As we continue our tour of the top prospects across the Chicago baseball landscape this afternoon, we take a look at Chicago White Sox #4 prospect, Reynaldo Lopez.
Back in early December the White Sox netted a haul of starting pitching when they dealt outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. Despite Lucas Giolito being the new White Sox top pitching prospect, Lopez may very well be the most intriguing of the bunch though.
The 23-year-old right-hander has spent the last five years in the Washington Nationals system since being signed as an international free-agent by the Nationals in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic. Since that time Lopez has climbed the prospect rankings to as high as 38th in 2016 in the MLB Pipeline Top-100 rankings, and 9th in their list of the best right-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball.
Lopez has compiled a career minor league record of 19-19 with a 3.16 ERA, 303 strike outs and 95 walks over the course of 307.2 innings pitched over parts of five seasons. Last season Lopez pitched to a 2-2 record with a 3.57 ERA with the Nationals Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. During his time with the Nationals highest level minor league affiliate in 2016 Lopez recorded an impressive 0.939 WHIP.
In July of 2016 Lopez made his major-league debut for the Nationals in a game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, and again appeared multiple times when the rosters expanded to 90 players in September, and he was impressive during his short stints with Washington.
Lopez recorded a 5-3 record over the course of 11 appearances (six starts), with an ERA of 4.51. While the ERA was higher than the White Sox would like it to be, the ability to make opposing hitters miss was certainly there. In his 44 innings pitched, Lopez recorded an 8.59 K/9 ratio, while striking out 42 hitters in that same span.
In his best start during his time with the nationals, Lopez went seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits, while striking out 11 on August 18, 2016 in Atlanta.
After the White Sox acquired Lopez in the winter of 2016 I began to watch some video on him from his brief stint with the Nationals in September of 2016 as well as his minor-league days, and boy was Lopez’s ability to make hitters swing and miss something impressive.
Don’t believe me? Watch Lopez strike out nine hitters in his major-league debut versus the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, a performance in which he uses his nasty curveball to baffle Dodgers hitters.
Lopez struggled at times with his control, but like any young pitcher, his control should improve with additional experience. Despite the higher than desired ERA in 2016, the fact is, Lopez in his first taste of MLB action had commentators and analysts wowing, and at times just chuckling at how nasty his curveball was.
Lopez possesses a high-velocity fastball that sits in the mid-high nineties all day long, including his brief stint at the major-league level in 2016, where his fastball was consistently clocked anywhere from 96-100 miles per hour. His fastball lacks movement despite its impressive velocity, making it key for Lopez to have absolute command over it moving forward.
What doesn’t suffer from a lack of movement, is his curveball, which I watched move in just about every direction in the video that I watched on him. His curveball is one of the more impressive breaking balls that I have watched in quite some time, and his ability to locate it on the black will make it a plus pitch for quite some time at the major-league level.
The more video I watch on Lopez, the more excited I become to see him pitch on the south side, he jumps out at you immediately. His best characteristic is his ability to pitch. Even with an upper nineties fastball that frequently scrapes triple digits, he is not a fastball pitcher, he is a three-pitch pitcher, who knows how to use all of them consistently. Despite having a smaller frame, at just six-feet even and 185 pounds, he doesn’t have to rear back and fire, due to his flat-out ability to just command three different pitches all over the zone.
The biggest problem that Lopez has, that can be tied to his occasional lack of command, is his tendency to overthrow, which distorts his alignment to the plate in the tail-end of his delivery, causing his fastball to miss its spots. Some time with Don Cooper will do Lopez well in his efforts to establish a consistent delivery.
Overall Lopez will benefit tremendously from some additional time in the minor-league’s to work on his fastball command and movement, something that he will receive with the rebuilding White Sox this coming season. White Sox fans can expect to see a refined and complete Lopez reach the major-league level in late 2017, or early 2018 at this point.