Right-handed pitching lefty-hitting Pablo López’ second major league season was a series of ups and downs.
A 6’3″, 200 lb. native of Cabimas, Venezuela, Pablo López was signed to a minor league contract by the Seattle Mariners on July 4th, 2012. After five seasons of slowly rising through the ranks of the Mariners minor league feeder system, the Mariners traded him to the Miami Marlins with fellow right-handed pitchers Lukas Schiraldi and Brandon Miller, along with center fielder Brayan Hernandez for right-hander David Phelps.
Phelps has since gone on to join the Toronto Blue Jays, then the Chicago Cubs. Schiraldi and Miller have been released. Brayan Hernandez just hit .159 in the low minor leagues, but is still part of the organization. Only López looks to tick the dial on the Phelps trade.
When he joined the Miami Marlins organization, they sent him first to the double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, where he didn’t allow a run for his first 19 innings and eventually had an ERA of 0.24, with 42 K’s and just one run allowed in 37 2/3 innings. That begged a closer look, and after a month with the triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes, the Marlins called him up to the big show.
López didn’t disappoint in his first look. He made 10 starts for the Miami Marlins through the rest of the season, with 46 K’s in 58 2/3 innings. He only posted a 2-4 record, with a 4.14 ERA, but his WHIP hovered around the league average – at 1.261. He was worth 0.5 WAR during that time. Hardly superstar material, but surely worthy of a full-season’s starts with a talent-starved major league team.
And that’s what he got, minus some time off for injury. López went 5-8 with a 5.09 ERA in 21 starts for the Miami Marlins in 2019. He lowered his WHIP to 1.240, mostly by dropping his already impressive 2.8 BB/9 down to 2.2. He got 95 to wave in 111 1/3 innings, and finished with a 4.28 FIP that indicates he was subject to sometimes less-than-adequate fielding behind him.
Eleven of López’ 21 starts resulted in a GameScore of over 50, considered an “average” game. On April 23rd, in a 3-1 victory against the Cleveland Indians, he struck out six while allowing only an unearned run, on two hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings. On May 18th, he posted what was likely his best effort of the season, pitching seven shutout, one-hit innings in a 2-0 win against the New York Mets. He struck out seven in that one. On June 4th, when the Marlins defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 16-0, López was the winning pitcher of record, with seven strikeouts and six hits allowed in seven frames.
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With a walk-rate at about 50 percent better than the league average, and an average opposing launch-angle two percent under the league average (9.2 and 11.2, respectively), López may yet become a stalwart of this Miami Marlins rotation. The launch-angle number points to an ability to keep balls in the yard.
López relies on three slightly-above-average pitches, but lacks a true “plus” offering, according to Baseball Savant. A fastball with good sink, a nice change-of-pace, and a decent slider reside in López’ arsenal. Look for him to enter 2020 Spring Training as part of the rotation, but of course, everything is up for grabs.
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