The rise of Reynaldo Lopez continues, as the right-hander will be promoted from Triple-A Syracuse to start for the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.
Those who have read the Federal Reserve over the last few years know that Lopez’s arrival on the prospect radar has been both swift and stirring. After being limited to two starts in 2013 because of an arm injury, the right-hander broke out in 2014. Starting with a seven-start stint at Short Season-A Auburn, Lopez compiled a 1.08 ERA over 16 outings while striking out 70 batters over 83 1/3 innings pitched.
With a fastball that could touch 100 mph and a deceptive 11-to-5 curveball, Lopez assembled a scoreless innings streak of 38 1/3 innings between Auburn and Low-A Hagerstown. While that cemented his status as a prospect, questions arose about both about his durability and his capability to develop an adequate changeup—doubts that followed him during a good, but not quite as dominant campaign at High-A Potomac in 2015.
In some respects, 2016 might be the best year of Lopez’s career. With his changeup making significant strides, he has posted a 3.17 ERA while striking out 109 batters in 87 1/3 innings between Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse. His performance earned him a spot in MLB Futures Game, where he generated headlines by hitting 100 mph during his one inning of work.
Before this season, I remarked that an assignment to Harrisburg would be a major test in determining whether Lopez could develop as a starter. If he continued to generate deception with his fastball and curveball combination while improving his changeup, it would bode well for his odds of cracking the major league rotation. Conversely if he lagged in those areas, moving him to the bullpen would become more tempting for the Nationals.
To his credit, Lopez met the challenge head on and elevated his status in the organization. While the call up to the majors is likely temporary, it will be interesting to see how the Nationals handle Lopez for the remainder of the year. He is only 11 2/3 innings away from his career high, so his workload will probably be handled conservatively over the next few months.
In order to limit his innings, the Nationals can take one of two approaches. Either let him finish out the season as a starter before shutting him down, or move him to the bullpen as part of another call up. The latter is more complicated than it seems—mainly in that Lopez, who has not pitched in relief since 2012, would have to quickly adjust to a new routine—but the option is still there for the Nationals’ taking.
To make room for Lopez on the active roster, the Nationals placed lefty reliever Sammy Solis on the 15-day DL. But since Lopez is not on the 40-man roster, the Nationals will have to make another corresponding roster move — a move that had been made at the time of this writing. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com was the first to report the transaction.Tags: Nationals, Nats, Reynaldo Lopez, Washington Nationals