Each Wednesday timberrattlers.com will countdown the top 20 seasons by a Timber Rattler until #1 is revealed on August 29th. This week: #7
Aquilino Lopez 2000
6-1, 1.85 ERA, 17 saves, 5 games started, 68 innings pitched, 47 hits allowed, 14 earned runs allowed, 20 walks, 67 strikeouts
Aquilino Lopez was signed as a 17 year old out of the Dominican Republic in 1997. After two dominating seasons with the Dominican League Mariners (7-2, 2.34 ERA, 119 strikeouts in 90.1 innings), Lopez made his United States debut with Everett in 1999. Lopez had a good year in the AquaSox rotation, going 7-6 with a 3.80 ERA. That would earn Aquilino a promotion to Wisconsin for the 2000 season.
Lopez would spend the bulk of the 2000 season in the Rattlers bullpen, but also was effective when called upon to start, including throwing a complete game shutout as one of his five starts. The majority of his damage to opposing hitters came out of the pen though. His 17 saves rank number two all time for the Rattlers, trailing only John Thompson's 19 in 1995.
Aquilino continued to shine as he continued up the Mariners system, posting a 3.02 ERA for San Antonio in 2001 (after skipping High A) and a 2.39 ERA with Tacoma in 2002. It wasn't enough to impress the Mariners, but it did catch the eye of Toronto, who grabbed him in the Rule 5 draft in December of 2002. Lopez made his Major League debut on April 3rd, 2003 against the New York Yankees. The first batter he faced, Jorge Posada, singled off of him, but he did not allow a run during his inning and a third stint. He would spend the entire 2003 season in the Blue Jays bullpen, going 1-3 with an impressive 3.42 ERA. Injuries and ineffectiveness in the Toronto bullpen thrust Lopez into the closers role, and he responded with 14 saves. Unfortunately, the 72 appearances he made in '03 are more than all of the years since combined. He has bounced around since as well, pitching in the Minors for the Dodgers and Padres, and in the Majors for the Phillies, Rockies, and most recently, the Tigers.
Previously on the countdown:
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.