There’s still a long way to go, but when it comes to ranking the best young players acquired in the White Sox’s rebuild, Reynaldo Lopez is running first.
Down the road, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal might push past Lopez, but the 25-year-old starter already has shown the Sox what he can do.
One of three promising pitchers acquired in the Dec. 7, 2016, trade that sent veteran outfielder Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals – Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning were the others – Lopez went 7-10 with a 3.91 ERA for the Sox in 2018, his first full season in the major leagues.
“Every year you learn,” Lopez said through an interpreter. “Every day you learn new things. Every outing. I learned a lot last year. What I learned will help me to have a better approach to the game, a better approach in different situations, how to attack left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. I am going to use that to my advantage.”
Lopez still is learning, but he led the Sox with 19 quality starts last season while finishing second with 188⅔ innings pitched and 151 strikeouts. This year he slots in as the Sox’s No. 2 starter behind Carlos Rodon.
Lopez had some struggles in May (1-2, 5.61 ERA) and July (1-4, 7.39), but he kept battling and was 2-1 with a 1.09 ERA in September.
“I think what we have talked a lot about is when he comes out focused completely, and he attacks the strike zone, he ends up ultimately getting the outcome that he wants,” manager Rick Renteria said. “You’ll see a 96, 97 [mph fastball] immediately, and you can tell that he’s ready to work.
“I think for him, his success has more to do with just being focused and attacking the strike zone and following the plan and executing.”
In addition to the big fastball, Lopez has a secondary pitch that bodes well for the future.
“He’s got probably one of the best changeups I’ve seen,” Renteria said. “I think it’s a good pitch, especially off of 96, 97, 98 [mph fastball].
A confident young pitcher, Lopez’s goal last year was 200 innings pitched and 200 strikeouts. He fell a little bit short, particularly on the strikeout side, but the 5-foot-11, 220-pounder is setting his sights high again this season.
“Last year, my ERA was a 3-something,” Lopez said. “I would like to have an ERA below 3. If the team has that way of thinking when you’re on the mound, you are going to have a good outing and an opportunity to win the game. That encourages you to be better every day.”