The White Sox announced today that touted pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez will make his 2017 debut on Friday. The 23-year-old right-hander will step into the rotation spot of veteran righty Mike Pelfrey, who is being moved to the bullpen.
[Related: Updated Chicago White Sox depth chart]
Chicago acquired Lopez alongside right-handers Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning in the offseason trade that sent center fielder Adam Eaton and his highly favorable contract to the Nationals. Of the three righties acquired in that swap, Lopez has separated himself from the pack as the most impressive of the bunch thus far.
In 121 innings with Triple-A Charlotte this season, he’s averaged 9.7 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 with a 36.3 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 3.79 ERA. However, Lopez has been utterly dominant as of late, working to a collective 2.70 ERA with a 63-to-15 K/BB ratio in his past 46 2/3 innings (12.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9). Both Baseball America and MLB.com listed Lopez as the game’s No. 59 overall prospect on their midseason rankings of baseball’s top 100 prospects.
Friday won’t mark the MLB debut for Lopez, as he first surfaced in the Majors as a 22-year-old with the Nats last season. However, in six starts, he struggled to a 4.91 ERA, issuing 22 walks and reeling off five wild pitches in his 44 innings of work. Lopez picked up 44 days of service time last year, and he’ll have the opportunity to accrue another 52 days of service in 2017 if he sticks on Chicago’s roster. That best-case scenario of 96 days of MLB service will leave him shy of Super Two projection, so Lopez presently would not be eligible for arbitration until after the 2020 season. As it stands now, the earliest he could become a free agent would be upon completion of the 2023 season.