7-Word Scouting Report: Raw Pitcher, Elite Fastball and Arm Speed
Signed as an international free agent in June 2012, Reynaldo Lopez quickly became the toast of the scouting community last summer, after a mechanical adjustment spiked his fastball velocity into the high-90s. This modification allowed Lopez to dominate the lower minors in 2014, posting a 1.08 ERA, 0.816 WHIP, and 70 strikeouts in 83.1 innings pitched at both Auburn and Low-A Hagerstown.
The 21-year-old Lopez possesses an impressive 3-pitch repertoire including one of the best fastballs in the minor leagues. Lopez’s fastball sits 94-97mph, occasionally touching 100mph, with late life. In addition Lopez shows an inconsistent but impressive high-70s curveball with plus potential and a mid-80s changeup with diving action. His delivery is relatively quiet, with noticeable fluidity, and Lopez has lightning-fast arm speed.
Despite his smallish 6-0 185lbs. frame, he stands tall during his motion and projects to add strength as he matures physically. There is risk involving his prospect profile as he has only 99.1 career professional innings and saw a tremendous spike in velocity in 2014, but Lopez possesses #2 starter upside in the major leagues if he can continue to polish his pitching delivery and refine his off-speed offerings.
In order to provide a deeper perspective, I contacted friend of the site and expert talent evaluator, Tucker Blair from Baseball Prospectus, to share his thoughts on Reynaldo Lopez.
“Reynaldo was the biggest surprise of the 2014 season. There was a slight buzz surfacing in the industry regarding his sudden rise, but it had not reached the public eye yet. Based on these hints, I shuttled up to Hagerstown for a look. Reynaldo blew me away. Not only was the velocity in the upper 90’s, but he was holding 94+ mph and spotting it in the lower quadrants. The elite arm speed and the relatively clean delivery were very encouraging, and I think the Nationals did a tremendous job molding him into the pitcher he is now. The curveball and changeup have some room for improvement, but they both flash average or better and he really does have a chance to mover farther up the prospect lists next season. I watched over 100 minor league games in 2014, and this was the most exciting arm I saw outside of his teammate Lucas Giolito. This is a very talented arm, and the Nationals found a steal at $17,000 on the international market.” – Tucker Blair, Baseball Prospectus
THE breakout prospect in the Nationals’ system in 2014, the below-average height, massive arm speed and blazing fastball naturally leads scouts to link Lopez with Kansas City starting pitcher Yordano Ventura. That lofty comparison is unfair to both players but gives some indication to the raw talent Lopez possesses and the respect scouts have for him as a prospect. Lopez should begin 2015 in the Potomac Nationals starting rotation and assuming he remains healthy, he could arrive in the majors leagues sometime in 2017.
7-Word Scouting Report: Prototypical Physique, Monster 3-Pitch Repertoire, Needs Development
Considered to be the top pitching prospect in his draft class, Giolito spent the majority of his senior season in high school rehabilitating an arm injury, allowing rumors to swirl about the necessity for a future Tommy John surgery and a subsequent slide on draft day. Washington took advantage of these injury concerns and pounced on the opportunity to select him with the 16th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft.
Soon after signing his professional contract, in the fall of 2012 Giolito underwent Tommy John surgery, effectively shutting him down for the 2013 season. Once fully recovered to begin 2014, Washington was cautious with Giolito this season, allowing him to pitch 98 innings in his 20 starts for Low-A Hagerstown. Despite the innings limit, Giolito overwhelmed the South Atlantic League batters, posting a 2.20 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 110 strikeouts against only 28 walks last season.
Giolito features a massive 3-pitch arsenal consisting of a blazing 93-98mph fastball with movement, a legitimate plus (or better) 79-83mph curveball that buckles hitters’ knees, in addition to a low-80s changeup with splitter-type downward movement. Listed at 6-6 255lbs., Giolito is a good athlete still growing into his massive frame. His delivery is relatively quiet and clean, especially for someone so inexperienced on the mound. However, Giolito does struggle to repeat his motion, as he has a tendency to over-rotate through his delivery, causing him to “fly open” and struggle to maintain his release point. Further experience in the minors should help improve this mechanical flaw and streamline his delivery.
Armed with three plus to plus-plus pitches, an ideal pitcher’s body, and the makings of a solid delivery, it is obvious why he is the top prospect in the organization. Certainly he needs additional time in the minors to build his stamina, develop the consistency of his pitching motion, and gain additional experience on the mound, but the biggest question mark with Giolito is if he can stay healthy. Giolito is one of the rare pitching prospects with the legitimate potential to develop into a #1 starter and is in the discussion as the top pitching prospect in minor league baseball.
The Nationals have handled Giolito like delivery men are supposed to treat boxes marked “fragile” since his selection, but the team should look to unleash him on the Carolina League in 2015. Giolito is expected to headline a prospect-laden starting rotation for High-A Potomac, with the possibility of a late season promotion to Double-A Harrisburg. Assuming Giolito remains healthy, he could arrive in the major leagues late in 2016 or early 2017.
Episode #27 finds me joined by local radio celebrity and new Washington Nationals’ beat writer for MASNSports.com, Chris Johnson. C.J. and I discuss his early career in radio working with John Thompson, the transition to MASN and covering the Nationals, and he names his favorite member of the Sports Junkies.
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