It appears that the White Sox are ready to promote the first of their highly touted pitching prospects to the majors, as Rick Hahn announced today that Reynaldo Lopez would be joining the White Sox rotation. He will make his White Sox debut Friday at home against the Royals.
Per Rick Hahn, Reynaldo Lopez will start on Friday with Pelfrey moving to bullpen.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 8, 2017
Lopez is rated as the Sox sixth best prospect and checks in at 59th on both the MLB and Baseball America mid-season top-100 prospect lists. The 23-year-old right hander is currently 6-7 with a 3.79 ERA at AAA Charlotte.
However, Lopez has really been forcing the issue lately. In his last eight starts Lopez has a 2.70 ERA and has held opponents to a .193 batting average. He has struck out 63 batters in 46.2 innings over that stretch (12.2 K/9) while walking only 15 batters (2.9 BB/9). He has a 1.029 WHIP over those eight starts as well.
The big key is the walks, which are way down from earlier in the season. In his first 14 starts, Lopez was walking over four batters per nine innings. The strikeouts have improved as well, up from 8.2 per nine in the first 14 starts. That makes sense that if the walks are down, he’s throwing more strikes, and the strikeout numbers should improve as well.
One area that could be some concern for Lopez are the home run/fly ball numbers. While Lopez has only allowed 16 total homers this year, for an average of 1.2/9 innings, he did allow three in his last start on Sunday.
While the total isn’t huge, it should be noted that Lopez has been predominantly a fly ball pitcher this year. His fly ball percentage is at 62% for the season, and that is pretty consistent from the first half to the last eight games. Just 12% of those fly balls are considered pop-ups, so he’s getting a lot of fly ball outs. This could be something that gives him some problems pitching at Guaranteed Rate Field (ugh), especially in the month of August, but we will have to wait and see.
If Lopez does come up and pitch Friday, it will be his debut with the White Sox, but not his major league debut. Lopez appeared in 11 games for the Nationals last year, making six starts. He was 5-3 with a 4.91 ERA but pitched much better as a reliever. The Sox plan on Lopez being a starter and that is where they plan to deploy him. The Sox brass, and their fans, will get a decent look at Lopez over the next two months before he figures to open the season in the starting rotation next year.