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2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews, #62: Yoan López

The long, weird saga of López apparently ends, at least as far as Arizona is concerned.

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Oakland Athletics v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images
  • Rating: 1.92
  • Age: will be 29 on January 2
  • 2021 Stats: 12.1 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 3 HR, 6 BB, 13 SO, 6.57
  • 2021 Earnings: Pre-arbitration
  • 2022 Status: On Atlanta Braves’ 40-man roster

Back in January 2015, Yoan López was signed, with much fanfare, by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The $8.27 million signing bonus he received at the time was a record for an international amateur free agent, and actually cost the D-backs more, both literally and in terms of their farm term. For their allocated bonus pool was only $2.3 million; they had to pay a 100% surcharge, another $8 million, and were also banned from any significant international signings for the two years which followed. But crowed then general manager Dave Stewart, “We feel that he’s capable of competing right now for a spot in our rotation. With us also having the first pick in the draft, it’s almost like we get two first picks.”

Yeah. About that.

Neither of those “two first picks” exactly worked out for the D-backs. Dansby Swanson just won a World Series ring... with the Braves - and oddly, that’s where Lopez also ended up, after the Diamondbacks traded him to Atlanta on May 22. The D-backs received 20-year-old outfielder Deivi Estrada, who went 2-for-17 with ten strikeouts, over eight games in the Arizona Complex League. This gives you some idea how far López’s stock had fallen over his six years in the organization. Part of the problem was off-field issues. He simply walked away from the team, not once but twice, the second time with the intent of quitting baseball entirely.

The team talked him into returning, and he seemed to get his life on track, though was moved to the bullpen. In 2018, he was excellent for Double-A Jackson, posting a 2.92 ERA and striking out 87 in just 61.2 innings. That got López a September call-up and, after an 11:1 K:BB over nine IP down the stretch, he seemed potentially on course to become the team’s future closer. It didn’t happen. While his 2019 ERA was a decent 3.42, his strikeouts plummeted to only 40 in 60.2 innings, giving him a FIP above five. That proved an accurate predictor of his next season. Though López was fourth on the team for games played in 2020, a K:BB of just 16:9 factored into a 5.95 ERA, and expectations dimmed accordingly.

Which brings us to 2021. Yoan made the Opening Day roster for the third year in a row. Things initially seemed hopeful: through seven appearances and innings, he had allowed one run, while striking out ten. But he then blew two saves during the same series in Cincinnati, and was sent down to Reno. He came back up briefly in mid-May, but conceded earned runs in both outings there. Those proved to be his final appearance as a D-back, the team having apparently given up on him, and chosen to move one of the final reminders of the Dave Stewart era. López finished by tying an unwanted franchise record, having allowed an earned run in six consecutive relief appearances to end his time here.

He remained in the minor leagues after being traded to the Braves, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens to him. He’ll still only be 29, and according to Fangraphs, still has a pair of minor league options, despite this being his fourth major-league campaign. He’ll earn league minimum again next year, so the Braves have no reason not to see if they can tap into the potential, which we saw in flashes, and bring it to the mound with a greater degree of consistency than the Diamondbacks managed.