Age on Opening Day 2016: 22
How acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2012
Position: Starting pitcher
Prospect Rank: No. 5 in Nats' org. (Baseball America)
2015 Level/Team: A-Potomac
2015 Stats: 19 G, 19 GS, 4.09 ERA, 99 IP, 93 H, 47 R, 45 ER, 5 HR, 28 BB, 94 SO, 3 HBP, 9 WP, 6-7, CG, 1.222 WHIP, 8.5 SO/9, 3.36 K/BB
2015 Analysis: Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez entered the 2015 season as the third-ranked prospect in the Nationals' organization by Baseball America after an impressive 2014 campaign that saw him post a 1.08 ERA in 16 starts split between the Auburn Doubledays and the Single-A Hagerstown Suns. That earned him a slight bump up to High-A Potomac for 2015, where he made 19 total starts from early May to late August.
Lopez did not find the same level of success with the P-Nats, posting a 4.09 ERA across 99 total innings. He was strong early in the season with only one earned run through three starts (17 IP), but quickly found trouble for an extended stretch. From May 22 to June 26 - a span of seven starts - Lopez allowed 25 earned runs on 42 hits and nine walks in 31 innings. That was good for a 7.26 ERA as opponents hit .326 against him in those outings.
But just as Lopez started the season well, he finished with impressive numbers over his last five starts. He held a 2.25 ERA with 30 strikeouts and six walks in 28 total innings. Opponents hit just .196/.250/.258 in those games. Lopez' season ended with a minor back injury that put him on the disabled list in August.
2016 Outlook: Lopez battled inconsistency in 2015, but seemed to find a groove down the stretch before getting hurt. Perhaps that success can be carried into the 2016 season, where he will likely start again at Potomac.
If he does go back to Potomac, it may not be for long if he pitches like he did late in 2015. Lopez turns 22 on Jan. 4 and the Nationals would like to see him start gaining some momentum and climb the ranks of their farm system. He has eye-popping stuff with a fastball that sits in the upper-90s and reaches triple digits, and he's proven for most of his brief professional career that his skills translate to games. But he will need to get back on track in 2016 to continue moving up the ladder.
A best-case scenario for Lopez could conceivably include an MLB debut in 2016. We have seen the Nationals pull pitchers from the Double-A ranks before and Lopez is likely to be there at some point in 2016.
As is the case for many young pitchers who throw hard, Lopez will need to improve his command in 2016. If he can harness his high-90s heat, he will continue to develop as one of the most promising pitching prospects in the Nats' organization.