There are two different lenses through which you can look at Reynaldo Lopez’s 2018 season.
The first one is nice. Lopez made it through his first full season as a starting pitcher and did mostly fine. He threw 188 innings and posted a 3.91 ERA. It’s the type of season where you can look back at his Baseball Reference page in a few years, see his 2018 line, and go “that was a fine year year by Lopez.” It was the epitome of “OK.”
This is particularly true when you consider where Lopez was coming into the season. Of all the at or near-major league ready pitchers the White Sox have, Lopez’s ceiling was the lowest, or at least the expectations for him were. Lucas Giolito was a former top prospect. Michael Kopech is one now. Carlos Rodon is only a few years removed from being the No. 3 pick in the draft. Lopez had some pedigree, but always measured behind those three on the excitement index. He was the guy who got the “probably a reliever” tag more than anyone.
By the end of the year Lopez was the only guy left standing, at least metaphorically. Giolito struggled mightily, Kopech got hurt, and Rodon was hurt and then struggled mightily. Lopez had a few rough patches, but he got through the season without embarrassing himself or getting hurt. Given the season the White Sox as a whole had, that’s a win!
Outside of the context of the White Sox season, however, Lopez’s future is much less clear. The reality is that there was very little that happened this season that makes you any more confident he can become the type of starting pitcher the White Sox envisioned when they acquired him in the Adam Eaton deal two years ago. The ERA was nice, yes, but behind it was a 4.63 FIP and 5.65 DRA that portends a whole lot of luck in that 3.91 figure. His cFIP of 122 does not predict a lot of future success, and the rate stats — particularly the 7.2 K/9 — don’t leave a lot of room for optimism.
Lopez’s future could still very well be in the rotation. It’s likely, however, that our expectations should maybe shift to that of a back-end starter, which still has value even if it would be something of a disappointment. At the very least, Lopez’s 2018 bought him another year in the rotation to prove it — one way or the other.
Lead Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports