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International MLB Player of the Week: Pablo Lopez Surgical On the Mound For Minnesota

 Leif Skodnick  |    May 11th, 2024 12:16pm EDT

Pablo López of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Target Field on May 09, 2024, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Pablo Lopez, the son of two doctors, had nearly perfect grades, sparkling standardized test scores, and an acceptance letter to medical school in his native Venezuela as a 16-year-old.

Instead, he chose to sign as an international free agent with the Seattle Mariners.

In 2018, explaining the decision to the Miami Herald, he said, “The body, as you grow older, gets weaker. The mind just gets stronger. Baseball is a one-time opportunity. That was my thought process. I could always go back to school.”

Now in his seventh Major League season and second in Minnesota, Lopez, who was an All-Star last year and finished seventh in the 2023 American League Cy Young Award balloting, was surgical this week in a pair of starts for the Twins.

On May 4, Lopez allowed one run on five hits and a walk, going six innings and striking out eight in a 3-1 Twins win against Boston at Target Field.

Five days later, he fanned 10 and allowed one run on four hits in 6.1 innings of work in an 11-1 home win against the Mariners.

Lopez came to Minnesota with Byron Chourio and Jose Salas in a January 2023 trade that sent Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins. While Chourio and Salas have yet to appear in the Major Leagues, Minnesota won the trade. Arraez won a Silver Slugger and a batting title in Miami, but the Marlins shipped him to San Diego last week.

In eight starts this season, Lopez has struck out 55 batters in 44 innings pitched, putting him in the Top 10 in Major League Baseball. With just eight walks issued this season, he holds a strikeouts-to-walks rate of 6.875 and a K/9 rate of 1.25.

While his ERA+, which normalizes ERA across the league by removing external factors like ballparks and opposing lineups, is the exact league average—100—Lopez has, so far, posted a career-best FIP of 3.05 in 2024 and a WHIP of 0.977.

With a fastball averaging 94.5 mph, according to Baseball Savant, Lopez complements the heater with an 85 mph sweeper with 11.5 inches of horizontal break, as well as a changeup, curveball, and a sinker.

With 32 starts in each of the last two seasons, Lopez seems to have finally shaken off some of the injuries that threw some cold water on his time with the Marlins. He missed time in 2019 with a shoulder injury, in 2021 with an injury to his rotator cuff, and in 2022, he dealt with a wrist injury.

Signed through 2027, Lopez stands to make $8.25 million this year and $21.75 million each of the next three years. The Twins (23-15) are a half-game back in the AL Central, trailing the Cleveland Guardians.

If Lopez can keep slicing into opposing lineups this season, the Twins will have a shot at back-to-back division titles, which they last achieved in 2019 and 2020.

In the three years remaining on his contract, if the 28-year-old continues to develop as he has over the past six seasons, the Twins will have scored a perennial Cy Young candidate at a below-market price.