Robinson Lopez Scouting Report (2010)
Braves prospect Robinson Lopez entered the 2010 season as a sleeper in an organization filled with high ceiling pitching prospects. In seeing his best professional outing where he dominated the Savannah Sand Gnats to the tune of eight strikeouts in three innings pitched, Lopez had his potential on full display and left a fantastic first impression. In a second outing, he wasn’t quite as sharp, but still showed elite velocity and the ability to handle older competition. Since that July fourth outing, Lopez has struggled mightily seeing his peripherals drop and ERA rise. Having nearly doubled his innings from last season, are South Atlantic League hitters making adjustments? Or is it simply a case of Lopez withering under the heat and humidity of a summer in the Southeast?
Physical Projection: Listed at 6’2″, 190 lbs., he looks a couple of inches shorter and fifteen to twenty pounds heavier in person. Evenly proportioned throughout, he already fills out his frame pretty well. Future physical projection will come from his ability to tighten up the size he does have, as well as his continuing to add additional strength. However, his present size and average athleticism lead me to believe his velocity is nearly maxed out.
Another determining factor in my feeling his velocity is nearly peaked are his mechanics. In describing them as a little choppy due to a lack of fluidity, Lopez’ excellent arm whip comes with added effort to counteract his mechanical deficiencies. This leaves people I’ve talked to mixed about whether he profiles better out of the rotation or bullpen.
Mound Presence: When things are going well, Lopez works quickly attacking hitters with a fastball he can work on either side of the plate. He mixes in the curveball when ahead in the count and rarely throws the changeup in game action.
However, Lopez has significant problems working from the stretch which will need to be ironed out. His difficulty starts in the bullpen as he completed a full pre-game session and only threw five pitches from the stretch which were not particularly focused. In game action, his tempo slows significantly with men on base and he shifts focus from batter to baserunner. In one instance, he threw over to first base three consecutive times with 20-runner Wilmer Flores on first base. Between his mid-90’s heat and a catcher with the best arm in minor league baseball, Lopez’ focus should have been solely on the batter. It was a sign of immaturity.
In his second outing, he fought out of a bases loaded jam without allowing a run showing some growth. It was a silver lining and silver lining’s are really all that’s needed to legitimize a prospect at this level.
Fastball: The first few pitches Lopez threw were in the upper-80’s leaving me wondering where the rumored heat was? Then, he began to climb the velocity ladder topping out at 96 MPH. In witnessing him throw multiple complete innings in the 93-95 MPH range, I’m very comfortable calling his fastball velocity elite for the level. However, with this velocity comes a lack of movement and some difficulty generating downward plane. This leaves the pitch solid average, but impossible to call it more at this point.
Curveball: At 76-78 MPH, Lopez’ curveball is still a work in progress. At times, the pitch showed sharp ten-to-five break with enough depth to make batters swing-and-miss. However, it was inconsistent and bordered on being too slurvy when he failed to release the pitch out front. This caused it to hang too often for me to call the curveball solid average at this point. Additionally, his utilizing the offering primarily when ahead in the count is also a bit of a red flag. For now, I’ll call curve fringe average with potential.
Changeup: In the bullpen, he showed good feel for the pitch with strong arm action and arm side run. He kept the pitch down and showed enough for me to want to see him utilize it more in game action. Any evaluator who sees Lopez without carefully watching his changeup in the bullpen would likely dismiss him as a reliever due to a lack of a third offering.
Going forward, Lopez is a pitcher whose game could make significant strides with increased preparation and game experience. While I appreciated his focus with the bases empty, his difficulty with runners on left a lasting negative impression. For Lopez, his growth will start in the bullpen as his preparation was sorely lacking compared to a pitcher like Tanner Bushue who oozed professionalism. Due to Lopez’ two-pitch mix, it’s easy to project him as a power reliever, but I feel much better about his ability to stay in the rotation than former teammate Arodys Vizcaino. If the over/under was set at number four starter, I’d take the over, but it would be a purely speculative gut play.
23 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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