Reynaldo López has more than earned the right to stay in the Braves' rotation

The Braves' signing of Reynaldo López is looking better and better by the day.

Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros
Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros / Logan Riely/GettyImages

When the Atlanta Braves signed Reynaldo López and immediately declared that they were going to give him a chance to start again, it was met with a certain amount of skepticism. Lopez had previously put together three very good seasons in the bullpen, but converting back to the rotation as a general rule carries a lot of risk, especially for a guy that is getting paid real money.

That said, it isn't like López didn't have the talent or experience to pull it off. Going back to his days with the Nationals, López was once considered one of the better starting pitching prospects in baseball and he even pitched in the Futures Game while he was in the minors. However, a series of command issues forced him out of the rotation and his stuff played up so well in the bullpen that many thought that being a reliever put him in the best position to succeed.

However, the Braves have apparently once again proved that they are playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers and now it is looking more and more like moving López to the rotation is a move that they need to make a permanent one.

Reynaldo Lopez has been a revelation in the Braves' bullpen

Coming into the season, the general narrative was that the Braves would put Lopez in the rotation early in the season to allow guys like Bryce Elder and AJ Smith-Shawver more time to refine their craft in the minors and potentially give extra days of rest to Max Fried and Chris Sale. Logistically, it was just easier to build López up as a starter first instead of having to do it in the middle of the season. If everything went to plan and their starters were in good shape in the second half, the team could move López back to the bullpen.

However, López is making the idea of taking him out of the rotation very problematic because he has been awesome in 2024 so far. In his three starts this season, he is averaging six innings a start and has posted a 0.50 ERA with 18 strikeouts against just six walks. López's fastball velocity is predictably down a little bit now that he is having to throw six innings instead of one, but his fastball and breaking ball have been elite according to his Statcast profile along with his xERA and XBA. In short, the guy has just been shoving.

There are some potential causes for concern as he has been giving up some hard contact and hasn't kept the ball on the ground as much as one would like. However, those metrics are right in line with what he has done in his career out of the bullpen as well and it is really hard to argue with the results.

With Spencer Strider out for the season and Max Fried's early season struggles, moving López out of the rotation at all is making less and less sense. Two other potential rotation arms in AJ Smith-Shawver and Hurston Waldrep are off to slow starts in the minors and while Bryce Elder has been pretty good down there, it is hard to envision that he would be better than López right now.

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