Pittsburgh Pirates: Five More Potential Rule 5 Draft Picks

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers' Korry Howell (11) makes a catch against the Quad Cities River Bandits during their baseball game Thursday, July 7, 2021, at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute, Wis. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers won 8-7.Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Rattlersvsquad 0707210484djp
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers' Korry Howell (11) makes a catch against the Quad Cities River Bandits during their baseball game Thursday, July 7, 2021, at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute, Wis. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers won 8-7.Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Rattlersvsquad 0707210484djp /
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Jose Lopez

It’s not very often you see a team swindle a player from the Tampa Bay Rays. But they left an intriguing left-handed relief prospect unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. That’s Jose Lopez. Lopez is coming off an outstanding season at Double-A, and made his Triple-A debut. There is some risk, but what Rule 5 prospect isn’t going to come with some risk?

Last season, Lopez tossed a grand total of 59.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. In that time, he had a 2.43 ERA, 2.77 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. Batters rarely made contact against Lopez, managing a .167 batting average against him and struck out nearly 40% of the time (37.7%, to be exact). A .167 opponent average was actually the 27th lowest among all minor league pitchers with at least 50 frames. Plus, when they did make contact, they had a 48.7% ground ball rate. This included a 17.2-inning scoreless streak that lasted from August 4th through the end of the season.

Lopez throws relatively hard, averaging out around 94-96 MPH with an above-average spin rate. He also throws a slider that projects to be well above average. So what risk are the Pirates taking here? While he missed a ton of bats, he also walked 15.1% of the batters he faced. That’s a worryingly high rate, but he did have a much more manageable 11.8% rate from 2017 through 2021.

Now the walks are an issue and they can’t just be ignored. But there’s the potential for a decent left-handed pitcher here. Lopez will undoubtedly get some attention in the Rule 5 draft. He’s a lefty coming off a quality campaign in the upper levels of the minor leagues, already debuted at Triple-A, and has good stuff. That’s a prime Rule 5 Draft candidate if I’ve ever seen one. If he is still on the board when the Pittsburgh Pirates are put on the clock, he’s definitely a prospect they should have on their radar.

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