Right-hander Pablo Lopez is making a lot of noise, but in the quietest way possible. Welcome to one of the surest things the Marlins have as a pitching prospect in their system.
Lopez does it in a not-so-typical way for the 21st century fan. He’s a painter, a Picasso of sorts. Pablo uses a low 90’s fastball and impeccable command to put pressure on hitters. Hitters have to be ready and willing to wait for Pablo to make mistake. Only one problem: he doesn’t ever really make mistakes! He’s only has walked 8 batters this season in 43 2⁄3 innings, including three separate outings where the Venezuelan starter hasn’t walked anybody.
With a philosophy centered around command, Pablo has pitched to 0.62 earned run average this season in Double-A for the Shrimp. Yes, I said 0.62! Now anyone can get lucky, but maintaining that elite run prevention through eight starts is enough of a sample size to make anyone take notice.
Yet, many leading talent evaluation outlets aren’t ready to include him in their top prospect rankings. MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, etc. continue to snub him from top 100 lists.
And you know what, that’s fine for us. The current Marlins management group is all about hard work and reliability and Pablo fits that bill (or fin), so to speak.
Another encouraging sign if you look deeper into his numbers is his elevated strikeout rate (10.51 K/9). Combined with the fact that Lopez induces ground balls at an almost 60% clip, he seems to have a pretty solid formula for success.
This year has been a breakout year for Lopez, who previously had a modest career high of 8.01 K/9 during his partial season in the High-A California League. He’s always induced grounders, so that is nothing new. Though I’m a huge fan of velocity, production is most important.
Lopez’s next challenge will likely come later this summer at Triple-A and he should thrive there as well. It shouldn’t be long before he’s getting his shot to be a part of the Marlin renaissance at the major league level.