The San Diego Padres have created the game’s deepest farm system, buoyed by an aggressive stable of teenagers from the international market. Unlike many clubs, San Diego regularly brings their prospects to the states in their signing year to give them an early taste of pro ball. Enter RHP Frank Lopez, a 16-year-old Venezuelan who signed last July for a reported $300,000 and has spent March on the Peoria backfields.
At his age, projection is the driving force, and Lopez has it in spades. He is listed at 6’1,” 170, but he already at least 6’2”. High-waisted and slender, he has the frame and athleticism to add strength without increasing effort, and his straightforward delivery is free and easy with a smooth arm raise and release. There’s a little effort on the finish; an issue treated with pro development and added physical stability. You can nitpick the wrap in the arm action, but this projection, athleticism and arm speed are worth some risk.
Lopez’s projection and athleticism come with a three-pitch repertoire, adding up to an extremely advanced pro pitching prospect for his age. His fastball was 88-to-91 mph with life, projecting to plus at maturity, particularly if his command improves with added strength. His mid-70s CB had sharp 11-5 break with feel for backfooting lefties. Lopez’s third pitch is a work-in-progress 79-to-81 mph CH that he got around, creating cut (not the intended fade). Positively, the CH shows excellent vertical drop, and I expect Lopez to correct his grip and release as he develops. Movement on all his pitches is advanced for his age. He’s a long way away, but these are mid-rotation ingredients– feel for three MLB quality pitches on a projectable frame with a fast, loose arm.