From the Minor League Ball mailbag:
I can’t find much 2018 information on Pablo Lopez the pitcher the Marlins received in the Phelps deal. He’s unscored upon in his first 19 innings and was wondering if you had any advanced knowledge of whether his stuff has improved or is this more of a mirage ?
Steve’s email came in on May 10th. Lopez started again on May 13th and finally gave up a run but his season for Double-A Jacksonville in the Southern League has been superb: 0.35 ERA in 26 innings over five starts, 27/4 K/BB, just 14 hits.
OK, so who exactly is Pablo Lopez?
Lopez is from Venezuela, originally signed by the Seattle Mariners as a free agent in 2012 for $280,000. He was an effective control pitcher at the lower levels, notably with a 2.13 ERA in 84 innings in the Midwest League in 2016, 56/9 K/BB.
He got knocked around a bit in the high-octane California League in 2017 (5.04 ERA in 100 innings, 114 hits, but a nice 89/13 K/BB). The Mariners considered him expendable and he was sent to the Marlins in the David Phelps trade last summer. He moved over to the friendlier Florida State League after the trade and posted a 2.18 ERA in 45 innings, 32/7 K/BB.
Pre-season I gave Lopez a Grade C+ but he fell just outside the Miami Marlins Top 20 prospects list. Lopez is listed at 6-3, 200, born March 7th, 1996.
As Steve noticed Lopez has been terrific this year. He is a three-pitch worker with a fastball/slider/change-up arsenal. The change-up is the best of the secondaries but both are solid pitches and he throws strikes with everything. Earlier in his career Lopez showed a fastball in the 88-93 range but that’s picked up, 91-95 now with occasional 96-97 readings.
Lopez seems legitimate to me. He’s young, throws three quality pitches for strikes, is adapting easily to Double-A, and has in fact been quite successful at every level. Even in the Cal League last year he showed a fine K/BB ratio.
At this point he is at least a Grade B- prospect. I’d like to stay there until we get more than five starts worth of data but if he continues performing well in Double-A this year (which is probably a good bet), he will move well into the straight B range and perhaps higher.