility and minor league options.
Lopes logged time over the past two seasons with Seattle at second base, third base, and both corner outfield spots. He can also play shortstop. He has three minor league options still available, making him the type of depth piece that David Stearns likes to utilize.
Lopes does bring something beyond depth, versatility, and minor league options. First of all, he performed relatively well in major league action recently. In 2019, he slashed .270/.359/.360 in 128 plate appearances. With a wRC+ of 101, he ended 2019 as essentially a league average hitter.
Lopes is also very fast and can steal bases. According to Baseball Savant, Lopes was in the 88th percentile in terms of sprint speed across MLB for 2020. Lopes swiped six bags in 2019 and followed with five more stolen bases in 2020. In 2020 he successfully swiped every base he attempted to steal.
Unfortunately, 2020 was not a strong as 2019. He slashed .238/.278/.364 for a 78 wRC+ in 46 games and 151 plate appearances. With speed being his calling card, it is imperative he gets on base. In 2019 he walked 11.7% of the time and had an OBP of .359. In 2020 he walked 4.0% of the time and had an OBP of .278. Milwaukee hopes to see an OBP closer to the 2019 version of Lopes.
He will have to get on base and steal bases to have an offensive impact. Lopes brings very little power to the table. His career slugging percentage is just .362. He makes very little hard contact. Even in his solid 2019 campaign, Lopes only produced a hard hit percentage of 19.3%. He did improve in 2020, hitting the ball hard 28.4% of the time. Nonetheless, Lopes is not hitting the cover off the ball.
Lopes also hits the ball on the ground more than average. He generally has around a 50% GB rate, which is above league average. Might there be an opportunity with a few adjustments to increase his line drive percentage and thus his hard hit rate? That would be something to dream on, but realistically, Lopes is not going to a fixture in the middle of Milwaukee’s lineup.
What Tim Lopes is going to be is a young, controllable talent that can make a contribution. While there is always the possibility of a break out based on finding some untapped talent, swing change, or the like; Lopes is most apt to be a useful utility man that the Brewers can bring up and send down as they see fit over the next few years.
The best version of Tim Lopes would be something akin to what Hernan Perez once was for Milwaukee. The scouting reports on Lopes coming up through Seattle’s system indicate just such a player; plus speed, good contact skills, and defensive versatility.
Lopes will play multiple positions decently. If he can get on base, he will create some havoc on the base paths. He will give the Brewers options when they need a player to come up from Nashville in case of injury. He will be useful, but in all likelihood, not special. Nonetheless, every team needs those kinds of players.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, and Baseball Reference