The 2017 trade deadline was the end of the first chapter of the White Sox rebuild. While there may be an addendum or two with potential sign-and-trades in the year or two to come, the means to acquire young talent are, mostly, spent. The next chapter will be spent figuring out which young talent will make it in the MLB. While Yoan Moncada seems destined to have the staring role in that part of the drama, there will be others. The next could be Reynaldo Lopez.
While guest speaking at Boston’s Saber Seminar over the weekend, GM Rick Hahn teased that Friday could be the debut of Lopez. He seems ready. While Lucas Giolito may have more prospect shine and Carson Fulmer has had big league experience with the White Sox, Lopez has been the most consistent starter for the AAA Charlotte Knights this season. That’s not to say Lopez is without flash. Over his last five starts, he’s thrown 30 innings, struck out 38 and held a 2.38 ERA. He was voted as the White Sox Minor League Player of the Month in July and has impressed both teammates and coaches with his cool, collected character.
When Lopez makes his White Sox debut, he’ll be pitching for his second MLB team. Lopez worked 44 innings for the Washington Nationals last season. He started six games and relieved in one while also throwing two innings of relief in Game Four of the NLDS against the Dodgers. 2016 saw Lopez miss a fair amount of bats (42 strikeouts in the regular season) but miss a the strike zone too often, as well (22 walks). Lack of command has been, as it is with so many young pitchers, the developmental issue for Lopez thus far. While nothing is a bigger tell than the GM of a team telling fans to buy tickets for Friday night against the Royals, Lopez’ walk numbers since the start of June do a fair amount of talking. He’s given a free pass to 22 hitters over 11 starts (62 innings). Just for the sake of quick review–Lopez walked 4.5 per nine in his 44 innings with the Nationals last season. In his first two months at AAA this year, he walked 5.65 per nine. Since the start of June, the rate has dropped to 3.19 per nine.
Reynaldo Lopez may well have little left to prove at AAA.
Should the White Sox bring him up for Friday’s start, it’s possible he could get 10 or even 12 starts in the remainder of the season. Last season, he threw 155.1 total innings across three levels (AA, AAA and MLB). He’s logged 121 innings so far this season so, when Hahn announces the move, it’s fair to wonder wether an innings cap will be thrown on top of Lopez’ new White Sox lid; the team a has preached patience with their new horde of top-tier talent.
Another question asked will be about how the rest of the rotation will change. With Mike Pelfrey, Derek Holland and James Shields all struggling to get out of the fifth innings on a regular basis, one wonders whether simply adding a sixth man (Lopez) into the rotation might just be easiest on everyone. It’d space out long relief work for a beleaguered bullpen and help Lopez ease into his first go in the Sox rotation.
Either way, listen to Rick Hahn. Maybe buy tickets for Friday night.