Atlanta Braves 2024 season preview: Does Reynaldo Lopez remain a starter all year?

Reynaldo Lopez was initially thought to be a boost to the bullpen, but in Spring Training he won the last rotation spot. Will he remain there over the course of the season?
Atlanta Braves Photo Day
Atlanta Braves Photo Day / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages
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Reynaldo Lopez may be the most intriguing player to watch on the Atlanta Braves 2024 roster. He's spent the seven years pitching in the American League on some pretty bad teams, so it's not your fault if you haven't seen him pitch a ton.

When Alex Anthopoulos signed Lopez early on in the offseason many fans thought the Braves front office was attempting to build a monster bullpen. However, during the announcement of the signing, word was quickly relayed to the beat reporters that Atlanta planned to have Lopez come into Spring Training as a starting pitcher.

Most took that as a grain of salt, but as the games took place and his competition for the fifth starter spot faltered, Lopez did indeed earn a spot in the Atlanta rotation. So what should fans expect from their appointed fifth starter? Will he remain in the rotation all year? Let's break it all down together.

Reynaldo Lopez's role is still to be determined

The Braves may say Lopez is their fifth starter heading into Opening Day, but that shouldn't make Lopez feel as if he is permanently entrenched into that role. While Lopez did debut in the big leagues as a starting pitcher, he really found his calling card as a high-velocity shutdown reliever during the 2022 season.

His predominately two-pitch mix still profiles him as a reliever, but the Braves are seeking value from him in the rotation anyways. He was worth 4.7 fWAR from 2018-2019 as a starter, so you can't blame Atlanta from attempting to steal some value here early on in his three-year deal.

It appears Lopez feels ready to take on this challenge however. Our best guess is Lopez gets a trial run as the fifth starter over the course of the first couple months for sure. After that, there's a few different scenarios that can play out.

The first scenario is one of the upcoming arms like AJSS or 2023 first round pick Hurston Waldrep takes his spot with stellar performance in the minor leagues. In that case Lopez slots back down in the bullpen and bolsters the backend with his unique ability to throw the ball harder than just about anyone not named Spencer Strider.

Next, is that Lopez knocks it out the park and remains in that role all year. As much as we want it to play out this way it's hard to imagine that ends up being the case. Our best guess is Lopez holds the fort down in the backend of the rotation until one of the young arms are ready.

Once that happens, the Braves will earn themselves a multi-inning weapon down in the bullpen. Which just might be what the doctor ordered come October. It's safe to say Reynaldo Lopez is one of the key players heading into 2024.

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