KANSAS CITY -- Royals fans will see a bigger, stronger version of second baseman Nicky Lopez in 2020.
Lopez, 24, told MLB.com in August that he was considering highlighting his offseason with the same extreme diet and workout regimen Whit Merrifield implemented the fall of 2015, in hopes of getting stronger the way Merrifield transformed his body and career back then. The results are encouraging: Lopez, who said he was at 165 pounds toward the end of September, is now at approximately 183 pounds entering Spring Training.
“I feel way stronger,” Lopez told MLB.com by phone. “I feel the ball is jumping off my bat.”
For the first time in his career, Lopez, a Naperville, Ill., native, spent the entire offseason in Scottsdale, Ariz., close to the Royals’ Spring Training facility in Surprise. His daily routine included working out in Surprise as well as taking batting practice in the cages and working out in the infield.
Lopez has also worked closely with Royals nutritionist Erika Sharp on his diet and workout regimen. He admits he didn’t entirely jump into Merrifield’s extreme regimen from the fall of 2015, when Merrifield ate seven meals a day and worked out multiple times each day.
“I asked Whit about his routine,” Lopez said. “He was very helpful. I thought what we are doing now helped me, though.”
Lopez admits to absorbing hundreds of more calories a day than normal, and working out more often.
“It takes a while for your body to adjust,” Lopez said. “I know Whit was eating like seven or eight eggs a day, just for breakfast. I’m just not a big eggs guy, so that was a problem. But I adjusted with the help of Erika and we got something that worked.”
Lopez and his girlfriend, Sydney Lamberty, a former star basketball player at Creighton, where Lopez excelled in baseball, have adjusted to the new diet regimen.
“I got a lot of help from her,” Lopez said. “A lot of it is diet, and we have been able to come up with what helps: a lot of chicken and vegetables and other high-protein stuff.”
Lopez hit .240 last season after being called up in May with two home runs and 30 RBIs. Lopez was stellar defensively -- scouts have suggested he has the most accurate arm on the team -- but if there was any criticism, it was that he had trouble being a power factor offensively in the cavernous Kauffman Stadium.
“Well, that’s not really who I am,” Lopez said. “It certainly can be a bigger factor, but my body type isn’t the same as Whit’s. I’m probably not going to be that type of guy.
“And the main thing is, as a middle infielder, I didn’t want to lose my range or my flexibility. As I worked out, I kept taking infield to make sure I still had the mobility I had before. But I feel much stronger with my upper body. I know I am. There’s more pop in my bat. I can feel it in the cage.”
Lopez hit. 353 with an OBP of .457 at Triple-A Omaha last season before being called up. But it was challenging for Lopez, who hit 20 home runs in four Minor League seasons, to cope with the spacious Kauffman Stadium offensively.
“Some of it is getting stronger,” Lopez said. “Some of it is just getting adjusted to a new league. Every step I’ve had through the Minors, it took a while before adjusting to a new league. The same will happen here. But I did feel I needed to get stronger. I think I’ve done that.”