Don’t Sleep on Jorge Lopez

stevenjewell
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Yesterday, Kiley McDaniel over at FanGraphs released an updated look at the top prospects of 2015. Orlando Arcia came in at eighth. The website’s scout also went through the players that were previously excluded from his top 200 prospects list at the start of the year that he now felt had FVs (future values) of at least 50, which is considered Big League average.

Center field prospect Trent Clark made the list of July 2 signees with a 50 FV, while only one Brewer, starting pitcher Jorge Lopez, worked his way onto the list after being excluded earlier in the year. McDaniel felt that at the beginning of the year, Lopez had a 45 FV, which now had jumped to a much more respectable 55.

That jump, according to McDaniel’s explanation of the 20-80 scout grading scale, sent Lopez’s future value projection from that of a number 5 starter to that of a 3 or 4.

This also means that, since no other Brewers were added to that list of new 50+ FV prospects, McDaniel feels that either Lopez or Kodi Medeiros is the Brewers top pitching prospect. It’s hard to know which is on top, as McDaniel didn’t update every player’s FV (Medeiros’ was 50 to start the year).

Mlb.com, which also updated its standings, has Lopez second among pitchers (ninth overall) behind Devin Williams in the Brewers system, and gives him a 50 grade.

Lopez has certainly earned his grade “promotion,” finally translating his skills into a strong performance in 2015 so far. The tall righty didn’t own a career ERA under 4.00 at any level until this year, in which his ERA is a dominant 2.32 in AA Biloxi.

His 3.34 FIP tells a more realistic, but still outstanding story of progression, and the organization deserves credit for advancing him through the system despite his earlier struggles. Opponents are also slashing just .200/.280/.286 with a .258 BABIP.

Lopez is a classic three-pitch guy, with a heavy, sinking fastball, his at least solid average curveball, and a changeup that was lagging slightly behind his other off-speed pitch at the start of the year. It’s worth assuming that his secondary pitches have improved since those evaluations, hence his improved standings. The 22-year-old native Puerto Rican owns a 54% groundball rate this year, a testament to his strong fastball.

This year, Lopez has struck out nearly a batter per inning, while keeping his walks in check (3.35 per 9 innings), and keeping the ball in the park (0.55 HR/9). Striking out more batters has surely played some part in his improved projections, though he is known for pitching to contact.

It’s hard to know what’s next for Lopez, given the pitcher-killer AAA territory of Colorado Springs, but Lopez looks poised to join the Crew by next season.

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