The Cincinnati Reds have called up infielder Alejo Lopez. There were rumors around the internet on Sunday evening that it was happening, but Lopez seems to have confirmed it on his Instagram in his stories later in the night, saying this (via google translate):
This achievement is dedicated to you, mom and dad. We got to the top, to the big leagues. There were years of work, but this is only the start. I love you.
It would seem that twitter user @Rev_Strikeout was the first to report the call up. The move is now official as of 11:33am on Monday. The team has designated Scott Heineman for assignment to clear a roster spot on the the 40-man and the 26-man roster for Lopez.
It’s been a breakout season for Alejo Lopez in 2021. He entered the year with a career .297 average, but he had never really hit for much power. This season he came out with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts and made a .297 average look weak, and he started racking up extra-base hits, too. In the first 25 games of the year he hit .362/.437/.448 and had nine doubles to go along with 12 walks and just 11 strikeouts.
That was enough for the Reds to promote the switch-hitting infielder up to Triple-A Louisville. Typically players take a little step back, if not more, upon a promotion to Triple-A. Not Alejo Lopez. He’s played in 24 games with the Louisville Bats since being moved up and he’s hit significantly better. With the Bats he’s hit .358/.436/.526 with 10 doubles, two home runs, 12 walks, and just seven strikeouts.
The 25-year-old has played in 49 games between his two stops and racked up 229 plate appearances while hitting .360/.437/.486. He’s hit 19 doubles – a career high – and two homers while stealing six bases in seven tries, walking 24 times, and striking out just 18 times. To say that he’s been on fire all season would be an understatement.
There’s been a lot of reasons that Alejo Lopez has put together the season that he has so far, but perhaps the biggest one is that he’s simply stopped striking out. 18 strikeouts in 229 trips to the plate is a 7.9% strikeout rate. The current strikeout rate for the average Major League Baseball player is 23.9%. Lopez could triple his strikeout rate and still make more contact than the average big leaguer. The added power is helping as well. While it’s not home run pop, he was on pace to hit 47 doubles in a 120 game minor league season.
Defensively there are some options for the Reds with Alejo Lopez if they want to take them. He can play both second or third on the infield – and no, he can’t play shortstop even though he’s played a handful of games there in the minors – and he’s had some limited experience in left field while playing winter ball in Mexico. Unfortunately for Lopez that probably doesn’t leave him much playing time with Jesse Winker, Jonathan India, and Eugenio Suárez ahead of him at those spots.
What the Reds could do when it comes to playing Alejo Lopez is to use him as a pinch-hitter every single day, or close to it. As a switch-hitter he can match up with just about anyone. This season he’s hitting .355/.428/.487 as a lefty and he’s hitting .375/.464/.479 as a righty. Against a left-handed pitcher he may be even more dangerous in some situations – he’s struck out just once in 56 plate appearances against left-handed pitching this season. ONCE.
One other option that could be on the table is that the Reds could play Alejo Lopez at third base and slide Eugenio Suárez to shortstop. That may only last as long as it takes for Mike Moustakas to return from the injured list, but it seems as though at some point Suárez will return to shortstop and with Kyle Farmer hitting .213/.285/.313 Cincinnati’s brass may have decided the trade off in defense from Farmer at shortstop to upgrade the offense with Lopez could be worth it. We’ll all find out soon enough.
The 25-year-old has been in the Reds organization since he was selected in the 27th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball draft out of Greenway High School in Phoenix. It’s a short 27 miles from that high school to the Cincinnati Reds spring training complex out in Goodyear. Lopez stopped at every level along the way, beginning his career with the Arizona League Reds, spending two seasons with the Billings Mustangs before moving up to the Dayton Dragons in 2018 and then spending the season in 2019 with the Daytona Tortugas.
He didn’t play in 2020 because the minor league season was cancelled and he didn’t get invited to the alternate training site. But he did spend the winter playing for Monterrey in the Mexican Winter League. He hit .286/.322/.365 in 49 games for the Sultanes before he was invited to spring training as a part of early minor league camp in February that ran alongside the big league spring training and was essentially one large camp. Lopez played in 10 games with the Reds during the spring and went 2-9 with a walk and two strikeouts.
Minor League Stats