Lopez' agent called the Padres at the beginning of the year touting a Aristides Sevilla that was pitching Winter Ball in Nicaragua, a player the Padres should check out.
Padres scout Ervin Jarquin had good reports on him, and when Robert Rowley went to see him, he also suggested the Padres sign him.
"We spoke to the agent, at which time he told me that the player was on the restricted list with the Yankees," Juan Lara, the Padres coordinator of Latin America operations, said. "The first thing I told him was that I couldn't find Aristides Sevilla in the MLB system at all so I couldn't confirm that he was on the restricted list, which would preclude us from being able to sign him or even talk to him.
"I then did a little research and found a Wilton Lopez from Nicaragua on the Voluntarily-Retired list with the Yankees. The agent confirmed that his full name is Wilton Aristides Sevilla Lopez.
"I explained to the agent that unfortunately we were unable to pursue any discussions with him since Lopez' contract rights still belonged to the Yankees, and I also let him know that Lopez was on the Voluntarily-Retired and not the Restricted List.
"He called back a couple of weeks later and let us know that Lopez had asked for his reinstatement and the Yankees reinstated him and had given him his release. I passed the information along to Randy Smith and we signed him to a Minor League contract. And that's how he became a Padre."
By the end of the season, scouts were swarming around the Padres minor league fields to find out if Lopez would be Rule 5 eligible.
Falling in love with a pitcher that can hit the mid-90s with his fastball is no surprise but every scout had dreams of Joakim Soria on their minds – the Rule 5 pick taken by the Royals after never advancing above Low-A only to have a tremendous season in Kansas City.
Lopez also sports a slider and changeup with the off-speed pitch offering up a chance to be a plus pitch if he uses it more.
He works off his fastball – a pitch that acts like a sinkerball and gets ground ball outs.
He doesn't walk many but does have trouble getting away from the big inning – some scouts believe it is a product of not pitching professionally and learning how to do it. In Nicaragua, pitchers are pulled from the game when men are on base and never really learn how to battle out of such situations.
The Padres found a loophole to sign Lopez and don't have any plans of letting him go. Another solid season - and the expectation is he will be pushed - could put him on the 40-man roster and in San Diego shortly thereafter.