Jose Lopez, The Early Bird: Green or Blue?

SS Jose Lopez (Photo: M's)

The Mariners' endless list of prospect call-ups just got one name longer. Top prospect Jose Lopez made his MLB debut this weekend and will get a chance to show the Mariner brass what he is all about. Lopez, 20, is an enormous part of what could be a bright future for the Seattle Mariners.

When Jose Lopez made his Major League debut Saturday afternoon in Anaheim, the 20-year-old Venezuelan marked the 16th player called up from Triple-A Tacoma this season. Of the 16, Lopez has the potential to be the very best of them all.

Signed as a 16-year-old, Lopez started fast in the Mariners system, hitting .324 with 52 extra-base hits and 31 steals for the San Bernardino Stampede in his first full season of professional baseball. Then just 18-years-old, Lopez immediately became one of the best prospects in the organization, and progressed quickly through the minor leagues.

When 2003 rolled around, the M's sent Lopez to Double-A San Antonio. The Missions were defending Texas League Champions and had no room for a green prospect playing such a crucial position. I guess that is why Lopez was the starting shortstop-he was far from green. The teenager was a blue-chipper, just getting warmed up.

After hitting just .258 that season, some soured a bit on the 19-year-old, obviously not looking further into his entire season's performance. Lopez hit a career-best 13 home runs, and added 35 doubles as the leagues youngest player.

Then came 2004. As Lopez began to mature physically, he transformed his athletic build into a much sturdier frame that was to provide him with more consistent power at the plate. Mission accomplished.

In Triple-A Tacoma, Lopez made it very clear early in the season that the kid came to play. Showing signs of the top prospect he had become, Lopez displayed power with the bat, and versatility in the field.

Prior to his promotion Friday night, the 20-year-old infielder was hitting .295 with 13 home runs while successfully playing several games at three separate infield positions.

When Saturday's lineup was posted and Lopez was penciled in as the starting shortstop hitting eighth in the lineup, he became the youngest Mariner to make his Major League debut since Gil Meche five seasons ago, and is the youngest position player to make his debut since a 19-year-old Alex Rodriguez did so late in the 1995 season.

The ceiling for Lopez has no roof, and his bat will likely lead the way. If your wondering what kind of player Lopez potentially projects out to be, take a look down in Hollywood at their All-Star 3B. That is what Lopez could develop into offensively.

Defensively, the ultimate destination for Lopez could be 3B. With great instincts, top footwork, and a cannon arm, the Mariners might have their answer at the hot corner for the next 10-15 seasons. For now, the club will see what he can do at his natural position of shortstop.

Jose Lopez had five at-bats versus the Angels on Saturday, going hitless in a 9-8, eleven inning loss. But don't let the 0-5 day fool you. Lopez is not green, remember? He is a blue-chipper, just getting warmed up.


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