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.