P2Daily: Aggressive Placements Paying Off For Dariel Lopez

There are clues that will give away just how high a front office is on a prospect, one of which is how aggressive they are with that player. A tougher assignment means they expect more of said prospect.

Going just off that, it’s easy to see how excited the Pirates are about Dariel Lopez. He played in Bradenton as a teenager in 2021, and just wrapped this past season in High-A at 20 years old. 

Lopez flashed some intriguing power potential in Bradenton, especially toward the opposite field. He translated that to 19 home runs in 102 games for the Greensboro Grasshoppers. A late season injury likely prevented him hitting the 20 home run plateau, but regardless he still finished among the system leaders in the category.

Of course, Lopez definitely benefited from the confines of First National Bank Field, hitting 15-of-his-19 home runs there, also seeing an over 200-point difference in his OPS on the road.

That being said, the difference between Lopez and some of the other prospects that have benefitted from playing at Greensboro is his age. Lopez will play the entire 2023 season at 21-years-old, potentially in Double-A. He also benefits in that his power is one of his better tools, so the home runs are more expected from him.

Regardless of the home park, Lopez put together a fantastic season in High-A — finishing in the top 10 in hits, slugging percentage, home runs and total bases among qualified South Atlantic League hitters. Among the top 20 leaders in wRC+, which is park adjusted, Lopez was the fourth youngest and finished 16th overall (116) in the SALLY.

What can really set Lopez off as a prospect will be shoring up the errors on the defensive end. He bounced around the infield last year, and did show some improvement on the diamond. In 2021 he committed 33 errors on 236 opportunities (86%), improving both marks this past year (25 errors, 91.6 FLD%).

Despite the high error numbers, you won’t find many in the system that aren’t confident in his ability to play third — he was even voted the best defensive third baseman in 2021 by the ‘Single-A Southeast’ managers.

This will be an interesting offseason for Lopez, as he appeared in five games in the Dominican League, posting a .826 OPS. He is also Rule 5 eligible.

The Rule 5 draft is always tricky to predict, and him being just 20-years old with some defensive questions may prevent him from being selected. The Pirates may just play it safe and protect him. They’ve been aggressive with him, so it would make sense they also see him on enough of an accelerated timeline to add him to the 40-man roster now.

I mentioned going into last season Lopez having ‘breakout’ potential, which probably was a year early based on his age and where he was going to be playing. He’s made some small improvements to his game that should really help him should he start in Altoona. 

If he does start in Double-A at 21, he will join two recent top prospects in doing so — Liover Peguero and Quinn Priester — two of the best in the Pirates system. So that alone would tell you how they feel about Lopez.

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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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skliesen

I’ll be surprised if Lopez is protected. He’s not that highly rated of a prospect, and he’s very young and inexperienced. Sure he could develop into a really good MLB player one day, but currently he would be completely overmatched.

As such, very slim chance he would be selected, IMO.

TNBucs

I got to see Peguero live in ’21 and Lopez live in ’22, and I saw a lot of similarities in the two–they’re within an inch of each other in height and have similar builds, seem to carry themselves with a similar air of confidence, and make hard contact when they make contact. Peguero is the better prospect but I’d only have them separated by a handful of spots and in a ranking of only infielders, I’d have them separated by two spots at the most.

Anthony

Nice prospect, but there is no way I’m adding him to the 40-man after looking at his bb- and k-rates. The chances of him staying on another team’s 26-man roster for a full season would be slim and none.

TNBucs

I agree that he wouldn’t likely stick, but if the drafting team DFA’s him, then another team might give him a look, and then again if that team DFA’s him (there are at least 5-6 teams with nothing to lose–KC, Detroit (though they could see themselves as this year’s Baltimore), Oakland, Miami, Cincy, and Colorado) so that even if he does make it back to us it might be midseason and he will have lost most of a year of development. If they believe in him enough to be as aggressive as they’ve been, I think they need to roster him just to ensure his development stays on track (and I think they will). But I think it is borderline so wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t.

skliesen

Unless the Rule 5 rules changed, it is my belief a selected player must be offered back to his original team for cash considerations if he is removed from 26-man roster.

Wilbur Miller

He has to go through waivers first, so if he’s far enough below replacement value Cherington can get him.

Anthony

Are they really being aggressive here or are we seeing a shift to a “shit or get off the pot” approach moving forward? It’s crazy that he is only 20 years old, just finished A+, and is already Rule 5 eligible. Maybe we will start to see similar prospects get pushed through the system much quicker, especially with how young this “organization” projects to be over the next few years and the limited opportunities that can be given throughout the system. Is it worth protecting Lopez over losing a guy like Thomas or Bolton who may actually contribute to the MLB team next year? Not only does his probability of being selected in the Rule 5 need to be determined, but the opportunity cost of losing another player needs to be considered.

Last edited 2 months ago by Anthony
Wilbur Miller

One thing guys like Lopez are running into is the plague year. Lopez probably would have played at least half of 2022 in AA if he hadn’t missed all of 2020. That might have added some clarity to the roster decision. There are a bunch of guys in the system whose R5 eligibility has been “accelerated” like that, although most are obvious non-adds.

Last edited 2 months ago by Wilbur Miller
Iowasteel

It’s not just the Pirates who are faced with difficult rule 5 choices due to the lost year. Every team has players just like Lopez who are eligible, but haven’t made it to AA. Might make for an interesting rule 5 draft. I saw Lopez play when he was with Bradenton, and I have serious doubts about his ability to play 3rd. He’s athletic enough to play in the outfield, and if the power sticks, his bat would play there. (Or he could improve defensively, he is still quite young.)

Wilbur Miller

Yeah, it’s gotta be a widespread issue.

And I have doubts about Lopez’ ability to play any position that requires a glove.

Anthony

I figured that may be the case but did not know for sure; thanks for clarifying. This tells me that there are 29 other teams in very similar predicaments, which likely reduces the probability even more that he would be selected.

Wilbur Miller

These are mostly going to be class A guys. Once the R5 year is past, a guy who gets claimed will be 2-3 levels away with 3 options left. It’s a very low-odds process. Hard to see how it’s worth it unless the player has significant upside, in which case he’d be protected.

steve_zielinski

Lopez reminds me a bit of Jose Batista. Joey Bats developed a whip-like swing in Toronto which made him a feared slugger. Lopez might not develop the power that Batista had, but I suspect he will hit his way to the majors.

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