The results may be not be here, but Diamondbacks’ right-handed prospect Yoan Lopez is satisfied with his progress. Then again, numbers in the prestigious Arizona Fall League are not a true indicator of development.
Lopez, who turns 23 this coming Jan. 2, remains an intriguing figure. Possessed with an electric arm and high-powered fast ball, he is perhaps the most noted “project” in the Diamondbacks organization.
The club shelled out $8.27 million for the native of Nueva Gerona, Cuba last winter and showered the 6-3, 185 pounder with great potential. Because Lopez was considered an international signing, the Diamondbacks were hit with a 100 percent tax by signing Lopez under the rules of international pool signing. In effect, Lopez cost the organization over $16 million and add that to a $68 million contract to Yasmany Tomas last off-season.
For his part, Lopez, who was 1-6, 4.69 ERA in nine starts for Mobile this past season, has struggled with the adjustment to life in North America. Because he does not speak English, the Diamondbacks assigned Larry Prado, pitching coach of the Arizona League rookie Diamondbacks to Double-AA Mobile, to help guide Lopez through the transition. This was a similar approach the Diamondbacks took by assigning Ariel Prieto to guide Tomas, a native of Cuba, in his adjustment to life in North America. Prado also guided Livan Hernandez, who pitched for 17 years in the majors, in his transition to North America life.
While the period of adjustment remains challenging for Lopez, the Diamondbacks remain convinced he could find his way, in the near future, to the mound in Chase Field. For now, Lopez is pitching for the Salt River Rafters in the current Arizona Fall League. While numbers are not encouraging, Lopez sees himself as taking Prado’s coaching to heart and making adjustments.
“I’m working on all my pitches and things are going good,” Lopez said through Prado, acting as his interpreter. “I’m concentrating hard and very committed.”
For three starts so far in the Fall League, Lopez has been inconsistent. While his fast ball explodes, secondary pitches and location remain constant issues. In his last start on Oct. 26 against the Scottsdale Scorpions, Lopez was wild high. Most of his pitches were up in the strike zone. He ended up walking one batter, hit two others with a pitched ball and allowed five runs in less than four innings. That dropped his Fall League mark to 1-2 and a 6.10 ERA
Though Lopez has had only one full season in a major league organization, he appears on a similar path as Archie Bradley, whom the Diamondbacks drafted on the first round in the 2011 draft. Bradley entered the organization as “a thrower” as opposed to “a pitcher,” and made the proper adjustment. Earning a spot in the Diamondbacks rotation late in spring training, Bradley started the season on fire but suffered a near season-ending injury when struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez on April 28.
In a similar vein, Lopez appears to rely on his fast ball get hitters out at this level but that is not enough to succeed. Development of secondary pitches and location of his fast ball interact to claim Lopez as “a work in progress” at this point.
Here, Lopez needs to command two vital issues. First, he must transition to a pitcher from his current status a thrower, and also must learn how to put hitters away.
For now, Prado, who watched Lopez closely at Mobile, says all the right things. Yet, there must be a current which suggest Lopez, while physical talents are strong, must quickly develop.
“Keep in mind this was his first year as a starter at this level,” Prado said. “He’s come along very well. We’re getting him to repeat his good habits and work on others. His goal is to be become a big leaguer, and I think he’s on that road.”
While the Diamondbacks organization says off-season evaluation is based on how a player did during the course of their season, numbers here in the Fall League seem to have little value. Still, Lopez is being closely watched and Bob Gebhard, Diamondbacks’ vice president and special assistant to the general manger, was seen talking to Prado after Lopez’s start on Oct. 26.
After the Fall League ends with the title game between winners of the East Division and West Division on Nov. 21, Lopez plans to return to south Florida and begin a regimented off-season program. Like most pitchers and catchers, he will arrive at the Diamondbacks’ Salt River spring training facility by mid-January. Then, his evaluation should commence in earnest and a future path likely designed.
First baseball Paul Goldschmidt and center-fielder A. J. Pollock were nominated for the 2015 Rawlings Gold Glove. Goldschmidt captured the award in 2013.
Three players are nominated for each position and the winner will be announced on Nov 10, 7 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN. Goldschmidt’s competition for first base comes from Brandon Belt of the Giants and Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers, Pollock is up against Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates and Billy Hamilton of the Reds.