Diamondbacks Mailbag: Discussing Yoan Lopez’s Ceiling

Welcome to the first edition of the D-Backs Mailbag, where I will answer your questions about the Arizona Diamondbacks once a week.

This week’s batch of questions came from fans on Twitter and in ~AZ Diamondbacks Fans~, a closed Facebook group that you can join via an invitation.

Following Wednesday afternoon’s win over the San Francisco Giants, the Diamondbacks have won their first four series of the season for the first time in franchise history.

After a 3-for-30 start to the season, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt broke out in a ballpark he has dominated throughout his career. Goldschmidt hit .416 (5-for-12) with two home runs and seven RBIs in the three-game series.

The Diamondbacks had an off day on Thursday and open a three-game series at Dodger Stadium tonightnight. Right-hander Zack Greinke (0-1, 5.06 ERA) will face righty Kenta Maeda (1-0, 0.00) at 7:10 p.m.

Here are the pitching matchups for the rest of the series:

Saturday: RHP Taijuan Walker (0-0, 3.27 ERA) vs. LHP Rich Hill (1-0, 2.70 ERA)

Sunday: RHP Zack Godley (2-0, 0.64 ERA) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (0-2, 1.89 ERA).

After sweeping the Dodgers at Chase Field on the last homestand, the D-Backs have won 10 consecutive regular season games against Los Angeles. But the Dodgers swept the D-Backs in last year’s NLDS, including victories in Games 1 and 2 at Chavez Ravine.

As the team prepares to start their series in Los Angeles, let’s talk about the D-Backs.

What is story on Yoan Lopez? Reno as a reliever? Good prospect again? – Dan Vuicich on Facebook

It looked like the D-Backs had wasted $8 million on Lopez not long ago, which was a record-setting bonus. But after a combination of on-field struggles and injuries, the right-hander has overcome possibly having to quit baseball. He has become a good prospect. Lopez dominated California League batters last year for the Visalia Rawhide, resulting in a 16.4 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate. He has a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider. So far, his dominant stuff has carried over to Double-A. He has not allowed a run in three innings with six strikeouts and two walks. If he continues to pitch like he has, Lopez could reach the majors in the near future.

Which NL team do they feel is their biggest rival for the NL Wildcard? – @frrobinson1957

Honestly, right now, I think the D-Backs can challenge for the N.L. West division title. The Dodgers bullpen is shaky, and the offense has struggled to score runs. This weekend’s series in Los Angeles will say a lot. The Colorado Rockies starting rotation has also been shaky, and the Giants have dealt with injuries and a porous offense. But if the Dodgers end up taking control of the division as most expected them to, I think the D-Backs’ biggest rivals for the NL Wildcard are the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets (if their rotation can stay healthy). The Cardinals should also provide a challenge if the rotation can perform consistently, and even the Philadelphia Phillies could make some noise if Gabe Kapler can figure it out.

Who is the next impact top prospect for the D-Backs? When would expect them to make a contribution? – Total Loss Softball on Facebook

The prospect who I think could make the greatest impact in the short term (maybe in September as the team makes a push for the playoffs) is Taylor Clarke. Clarke has had one great outing and one bad outing for the Reno Aces this season, but he does everything well on the mound. He can locate his pitches and miss barrels. This could really help the D-Backs bullpen down the stretch. As far as further down the road, I think the next impact prospect is Daulton Varsho. He had a great season at Hillsboro last season and started this season with Visalia. He is a catcher, and the D-Backs don’t have a lot of depth in their system at the position.

What is Steven Souza’s true ETA? Are there any plausible scenarios where we don’t eat the remaining money on Yasmany Tomas‘ contract? – Benjamin Lund on Facebook

Souza suffered a setback while playing in an extended spring training game, so he probably won’t return for the next homestand. As for Tomas, I don’t think there is any way for the D-Backs to not eat at least most of his contract. Unless he shows he can play another position or drastically improve his defense, his best fit is in the American League as a DH, and even finding a team that would take him for that role has been a challenge.

Thanks to all those who asked questions. If you have a question about the D-Backs, comment below, send me a tweet @joejacquezaz or email me at [email protected]

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