All Twins fans remember Johan Santana’s dominance at the top of the team’s rotation, thanks to the ease with which he retired his rivals with a lethal changeup. But, as expected, in Venezuela there were also young people who followed “El Gocho” closely.
Pablo Lopez was one of them. The Twins’ newly acquired right-hander is excited to be in the same organization where his idol shone a few years ago.
“I am incredibly excited to be a part of an organization like the Minnesota Twins,” Lopez said. “All the Venezuelan children grew up being fans of Johan Santana, who lived his best years with the Twins. I have many memories of seeing him in a Twins uniform when I was a kid.”
It’s hard to set what Santana has done as a standard for any young pitcher — Lopez is just 26 — but if the Twins’ newcomer can achieve some level of success with Minnesota, there could be some similarity to the two-time Cy Award winner. Young of the American League.
Lopez also relies heavily on his changeup, the most effective pitching in his repertoire in the past three years, during a period in which he posted a 3.52 ERA. He threw it more often than ever in 2022 — 35.3% of the time — in turn simplifying his five-pitch repertoire, primarily using the fastball and changeup.
He’s a strong changeup, averaging 87.5 mph last year, but Lopez’s main asset is that he can throw it effectively against lefties and righties alike. He generated 33.9% blank swings on that drive last year, including 38.7% against righties.
The Twins are confident in their plans to continue developing the Venezuelan. They could ask him to use his cutter more, for example, following the organization’s trend of leaning on the slider and curveball. But his fastball hit 97.3 mph last year, and the change has already brought him much success. The Twins were so confident in his potential that they decided get rid of someone like the also Venezuelan Luis Arráez to obtain it.
“You can talk about his changeup, or the way he uses the fastball; this guy has a lot of speed,” Twins president of basketball operations Derek Falvey said. “He can put it wherever he wants. But the change is what has been lethal at times. He used it in a great way against good teams and he was successful”.