Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Prospects Who Could Become Trade Bait
By Noah Wright
Dariel Lopez will miss the 2023 season due to a dislocated knee. But he is coming off a pretty solid season. In 420 plate appearances at Greensboro, Lopez batted .286/.329/.476 with a .359 wOBA and 116 wRC+. Lopez has some concerning plate discipline numbers. He only walked 5% of the time with a 25.5% strikeout rate. But he did hit for decent power with 19 dingers and a .189 ISO.
Like many Pirates prospects, Lopez was much better in the second half of the season. From June through September, Lopez was a .316/.351/.508 batter with a .382 wOBA, and 131 wRC+. He hit for plus power with a .193 isolated slugging percentage. Granted, there were still some red flags. He struck out a little less with a 23.9% strikeout rate but walked at a 3.9% rate. His .376 batting average on balls in play is also a tad worrying (granted, it was only in 282 plate appearances).
The infielder has shown off a ton of raw power, with FanGraphs considering his strength to be at a 60-grade. However, his plate discipline makes that a little questionable. He also had a 51.4% ground ball and a 24.6% flyball rate. Sure, he hit 19 home runs and had a .186 ISO, but he also played in Greensboro, which is a known launching pad. Even Lolo Sanchez, who has bottom-of-the-barrel raw power, hit 19 home runs with a .190 ISO in 2021.
Lopez is somewhat of a positionless defender. Although Lopez has an okay arm, he’s a below-average runner who hasn’t shown the greatest defensive prowess at shortstop. He has also played a handful of games at third base and second base, as well as first base back in 2019. With his poor range, he’ll likely end up at an infield corner.
Lopez will not push Ke’Bryan Hayes off of third base. Aside from Lopez, Triolo, Castro, De Los Santos, and Cheng can also play the hot corner, but with more grace. That leaves first base, which could end up being where Lopez ends up. But he will have competition with Malcom Nunez, who seemingly figured out his power stroke last season. Nunez is also trending upward in terms of defensive prowess, while Lopez has stayed relatively stagnant in that category. Plus some of the Pirates' catching prospects may also see time at first base.
Still, the raw talent is there for Lopez. His power/hit tools could give him a bright future. But when he returns next season, he may find himself without a good opportunity to break through in the big leagues for the Pirates. Lopez will also be Rule 5 eligible next off-season, which could also factor into the Pirates’ motivation to trade him. Even with the injury, Lopez still has clear upside, but given that he plays positions that the Pirates have multiple other top prospects at, there could be a situation where the Pirates trade Lopez (or include him in a bigger package).