Looking Ahead: Miami Marlins Starting Pitcher Pablo Lopez

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 07: Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Marlins Park on August 7, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 07: Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Marlins Park on August 7, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Pablo Lopez rose a lot faster than a lot of people thought he would, starting 10 games for the Miami Marlins in 2018.

Throughout the 2018/2019 offseason, Marlin Maniac has gone over the 2018 system with a fine-toothed comb, and outlined each and every player who appeared at any level of the Miami Marlins system for even one game. Lopez is the 286th and final of the series.

Pablo Jose Lopez is a 6’3″, 200 lb. right-handed hitting and throwing pitcher from Cabimas, Venezuela, population 293,365. The city has produced three major leaguers, most notably outfielder Vic Davalillo (1963-1968 Cleveland Indians, 1968-1969 California Angels, 1969-1970 St. Louis Cardinals, 1971-1973 Pittsburgh Pirates, 1974 Oakland Athletics, 1977-1980 Los Angeles Dodgers).

Lopez was born on March 7th, 1996, and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Mariners on July 4th, 2012 for a $280,000 bonus. In his first professional game action, in 2013 with the Mariners in the Venezuelan Summer League, Lopez went 7-1 over 12 starts, holding his opponents to a 2.37 ERA and a 0.930 WHIP over 66 2/3 innings. He would sit out the 2014 season in recovery from Tommy John Surgery.

Miami Marlins
ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 13: Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the first inning during game one of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on August 13, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

According to the Baseball Cube, Lopez is reliant on four offerings. He throws a four-seamer (33 percent of the time), a two-seamer (28 percent), a curveball (20 percent) and a changeup (19 percent).

In 2015, Lopez joined the Arizona Mariners, in the rookie-level Arizona League. He started in three of his 12 appearances through the season, pitching to a 3.13 ERA in 37 1/3 innings of work. Opponents managed a 1.152 WHIP and struck out 26 times against him. More impressively, Lopez only waked six batters during that time.

A promotion to the Mariners full-season-A outfit was in the cards for the 2016 season. Lopez joined the Clinton LumberKIngs in the Midwest League for 13 starts (and 17 appearances overall). A 7-1 record, a 2.13 ERA, and a 0.913 WHIP were the fruits of his labor. Only 56 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings, but that has never been Lopez’ game. He only walked nine batters all season for a BB/9 under 1.

Miami Marlins
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – JULY 21: Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on July 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) /

Lopez spent the first part of the 2017 campaign with the Modesto Nuts, in the high-A California League. He made 18 starts and was 5-8 with a 5.04 ERA. He struck out 89 over 100 innings, racking up a career-worst 1.260 WHIP but only walking 13 batters. On July 20th, the Mariners traded Lopez with Brayan Hernandez, Brandon Miller, and Lukas Schiraldi to the Miami Marlins for David Phelps. Yeah, I’m thinking we won that trade already.

"Though nothing he throws is plus, Lopez has proven effective with an average three-pitch mix for which he shows excellent feel as well as present command. His fastball sits between 88-91 mph with good sinking action, and he knows how to pound the bottom of the zone to induce weak ground balls. Lopez’s velocity should tick up as he continues to distance himself from elbow surgery and grows into his projectable frame. He keeps hitters off balance by effectively mixing his heater with a curveball and a changeup, both of which are average. – MLB Pipeline"

After finding his way to the Miami Marlins high-A club, the Jupiter Hammerheads in the Florida State League, Lopez posted a 2.18 ERA in 45 1/3 innings. Despite going 0-3 through the rest of the season, he held opponents to a 1.081 WHIP.

Lopez started the 2018 season at the double-A level for the first time, with the Southern League’s Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. In his first game, on April 21st, he struck out seven over four hitless innings in an eventual 10-inning, 4-3 loss to the Tennessee Smokies.

Lopez allowed zero earned runs through his first four starts, striking out 20 over his first 19 innings. In fact, Lopez’ ERA through his first seven starts was a trim 0.24 before allowing two earned runs in his last appearance at the level. It’s hard to believe, but Lopez went 1-2 during his stay in Jacksonville, despite a 0.870 WHIP.

Miami Marlins
MIAMI, FL – AUGUST 26: Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins warms up in the outfield before the start of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on August 26, 2018 in Miami, Florida. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

Pushed up to the triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes beginning in June, Lopez stayed with the Pacific Coast League team for four starts. On June 30th, Lopez made his major league debut with the Miami Marlins.

In his first start, Lopez struck out five and walked one over six innings of work, allowing two runs on six hits, but earning a 5-2 victory against the New York Mets. On July 21st, he earned his second win, striking out six and giving up only two hits in six innings of work, in a 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Rays (see below).

Lopez didn’t manage a scoreless appearance through his 10 Miami Marlins starts, but his 0.5 WAR marked him as the third most valuable pitcher on the team, behind only Jose Urena and Dan Straily. Lopez also managed an 88 ERA+, a 4.49 FIP, a team-fourth 1.261 WHIP, and a team-second 2.8 BB/9, encouraging partly because that was by-far the worst walk-rate of his career (and was nearly the best on the team despite that).

This season, look for Lopez to come through Spring Training as part of the Miami Marlins rotation. Thanks for reading today, and if you stuck around reading all offseason-long, thanks a bunch. I hope you had as much fun reading about every player in the Miami Marlins system as I had writing about them.