Can Reynaldo López replicate his 2022 breakthrough season?
Can Reynaldo López replicate his 2022 breakthrough season? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Editor's Note: "Can Reynaldo López replicate his 2022 breakthrough season?" originally appeared on Sox on 35th. Brian Barry of Sox On 35th will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports Chicago's White Sox coverage for the 2022 season. You can read more of their coverage at SoxOn35th.com, and follow them on Twitter at @SoxOn35th.
After the 2022 season, it's safe to say that Reynaldo López has found his role with the Chicago White Sox.
A former top starting pitching prospect in the Washington Nationals organization and a piece of the infamous Adam Eaton trade, López has discovered a home in the South Side bullpen. He originally turned in tumultuous results as a starter since his debut with the Sox in 2017. While always displaying a plus fastball and sharp breaking pitches, he struggled with command and pitch mix.
Though his time as a starter revealed a rollercoaster of highs (including a dominating 14-strikeout performance against Detroit) and lows (including a 5.38 ERA across 33 starts in 2019), he posted a strong 2.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 1.93 FIP, 8.7 K/9 across 65.1 IP as a reliever in 2022. The question now is simple - can he keep this form in 2023 and beyond?
First, let's take a look at his 2022 MLB Percentile Rankings, via Baseball Savant:
MLB Percentile Rankings 2022
A quick glance and Lopez's metrics are pretty impressive across the board. While he began the transition to becoming a reliever in 2021, he still started nine games that year and posted an average fastball velocity of 95.8 mph with a FIP of 4.19. It was evident coming into 2022 that the plan was for him to be a full-time bullpen arm. Though he notched a solid 3.43 ERA as a part-time reliever in 2021, he jumped off the page in 2022 with a 2.76 ERA, 1.93 FIP, and 97.1 mph average fastball velocity, all career bests.
Now, a few things of note here:
While the jump in average fastball velocity isn't earth-shattering, it's a significant improvement. "ReyLo" consistently throws harder in a one-inning reliever role, which is to be expected from most pitchers.
Furthermore, his four-seam fastball's spin rate has also jumped since he transitioned to the bullpen. Between 2017-20 as a starter, Reynaldo's average spin rate on this pitch ranged from 2,102 to 2,137 RPMs (revolutions per minute). In 2021-22 as either a part-time or full-time reliever, these metrics were 2,225 RPMs and 2,249 RPMs, respectively. This is yet another significant improvement we see with his heater.
Lastly, he's essentially a two-pitch pitcher, as he threw four-seamers and sliders a combined 87.3% of the time in 2022. Not only did he have career bests with the fastball in 2022, but he also had a career-high 37.4 whiff percentage and 2,264 (RPMs) average spin rate with his slider.
Read more about Reynaldo Lopez’s impressive 2022 season and whether or not he can repeat in 2023 by finishing this article at soxon35th.com.
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