Yesterday the Milwaukee Brewers promoted right-handed pitcher Jorge Lopez to the major league roster. He pitched right away with two relief innings against the Cincinnati Reds, giving up four hits and a run. Lopez is one of the more enigmatic prospects around right now; here’s a quick take.
Lopez was originally drafted by the Brewers in the second round in 2011 out of high school in Puerto Rico. Erratic at the lower levels, he had a breakthrough season in 2015 when he posted a 2.26 with a 137/52 K/BB in 143 innings for Double-A Biloxi, allowing only 105 hits. He made two starts down the stretch for the Brewers and looked like an excellent prospect entering 2016.
Alas, last year did not go well: he was crushed in Triple-A and ended up back in Double-A by the end of the year to restore his confidence.
Lopez ranked 13th on the Milwaukee Brewers Top 20 prospects for 2017 list with a Grade C+/B- and the following commentary:
13) Jorge Lopez, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, second round pick from Puerto Rico in 2011; was destroyed in Triple-A (6.81, 66/55 K/BB in 79 innings, 101 hits) but improved after going back to Double-A (3.97, 47/16 in 45) and threw very well in winter ball; word is that thin air in Colorado Springs hindered his best pitch (curveball) which destroyed his confidence; when he’s right he mixes in the plus curve with a fastball at 90-95 and a workable change-up; I think he can rebound if healthy. ETA late 2017.
He’s still been inconsistent this year, posting a 5.04 ERA in 70 innings for Biloxi, although his K/BB ratio is pretty solid at 75/28.
Lopez is listed at 6-3, 195, born February 10th, 1993. He can get his fastball up to 95 and has a pretty decent change-up, but his best pitch is his powerhouse curveball. He was unhittable with it in Double-A in ‘15 but the thin air in the higher altitudes of Colorado Springs and some of the other PCL parks in 2016 lessened the effectiveness of this pitch and he was unable to adjust.
Sending him back to Biloxi helped some but he still hasn’t fully returned to his 2015 form. Lopez is still just 24, there’s no question about his natural ability, and he’s shown what he can do when he’s confident in himself. It is unlikely that the Brewers will give up any time soon, but it is possible a complete change of scenery will be needed to get him back on track.
Here’s what Lopez can do when he’s right: