Over the next few weeks, BP South Side will be reviewing the performance of all 51 players who suited up for the 2017 White Sox. Players whose seasons were particularly noteworthy will get their own standalone article, while smaller contributors or those who were traded/cut will be grouped together. We’ll do our best to summarize and analyze what each player brought to this year’s club, what we learned, didn’t learn, and what it all means for his future with the team.
That Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito came over together for Adam Eaton is somewhat fitting. There are differences in their profiles to be sure, but just how good they’ll be remains a bit of a mystery even a year later. In the case of Lopez, the strengths and weaknesses are pretty apparent. He throws really hard, and flashes both a potent change and curve. The down side is that on far too many nights, the secondary stuff just isn’t there, and he struggles to maintain his command from outing to outing and inning to inning.
On the whole, 2017 was a step forward, even if it was a bit odd. In his second try at Triple-A, and first time in Charlotte, Lopez forced his promotion with a stretch of brutally eviscerating the competition for 46 innings to the tune of a 2.70 ERA and with a 63:15 K:BB ratio. Upon reaching the majors, however, despite going reasonably deep into games, he randomly cut his walks and strikeouts, which isn’t what one might have expected from his profile.
A closer look at some of those outings reveals that the days with particularly low swinging strikes were days where he basically only had a fastball. In a way, it’s encouraging to think that he was able to eat innings and muddle through as something resembling league average results with his full arsenal on the fritz. On the other hand, until he demonstrates an ability to maintain his offspeed offerings one cannot assume that it is just around the corner, or an inevitability with reps.
Barring injury, Lopez is going to start 2018 in the major league rotation, and how he will fare is anybody’s guess. There are certainly the raw tools here for a No. 2 or 3 starter, but it will require a step forward in command. And the league is choked to the gills with pitchers who would vault from swingmen and relievers to plus starters with a grade or two of command, so easier said than done. Then again, it’s easier to imagine Lopez refining his command than it is to imagine, say, David Holmberg adding 3-4 miles per hour and a whole lot of life onto his heater. Not to mention, if Lopez can’t be effective over 150+ innings, his fallback option would be Monstrous Bullpen Weapon, and that’s a pretty neat Plan B.