Baseball America's scouts, in ranking Reynaldo Lopez at No. 48 on their Midseason Top 100, pointed to the 22-year-old right-hander's string of double-digit strikeout games, which saw him collect 56 Ks in 33 ⅔ innings over six outings between May 29th and June 25th before he was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse, as the reason he jumped up from No. 92 on their preseason rankings and earned the promotion.
Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker made the official announcement on Lopez's call-up after Sunday afternoon's extra-inning loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Earlier in the day on Sunday, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked the righty up in an MLB Network Radio interview with hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette when he was asked if Lopez was ready to help out at the major league level.
"Definitely. We think he's definitely ready," Rizzo said. "He's really throwing a lot of good strikes this year. That was the one improvement that he has made. He's kind of mastered each level so far. He's pitching extremely well at Triple-A."
"He's got electric stuff," Rizzo continued. "He's mid-to-upper 90s with a power curveball and a good change-up. He throws a lot of strikes right now. He's got -- I would describe it as 'general command' right now -- he's throws the ball over the plate, but he's not a pinpoint guy. But for a six-footer, he gets a good down-angle for a six-foot guy, and really he's pitching as a starter at 95-97 mph and we saw what he can do out of the bullpen in the Futures Game, so he's a real tool for us to have in our toolbox not only as a starting pitcher this season but a guy that can help in a starting role and in a bullpen role."
There's a difference of opinion among scouts about where Lopez might eventually end up, whether he's a starter or a future reliever in the majors. Rizzo said he sees him as a starter.
"I see him as a starter all the way in his future. I see him as a good starting pitcher all the way, but when we get into these short series, guys that throw in the upper 90s and 100s and have secondary pitches, history has told us that those guys can perform even at young, early ages in postseason baseball and there's a long successful list of guys that have done it and we'll utilize him as we see best fit for the team."
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $17,000 in 2012, Lopez "emerged in a big way in 2014" as MLB.com scouts wrote in ranking the righty as the Nationals' 5th overall prospect this winter.
In an MLB Network Radio interview before the 2015 campaign, Assistant GM and VP of Player Personnel Doug Harris talked about a "modest mechanical adjustment" Lopez made that helped him make a big leap.
"He was kind of a lateral front side guy, where the velocity was more foul balls and fly balls," Harris explained.
"Tim Redding and Spin Williams did a great job with him creating a little better front side where he worked top-to-bottom which created a better angle to the fastball.
"The velocity never changed, but now you have better angle, and rather than foul balls and fly balls we got ground balls and swings and misses."
"It allowed him to stay in the strike zone a little bit longer," he continued, "modified the tilt to the breaking ball, where it went from a slurvy curveball to more of an 11-to-5 with better depth and came with more swings and misses and it just allowed him to really take big steps forward."
At High-A Potomac in 2015, Lopez was (6-7), putting up a 4.09 ERA, a 2.95 FIP, 28 walks (2.55 BB/9) and 94 Ks (8.55 K/9) in 19 starts and 99 IP.
He started the 2016 campaign at Double-A Harrisburg, going (3-5) in 14 starts, with a 3.18 ERA, a 3.03 FIP, 25 walks (2.95 BB/9) and 100 Ks (11.79 K/9) in 76 ⅓ innings before he moved up to Triple-A.
Tonight he'll make his MLB debut against a Los Angeles Dodgers team that swept the Nationals in three straight when they played in LA.