Taking a Chance on Reynaldo Lopez - A Deep Dive
A Tale As Old As Time
When I was in high school I was told by a lot of adults that college would be the best time of my life. I didn’t believe it, I thought what about buying a house or starting a family? In college, I was told I was currently at the best time of my life. I still didn’t believe it. You don’t believe people because you are naive and don’t realize that after college there is more responsibility, expenses, and stress. All this time people were right. College probably was the best time of my life, just fun, and no stress. You’d think I would learn my lesson, don’t be naive, trust what others tell you. Nope, I think I like Reynaldo Lopez this year.
A Teddy Bear?
Reynaldo Lopez (ReyLo) had a terrifying year in 2019. His 15 losses, 5.38 ERA, 5.04 FIP, and 12.9 K-BB% are scary enough to frighten the noblest heroes. Little do those heroes know that behind that terrible monster lies a cute little teddy bear. A teddy bear who can help show you the light. ReyLo has some interesting splits that we are going to go through together. I do want to state that I in no way am assuming a major breakout as there are issues here. But there is potential with his new velocity, the addition of Yasmani Grandal, and the veteran pitchers around him. Taking Reynaldo at his current ADP of 296 (as of 1/9) could provide good value!
Let’s get the bad out of the way! I’d rather bring you down first and then bring some excitement into your life. The strikeouts are at best, average. His season-long O-Swing% of 28.9 and SwStr% of 11.0 are nothing to get excited about. Below shows his swing and take chart. When ReyLo throws the ball in the chase zone, batters are only swinging 18% of the time while the league average is 24%. Looking at the waste zone we see the same thing. He was at a 4% swing rate with the league average was 7%. Essentially he wasn’t fooling anyone.
The next issue with ReyLo is his command. He has trouble locating his pitches as he had a rough 3.18 BB/9. Not a walk rate you want to have. Even when he is super successful his pitch plot is interesting. For instance, let’s look at his start on 9/5 against the Indians. He had a stat line of 9 innings pitched, 1 H, 1 ER, and 11 strikeouts. Looking at the chart below, he did what he normally does. He threw a lot of fastballs and sliders. The slider location is good and it's the one pitch he does have a solid command over. Those fastballs though. You want to see them gravitating towards the top of the zone and a lot of them are left in the middle. So two bad things overall, command and getting batters to chase.
Good Times Ahead
Enough of that, no one wants to hear the bad stuff anyway. Let’s get on to the good stuff! Remember that bad walk rate I just talked about? It went from 3.49 BB/9 in the first half to a 2.83 BB/9 in the second half. See progress! Not just that but as I mentioned earlier his slider command was good all year but it improved even more in the second half. He kept it low and away in the zone. If he can command that fastball better he could have a good 1-2 punch. Lets quickly glance at his overall first and second half stats.
1st Half - 6.34 ERA - .376 wOBA - 7.90 K/9 - 10.9 K-BB% - 5.80 FIP
2nd Half - 4.29 ERA - .317 wOBA - 8.69 K/9 - 15.2 K-BB% - 4.18 FIP
More progress! He had more strikeouts, fewer walks, lower wOBA, lower ERA, and lower FIP. This is exciting stuff right here. It is always good to see a pitcher improve throughout the season, especially when it is resulting in more strikeouts and fewer walks. You know we aren’t stopping there, we have to dig deeper. We have to really tempt you with hugging that teddy bear behind the monster.
1st Half - 57% usage - 94.8 MPH - 6.63 xFIP - .374 wOBA - 8.1 Barrel% - 6.7 SwStr%
2nd Half - 60% usage - 96.2 MPH - 5.44 xFIP - .342 wOBA - 6.8 Barrel% - 10.9 SwStr%
See what velocity change can do to a fastball? To put this into perspective the average marks for a four-seam fastball are a .358 wOBA, 9.5 Barrel%, and 9.1 SwStr%. In the second half, ReyLo turned a below-average fastball to an above-average fastball. Simply by increasing the velocity and maybe figuring out how to grip the new ball better. He really seemed to get a handle on it and decide to throw it even more. Are you hugging that teddy bear yet?
1st Half - 20% usage - 2.22 xFIP - .334 wOBA - 12.5 Barrel% - 14.8 SwStr%
2nd Half - 21% usage - 2.49 xFIP - .312 wOBA - 4.8 Barrel% - 18.7 SwStr%
Hello, nasty slider! Lets hit you with some averages. League average on sliders was a .276 wOBA, 6.9 Barrel%, and 16.6 SwStr%. The improvement can be attributed to a few things. First, the improved fastball helped set it up better. Second, his improved location of the pitch made it harder for hitters to make contact. If you look at his heat maps in the first half his slider was left in the zone. In the second half, he places it at the edge often. That decrease in Barrel% is very dramatic and the reason his ERA went from a 6.34 in the first half to a 4.29 ERA in the second half. That teddy bear looks fuzzy and appealing, right?
1st Half - 19% usage - 6.01 xFIP - .488 wOBA - 14.6 Barrel% - 14.2 SwStr%
2nd Half - 10% usage - 5.57 xFIP - .288 wOBA - 4.5 Barrel% - 17.2 SwStr%
This is now three pitches in a row that improved big time. The league averages for a changeup are a .292 wOBA, 5.5 Barrel%, and 15.2 SwStr%. Damn, two good breaking pitches now? No wonder his numbers improved in the second half. I see you reaching for that bear!
Did You Grab The Teddy Bear?
A clear change in velocity and pitch mix is what gives you the confidence that a second-half surge could be legitimate. What do I recommend? Well if you are drafting now, why not take a shot? He now has one of the best pitch framers in the game catching for him. The second half seems legit and you are getting him at pick 296. If you aren’t drafting until March, I suggest you watch his spring training velocity. See if it is around the 96 mph mark and feel more confident in your pick. The main question here is, did I convince you to grab the teddy bear? Or am I just crazy?