When the Chicago White Sox made those blockbuster deals at the 2016 Winter Meetings, two of the pitchers they received from the Washington Nationals were Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. With the latest injury to Joe Ross, the Nats sure could use Giolito and Lopez as depth right now in their rotation.
After making their major league debuts last year, both Giolito and Lopez have been in the rotation for Triple-A Charlotte all season. Neither pitcher made the International League All-Star team, but both have had their fair share of good moments this year.
Giolito has eight or more strikeouts in four of his 17 starts and he threw a no-hitter against his former club, the Syracuse Chiefs. As for Lopez, he has two double-digit strikeout performances and has given up two runs or fewer in eight of his 16 starts.
If there’s one problem that has hurt the two of them this season and part of last season, it’s the walks. Both Giolito and Lopez are ranked in the top ten in the International League in walks (Giolito third, Lopez tied for tenth). They have strikeout stuff, but it’s the command that has to be worked on.
Before the season began, the two pitchers were ranked in the top five on John’s preseason rankings of the White Sox system. Both Giolito and Lopez might get overlooked when you consider Michael Kopech (acquired in the Chris Sale) was throwing 101 miles per hour to Yoan Moncada in Sunday’s Futures Game.
Here is what John wrote about both Giolito and Lopez and their command:
Giolito: “continued to dominate minors but struggled in majors, with disturbingly low strikeout rate; velocity was lower than expected at 92-95 instead of 93-98 and fastball can be straight; still shows excellent curveball and solid-average changeup; even with the loss of fastball velocity he still projects as an above-average to excellent starter if his command gets more consistent.”
Lopez: “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”
When you look at both of these pitchers, they appear to be in perfect situations. With the White Sox not being contenders this season, the organization can focus on developing them slowly and only call them up when they are ready. Last year, both of them went back-and-forth with the Nats on a contender, which can hurt a pitcher’s development.
First, let’s look at Giolito. As John pointed out, the velocity wasn’t what people expected last year and his command wasn’t sharp, but he still had a great breaking ball. As he heads into the break, he’s given up three runs or fewer in nine of his last ten starts.
In his last start of the first half, he gave up two hits, struck out ten, and walked two batters over seven innings. Here is what he told Michael Avallone of MILB.com after the win against Louisville about his development this season:
"I've done a much better job with my mechanics and keeping the ball down in the zone while throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes. Today was one of those where it all came together.”
Last year, Lopez was being used as a reliever for the Washington Nationals during September and had a 3.68 ERA in five outings. While he was with the Nats, he showed more consistency as a reliever than as a starter, but it was a relatively small sample size.
When you look at his numbers this season, Lopez’s strikeouts per nine are down from 10.4 in the minors last year to 8.6 and his walks per nine are up from 2.9 to 3.6.
A few weeks ago, Lopez went up against the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians), the right-hander struck out 11 batters over 6.2 innings in a win. If he can command his fastball, then he can use his off-speed pitches to pick up the strikeouts.
If the White Sox do trade Jose Quintana at the trade deadline, Giolito and Lopez will be under the microscope closely. While the hype might’ve worn off on both of these pitchers from a year or two, there is still a lot of talent in both of those arms.