Sixteen million. That number is said by someone whenever I mention Yoan Lopez, signifying the investment made to acquire the now-23-year-old Cuban right-hander by the former Diamondbacks regime. Lopez struggled as a starter from the outset and now works exclusively out of the bullpen, but he is my no means a bust because of the transition to the ‘pen. Lopez is on his way to a high- leverage relief role in the big leagues, maybe as soon as next year.
Tall and lanky, Lopez showed three pitches across two innings of my viewing June 9. His fastball was 93-to-97 mph, sitting mostly at 95 mph. He stays tall over the rubber and throws from a ¾’s slot to generate excellent plane when he finishes his delivery. When he’s locked in, the pitch is electric, dialing it up to 96-to-97 mph with plane and run. There’s a head whack finishing the delivery, and his balance isn’t great because he collapses this backside–a wandering release point causes iffy in-zone location. In short stints, the life and velo of the pitch allow him to hide the command a bit, and with more repetitions and added strength in the lower half, it should be good enough for a 60 fastball.
Lopez’s best secondary is a slider at 84-to-87 mph, flashing 60 in the upper velo range with late bite and vertical action. Though his command of the pitch is still inconsistent, when he spots it, it is a true swing-and-miss out pitch, and a future above-average pitch. His 85 mph changeup plays to soft contact, flashes fringe-average, but it is most likely shelved in a big league pen role. On top of his pitch-mix, Lopez is a competitor. After missing his spots in the first inning of my viewing, he came out in the second and pitched with conviction, attitude, and focus. Despite the fringy command profile, Lopez, will advance on the strength of his FB/SL combo.