Yoan Moncada gave White Sox fans a flash of the future on Thursday by hitting the game-tying homer in the ninth, followed by a walk-off single in the 11th.
Now Reynaldo Lopez, a big name from Rick Hahn’s other big trade during the winter meetings, will get his chance to make everybody see what the front office has in mind. He’ll face a Kansas City Royals team that has crashed back down to .500 after a 3-8 start to August.
Lopez earned the promotion by rattling off 11 acceptable-or-better starts out of his last 12, and he made strides across all three of the true outcomes over that stretch. The most important one was his walk rate — he started the year with 19 walks over his first 32 innings, but issued just 23 of them over his last 68 innings. Combined with a 25-percent strikeout rate, Lopez showed a lot to like with the Knights.
He’ll come to Chicago with the same pitch mix he had with the Nationals last year, according to Don Cooper:
"He's got good stuff and I would expect him to do well," Cooper said. "When you can throw the ball 95 to 99 mph with a good curveball and a good changeup, you should do (well).
"He can get the curveball to do a couple different things, break a couple different ways," Cooper added. "We're going to let him go out there and pitch. He's one of our top guys and ... the process of him being a starter full-time in the major leagues is about to begin."
James Fegan talked to Charlotte pitching coach Steve McCatty about what changed:
“He’s thrown the ball really well the last month or so, or month and a half,” said Triple-A Charlotte pitching coach Steve McCatty, whose work with Lopez has drawn praise from Hahn. “He’s been a lot better at locating his pitches, side-to-side of the plate. His misses have been in better spots. We try to get everybody to learn if you’re going to miss, miss in spots where it doesn’t get hit hard and he’s done a much better job of that.”
Lopez won’t be making his MLB debut. He made 11 appearances with the Nationals, including six starts, stretched out over three different promotions. He’s already earned his first five wins and three losses. He’s already struck out his first 42 batters, issued his first 22 walks, allowed his first four homers. I imagine there’ll be some new team jitters, but the rookie stuff should be almost out of the way, especially since his starts last season were for a team with postseason designs. In fact, he’ll lose his prospect eligibility if he throws six innings tonight.
The new thing for Lopez will be stability. He’s never had more than three consecutive starts in a regular rotation at the MLB level. Here with the White Sox, he’ll be able to pitch every five days for the rest of the season, barring a capital-D disaster. Like Moncada, Adam Engel, Tim Anderson and all the other young guys getting extended run this season, surviving and learning from minor disasters will be part of the program.