In August 2020, the Kansas City Royals designated 27-year-old López for assignment. He was out of options, had a 6.42 ERA in powder blue and had only faced five batters all season. Once a highly-regarded prospect, López was immediately claimed off waivers by the Orioles and slotted into their pitching staff.
After flip-flopping from bullpen to starter to bullpen, the pitcher from Caguas, Puerto Rico has worked exclusively as a starter for Brandon Hyde’s team since winning a rotation spot in spring training. By the end of the month, he will pass his career-high of innings pitched. No one saw that coming.
Baseball Savant doesn’t like his profile, but he can throw five pitches and is in the Top 20 for inducing ground balls.
It is easy to say that López has failed to convert his obvious talent into big league success, but maybe that depends on how you judge success.
He is no John Means but López has made more starts and pitched more innings than the Orioles ace. In fact, as mentioned at the start of the article, only two pitchers have made more starts this season. Full disclosure: Around 10 pitchers have also made the same number of starts, but that detracts from my fun fact.
In July, López went on the appalling-named bereavement list while his son, Mikael, underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Since then, his August is about as erratic as any month in his career.
2 August vs. Yankees: He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and secured the win, despite walking more batters than he struck out.
8 August vs. Rays: Another six-inning outing. More strikeouts than walks this time, and only allowed two earned runs, leaving with a 5-2 lead. The Orioles bullpen coughed up seven runs to deny him the win.
14 August vs. Red Sox: Ouch! López survived just 3⅓ innings after Boston battered him for seven runs on nine hits.
19 August vs. Rays: Significant drop in velocity saw López pulled after just two innings having conceded four runs. He was tagged with the loss.
One of the downsides of pitching for the Orioles is that wins are not easy to come by, but defeats, well that’s a different story. López leads MLB with 14 losses, as part of his 3-14 record.
There is a lot to like about the 28-year-old from the Orioles point of view. He eats innings, is paid minimum wage and will not hit free agency until 2025.
Hopefully, this drop in velocity is just a blip. Hopefully, his son’s health issues take a turn for the better. And hopefully, López can make 25-plus starts in 2022 with a sub-5:00 ERA.
Photo by Rob Tringali
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