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Diamondbacks Top Prospect #20: RHP Yoan Lopez

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The flamethrowing reliever is ready to make his mark with the Diamondbacks after a 3 1⁄2-year tumultuous journey between signing and reaching the majors.

MLB: All Star Game-Futures Game Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Yoan Lopez

DOB: 1/2/1993 (Age 25)

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 185

Acquired: 2015 International Free Agent

Position: Reliever

Most Notable Tool: Upper 90s Fastball

Season Stats: MiLB: 45 games, 2-6, 2.92 ERA, 61 13 IP, 38 H, 87/26 K/BB, 12/17 SV, 1.04 WHIP; MLB: 10 games, 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 9 IP, 7 H, 11/1 K/BB, 0.89 WHIP

2018 Season Summary: Lopez put himself back on the prospect map with a strong 2017 campaign in Visalia and the Fall League, so he needed to repeat that to get a chance with the MLB club. They promoted him to AA Jackson, where he was the second most consistent reliever on the team after Kevin Ginkel. He still had games where the command completely left him, but on days he was on there were 3+ strikeout outings. His strong work in AA prompted the organization to give him a cup of coffee at the MLB level. Despite a disastrous debut, Lopez was close to unhittable in the final 9 games of his debut season including some very overpowering strikeouts.

Tools: Fastball 65/70, Slider 55/60, Change-Up 40/50, Command 40/50

The velocity has trended up into the 96-99 MPH range on the fastball with about MLB average spin rate (2205 rpm vs. 2263 MLB average) and uses it very effectively at the top of the zone to blow away hitters. His next best pitch is a slider, that while it doesn’t have exceptionally great movement or bite to it, complements his 4-seamer very well. As a reliever, he can scrap the change-up unless it’s to change speeds against LHHs. The command should improve with confidence, as I believe he has the stuff to blow even middle of the order type hitters away although he’s shown command problems in the past.

Upside: Lopez has closer potential with 2 possible plus pitches to work with. The combination of high heat and a disappearing slider at the minimum will make him a late inning matchup nightmare against right-handed hitters. The development of the change-up is not necessary for him to be a successful reliever, but if it’s a useful change of pace weapon against LHH I think they should keep developing it. I would not be surprised if he was the team’s closer or top set up reliever (e.g. Archie Bradley 2017) by the end of the 2020.

Risk: The biggest concern is his command regresses a bit and hitters shell him when they get more looks at him. It might not be something that manifests in 2019, where the league is getting their first real looks at him. Right now he has 9 career innings at the MLB level and at times in AA he had command issues that led to blown saves (5) and losses (6).

Likely 2019 Assignment: Lopez has already proven that he can get MLB hitters out in his short sample size. He should be in the mix for a bullpen job in Spring and I believe he has the inside track towards getting a spot. They will likely start him off in low to medium leverage situations and upgrading his role should he continue to dominate hitters.

Debut: 2018 Season