Braves: Reynaldo Lopez really might be a Cy Young threat

MLB: MAY 20 Padres at Braves Game 1

When the Braves announced they would be trying Reynaldo Lopez out as a starter soon after signing him to a three-year, $30 million contract, the initial reaction was something along the lines of this is going to be a fun experiment that probably won’t be permanent. Nobody could have expected what has transpired with the hard-throwing right-hander through the first two-plus months of the season.

Lopez has not only thrived in his new role; he’s leading all of Major League Baseball in ERA following his start on Thursday afternoon in which he went six innings, allowing no runs and only two hits with eight strikeouts. It might have been his best start of the season, considering the opponent. The Orioles currently lead the majors in home runs and are undoubtedly a top-five offense in baseball, but they never looked like a match for Lopez, whose ERA is now down to 1.69 on the season as he continues to look stronger with each passing start.

That’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of Lopez’s current run of form. When thinking of issues that could arise with a reliever turned starter, it’s fair to question how he will fare later in games, and more importantly, later in the season. But to this point, that’s looked more like a strength for Reynaldo Lopez than a weakness.

In each start, Lopez seems to get stronger as the game continues, and it’s beginning to feel like he’s only becoming more comfortable with his expanded arsenal with each passing outing. Lopez touched 99 on the radar gun today, and his improved changeup was filthy, which has paired splendidly with his fastball/slider/curveball mix.

Regression has to strike eventually to some degree. Reynaldo Lopez is unlikely to maintain a sub-2.00 ERA over 25-30 starts after not starting games for five years. However, I’m not so sure it’s going to as severe as originally expected. There are more signs to suggest Lopez is getting stronger than slowing down, and his confidence has to be growing every time he toes the rubber.

This has the potential to be Alex Anthopoulos’ best free agent signing ever, and it’s about time everybody starts talking about Reynaldo Lopez as a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate. He’s as deserving as anybody to this point in the season.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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