It was, at the time, seemingly one of the bigger steals of the offseason. The Washington Nationals sent three of the best pitching prospects in baseball to the Chicago White Sox for Adam Eaton. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning switched uniforms, immediately becoming Top 10 prospects in the White Sox system.
Giolito's struggles the past few seasons have been well documented. His velocity seems to be steadily declining. Those 98 mile per hour fastballs that were on display at the 2015 Futures' Game seem to be a thing of yesteryear. According to Brooks Baseball his four-seamer and patented sinker are coming in at 93, right around where he threw in last year's troublesome MLB debut.
When Giolito made his long-awaited big league debut, he looked nothing like himself. He could hardly create any swing-and-miss, striking out just 4.64 per nine. His command -- something people have worried about for a few seasons now -- was dangerously erratic, walking 5.06 per nine. He was also victimized by the long ball (nearly three an outing), which seems curious for someone who supposedly has a ground ball repertoire (with that sinker, and a nasty 12-6 curve).
Six of the seven home runs he allowed came off the fastball. He also threw the pitch 110 times more than any other weapon in his arsenal. If Giolito plans on relying on his fastball behind numbers like that, he better be on.
Reports are that there is not only a loss of velocity on some of his pitches, but a lack of movement as well. Some consider Don Cooper amongst the best pitching coaches in baseball (I for one am not one of them) and felt he could help bring Giolito back.
Thus far, the results haven't shown that.
Right now, Giolito has not been good through his first four starts. The three most important stats in judging a pitcher (in my opinion of course) are FIP, WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio. None of those are promising right now. His FIP sits a 5.58, while his WHIP is 1.53. He does have his strikeouts back to Giolito-esque levels at 10.89, but it is still at the expense of a career worst 5.21 walks per nine.
New system, new season. I'm personally willing to allow for a few April jitters in an adjustment period, but I also started to change my opinion of him last season. I stopped seeing a future top-end ace and more of a middle-of-the-rotation arm, who would get by on that sick curve. This start hasn't done anything to change my mind.
Lopez also made his heralded big league debut last season. The 23-year old righty jumped all the way from his Double-A debut to the big leagues last season. The debate between whether he was a bullpen arm or starter is nothing new, but the White Sox, like our own John Sickels still see him in the rotation.
...fastball up there at 93-98 and has been known to hit 100; also has above-average breaking ball; change-up and command remain erratic; many observers project him in bullpen due to the inconsistent off-speed stuff and concerns about mechanics/durability; personally I'd use him as a starter as I think there's enough potential with his change-up but we'll see if the White Sox agree.
Lopez also had a rocky big league debut. His fastball averaged 96 miles per hour, but it didn't move and was hit pretty well (.294 BAA and all four of his home runs allowed). He also had a rough go with commanding it, striking out and walking 18 batters, while his curve seemed to be his best strikeout pitch (20-to-1).
Like Giolito, Lopez is off to a rough transition on the South Side. Despite his ERA coming in lower (4.87) than Giolito's through the same amount of starts, his other numbers are worse. He's posted a 6.35 FIP, and 1.62 WHIP and is striking out 9.74 per nine while walking a career-worst 5.75.
Lopez has the disadvantage of being both shorter than your typical ace (6-foot) and allows too many fly balls (20-to-19 ground out to fly out in 2017) but he has shown plenty to like. Right now, it seems like it's all about command for Lopez's next step.
I'm not including Dane Dunning. He's progressing as -- or maybe even better than -- expected. He proved the Sally too easy in his four-start debut and is already heading to the Carolina League.
There's obviously a lot more to the picture. Game film, live analysis, differing opinions. That's where you guys come in. Are Giolito and Lopez still amongst the elite pitching prospects? If so, who do you have more faith in for a more prosperous big league career?