The Nationals are promoting right-handed pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez to the majors, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (on Twitter). The 22-year-old could take the mound Tuesday for the Nats, who haven’t announced a starter for that evening’s matchup against the Dodgers.
Lopez, a native of the Dominican Republic, has experienced a meteoric rise since signing with the Nationals for a paltry $17K in 2012. Thanks to his work this year, Lopez climbed to a personal-best 48th in Baseball America’s newly updated Top 100 Prospects list. BA ranked him 92nd after last season, a steep drop from his place (49th) following the 2014 campaign, but Lopez has since tossed 87 1/3 effective innings at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. The bulk of Lopez’s 2016 experience (76 1/3 frames) has come as a member of Double-A Harrisburg, with which he has posted a 3.18 ERA, 11.79 K/9 and 2.95 BB/9.
Lopez complements a mid-90s fastball that can touch triple digits with a powerful, whiff-inducing curveball and a still-developing changeup, per BA (subscription required), which notes that he has dealt with inconsistencies in his delivery and must throw more quality strikes. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, meanwhile, don’t consider Lopez one of the sport’s 100 best prospects. The two rank Lopez fifth in the Nationals’ system and laud his three-pitch repertoire, though they also cite concerns with his delivery and strike-throwing abilities. However, while some scouts view Lopez as a long-term major league reliever, Callis and Mayo believe he’s on track to serve as a starter.
In the near term, it seems the flame-throwing Lopez’s best chance to stick in Washington will be out of the bullpen, as MLBTR’s Jason Martinez alluded to Monday in the latest version of his weekly “Knocking Down The Door” feature. The Nats have been on the hunt for relief help, for one, and they have a more-than-capable group of starters with Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and the soon-to-return Joe Ross, who has been on the disabled list since July 3 with shoulder inflammation.
In terms of team control, Lopez will fall short of Super Two status if he remains in the majors for the rest of the season. The most service time he could accumulate in 2016 would be 77 days. Lopez will be eligible for arbitration after the 2019 season and under control through 2022 if he does not return to the minor leagues this year.