Jose Lopez entered his third season with the Cincinnati Reds in 2016. It was only his second year on the field, though. He was drafted in 2014, but was still recovering from Tommy John surgery. After pitching in the second half with the Billings Mustangs in 2015 the Reds sent him to Dayton to start 2016.
In the first start of the year, Jose Lopez pitched well. Taking on Bowling Green he allowed a run in 5.2 innings with five strikeouts. The second start didn’t go nearly as well. Against West Michigan he allowed six runs in 3.1 innings. The final three starts of the month went well. The right hander allowed six earned in 16.1 innings with just five walks and 20 strikeouts. One rough start pushed his ERA up for the month. In April he had a 4.62 ERA in 25.1 innings with one home run allowed. He walked just seven batters and he had 29 strikeouts.
May began on a strong note with one earned in 5.1 innings against Peoria. That was followed up by his best start to that point in the season. At home against South Bend Jose Lopez struck out eight in 6.0 innings without an earned run. That was followed up with eight more strikeouts against Lake County. He was charged with three runs in 5.2 innings that night. On the 23rd he ran into trouble against Bowling Green. The righty was charged with six earned in 4.1 innings where he allowed 11 hits. In the final start of May he allowed three runs over 5.0 innings. One bad start damaged the ERA for the month once again. A 4.44 ERA in 26.1 innings was the result for May. That came along with one home run allowed, eight walks and 27 strikeouts.
After a tough end to May, June started well. Jose Lopez threw 7.0 shutout frames against Fort Wayne with a walk and six strikeouts. That was followed up with an eight strikeout performance against South Bend where he was charged with two runs in 5.2 innings. On the 14th he allowed two earned in 5.0 innings. Taking on Great Lakes on the 19th was one of his better starts of the year. He tossed 6.0 shutout innings with a walk and nine strikeouts. He kept on rolling, throwing 7. 0 innings in each of the final two starts of the month. In those starts he allowed three runs with 10 strikeouts. June would be his best month of the year, posting a 1.67 ERA in 37.2 innings. He allowed nine walks, no home runs and had 36 strikeouts.
Jose Lopez kept things rolling into July. In the first two starts he allowed one earned in 11.0 innings with 12 strikeouts and three walks. It was on the 17th, his third appearance of the month, where he ran into trouble. Against Wisconsin he allowed seven runs in just 2.1 innings. The next time out he allowed three runs in 5.1 innings. The month ended with some struggles as he was charged with six runs in 5.1 innings. It would be his worst month of the season. The former Seton Hall pitcher posted a 6.38 ERA in 24.0 innings with eight walks and 21 strikeouts.
Jose Lopez was promoted to Daytona to start August. The first start went well as he allowed a run in 6.0 innings with a walk and five strikeouts. A week later things got tough as he was charged with four unearned runs, and three more earned runs in 6.0 innings. On the 16th he struggled, allowing three runs in 4.0 innings with three walks and three strikeouts. On the 23rd he would pick up a resumed game, throwing 6.0 innings with just one earned run allowed, two walks and seven strikeouts. The final two starts of the year were interesting as he had 16 strikeouts with just two walks in 12.2 innings. He wound up allowing nine earned runs in those two starts though. In the final five weeks of the year he posted a 4.41 ERA in 34.2 innings with 10 walks and 34 strikeouts.
There were some consistency issues at times for Jose Lopez. He was victim of the occasional “blow up” start that would do damage to his overall line. Between Dayton and Daytona he posted a 4.07 ERA in 148.0 innings to go along with 42 walks and 147 strikeouts.
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Jose Lopez Scouting Report
Fastball | Before Tommy John surgery, he had touched the upper 90’s at Seton Hall. He’s no longer touching there, working in the 90-93 MPH range with his fastball and occasionally touching higher. A few times during the season he worked 92-94.
Curveball | His go-to offering, the pitch shows solid 12-6 breaking action. At times it will be sharper than others, but when it’s at it’s best the pitch is an above-average offering.
Change Up | It’s his third pitch, a solid offering that works in the low 80’s.
The stuff isn’t overwhelming, though when he’s working in the 92-94 everything plays a little better. Where Lopez stands out is his control. He’s in the zone with all of his offerings and he commands the fastball well to all four parts of the strikezone on most nights. While he’s not undersized, listed at 6′ 1″ and 195 lbs., he’s not a big guy either. The size along with the combination of stuff and mechanics lead some to believe he’s going to wind up in the bullpen in the long run.
It was a big step for Lopez in his road back from Tommy John to throw 148.0 innings and remain healthy. That gives some credence to the idea that he could remain a starter, which for now seems to be where the Reds plan to continue his development. The bullpen is a fallback plan where he could focus on the fastball/curveball combo, but with his control and solid arsenal he could fit into the #3-4 starter role if he can reach his ceiling.