After losing the 2020 minor league due to the pandemic, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to get aggressive with some of their younger players, sending a select few to Bradenton to play with the Marauders.
One such player was Dariel Lopez, who played the entire 2021 season at just 19-years-old, which was nearly two and a half years younger than his average peers in the Low-A Southeast.
The Dominican born Lopez played in 98 games for the Marauders, mostly batting in the middle of the lineup for the eventual champions of the division. Lopez put up some very respectable numbers for a player his age playing the competition he did, putting up a batting slash of .258/.341/.393 with 10 home runs and 28 extra-base hits.
Lopez did strikeout 24.8% of the time, but considering the competition he was facing, it isn’t as much a concern as it usually might be. On top of that, he did also nearly walk 10% of his plate appearances (9.9%).
With a frame that looks like he can develop more power, Lopez started to tap into some of that potential last year in Bradenton.
Along with the 28 extra-base hits, Lopez posted the second highest average exit velocity at 87.7 mph of all players with at least 50 batted balls, according to Minor League Splits. He also had the second highest Hard Hit % at 42.6.
Maybe the most impressive thing about Lopez is just how he displays the power, hitting to the opposite field, something that isn’t as common for players his age.
Of all the balls he put in play, 39.3% went the other way for Lopez, including a lot of his extra-base hits.
Even though he struck more than he had in the past, or even more than you would think, Lopez showed a good approach at the plate. With the elimination of some of the other minor league levels, it condensed a lot of the more advanced college arms into Low-A that you wouldn’t have seen in previous years.
This is an example of that approach at the plate, working an eight pitch at-bat against Jupiter pitcher Chris Mokma.
After falling behind 0-2, Lopez works the count back full, fouling three pitches off in total, before finally hitting a home run to right center.
Another look at Lopez at the plate doesn’t highlight anything fancy, just his willingness to hit the ball where the pitcher throws it. He gets a fastball on the outer half of the plate, and Lopez hits a bomb the other way.
That isn’t saying he can’t turn on a pitch either. Lopez gets a 1-0 fastball on the inner half that he rips down the line for a double. For how impressive he was in hitting for power the other way, he shows he can still get to the pitches on the inside.
Lopez is an interesting case when it comes to his defense. On paper, it wasn’t pretty, with 33 errors committed by Lopez on the season. Splitting time around the infield, most of the damage was committed at shortstop with 18 in 112 chances (.839 FLD%). While third base wasn’t too much better (12 errors on 90 chances), he did look more comfortable there as the season went on.
Along with that, he also did receive recognition when it comes to his play at third. When Baseball America released their 2021 ‘Best Tools’ article, the Pirates system was very well represented throughout the minor leagues.
Despite the errors, Low-A managers recognized the skill behind Lopez’s glove, naming him the top defensive third baseman in the division.
Lopez checks in at 27th on the Pirates Prospects Top 30 ranking, and while that’s impressive for a player so young with plenty of room for growth, he has a skillset that can certainly see him climb even higher.
It will come down to cutting down on the errors and if the power continues to develop. Based off the fact Lopez will be 20-years-old for the entire 2022 season, he still has plenty of time for both to come.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 Top 30 Prospects
Williams: The Pirates Have a Nice Convergence of Prospects
WTM: An Embarrassment of Riches
Potential Sleeper Prospects From the Dominican Summer League
Despite Setbacks, Travis Swaggerty In Position To Validate Draft Status
Unique Skillset Gives Dariel Lopez Breakout Potential
Under the Radar: Sleepers Just Outside of the Pirates Top 30
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.