Lack of talent has never been an issue for Edison H.S. (Huntington Beach, Calif.) shortstop Christian Lopes, a five-star Baseball America prospect.
The 6-foot, 185-pound senior began racking up the accolades as early as 12 years old, when he was named the U-13 Player of the Year in 2006 by National Youth Baseball. Since then, the success has never stopped. Lopes hit .408 with 10 home runs en route to winning team MVP honors as a freshman at Valencia HS (Santa Clarita, Calif.). His sophomore year, Lopes was named All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year and Foothill League MVP after dominating the league with a .453 batting average, 15 HRs and 33 RBIs.
Lopes' junior year, his family moved to Huntington Beach, forcing Lopes transfer to Edison. As he describes it, "My mom got a job in Irvine, my dad's always wanted to live by the beach and we heard the school had good academics. Baseball was just icing on the cake."
The move wasn't smooth early on. It may have been the transition to a new high school or the elevated level of competition at Edison, but something caused Lopes' numbers to suffer his junior year. Most noticeable was a lack of power, as he hit .380 but had just 2 HRs and 17 RBIs.
The reason for Lopes' drop off? His coach, Steve Lambright, said he believes it was simply a matter of pressure.
"The biggest factor is that he put too much pressure on himself to perform," Lambright said. "He didn't hit as well as advertised. I don't think he faced the type of pitchers up there (Valencia) that he did here. It was a new environment, he felt like he had to carry to the whole team and he pressed."
"I'm not going to lie, when I first made the ball club I was shy and hoped I grew on them. It wasn't easy but it wasn't the hardest thing in the world," Lopes said. "All the guys on the Edison baseball team were class acts. Every single one of those kids helped me out."
This summer, Lopes' power has yet to resurface against increased competition. Playing for the USA U-18 national team, he hit .286 and slugged .349 with four doubles and no home runs. At the recent Area Code Games he went 3-for-11 with three singles.
Scouts aren't concerned with Lopes' ability at the plate. As one NL scout put it, "Christian has always hit. That's his biggest strength. His power is still to come, but the bat will potentially play whatever position he plays."
With praise like that in his back pocket, you might expect Lopes to be content with the state of his game. That couldn't be farther from the truth.
"I have to work on everything," Lopes said. "Everything. Every single day you can improve. Nobody is a perfect baseball player, and I'm always looking for something to improve on. I love to better my game."
While improving "everything" may be unrealistic, one of Lopes' strengths is a work ethic that is second-to-none.
"In the 15 years I've been here, I haven't had a player work as hard as that kid," Lambright said. "He's in the cages constantly."
His coach casually compares him to Alex Rodriguez because of his smoothness in the field, but Lopes said he tries to model his game after SS Derek Jeter. Scouts question Lopes's ability to stay at short stop long-term, and wonder where he may fit in the field.
"His weakness is probably defensively right now," the NL scout said. "He's playing short, but does he stay at short? If not, where does he go? He doesn't run great, and his arm is a tick below average."
One AL scout was more skeptical. "He's a good-looking player, but whether he can stay at short and whether he has a good enough bat for second are questions."
Lopes currently holds a 3.85 GPA, and is exploring college options, in the case he doesn't sign a major league contract. "Christian is a very good student," Lambright said. "He's got a couple schools in mind, Miami, Ole Miss and Oregon he was looking at. He might benefit from the collegiate level, but if the money's there, he won't turn it down."
Lopes is simply excited for the draft process, however it turns out. "Whatever God wants to happen will happen," he said. "I just want to play baseball wherever that takes me, be it college or the pros. Every single kid wants to play in the Major Leagues. It's a process and I'm excited for it."
As for his senior year, Lopes is excited to play another year with his younger brother Timmy, a second baseman who is also on scouts' radar, and improve on his play from last year. "I'd like to win all of CIF [California Interscholastic Federation] and get a ring for Coach Lambright for all he's done for me," Lopes said. "Individually, I want to contribute to that, whatever coach wants me to do."
With his immense talent, strong work ethic and modest attitude, chances are Lambright and scouts won't be disappointed.
Ben Fawkes is a contributor for ESPN Insider.