MLB.com: D-backs’ Lopez, Walker are under-the-radar rookies
Apr 24, 2019, 4:00 PM | Updated: Apr 25, 2019, 2:07 pm
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Since the start of the MLB season, most of the attention when it comes to rookies has been turned toward players like the San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. and the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso, and rightfully so.
With that being said, there are undoubtedly a number of other rookies who have gotten off to surprisingly hot starts to the season but have been overlooked.
MLB.com’s Richard Justice included Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Yoan Lopez and first baseman Christian Walker in his eight under-the-radar rookies that have caught his attention.
Lopez, 26, made his major league debut with the D-backs in 2018 before being sent back down to Double-A, where he spent the remainder of the season.
His fastball sits consistently at 96 mph and is made even better by a hard slider that is also a quality pitch. Lopez has been effective enough that manager Torey Lovullo has shifted him from a middle-inning role at the beginning of the season to the seventh and eighth innings in five of his last six appearances.
In his 12 appearances this season, Lopez has posted an incredible 0.96 ERA with eight strikeouts.
Back in January 2015, the D-backs gave Lopez a record-setting $8.27 million bonus when they signed the right-hander out of Cuba.
As for Walker, the D-backs first baseman has waited a long time for an everyday role in the major leagues.
He turned 28 last month, so he doesn’t really qualify as a kid anymore, but he maintains his rookie status despite debuting all the way back in 2014 with Baltimore. When Paul Goldschmidt was traded to the Cardinals, he finally had an opportunity to play and has made the most of his chance.
Walker, the once top prospect of the Baltimore Orioles, has made himself into a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the D-backs order.
The 28-year-old currently leads the team in home runs (7), batting average (.329), OPS (1.077) and slugging percentage (.684).