Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, White Sox
The White Sox are basically in open tryouts at this point. And yet there are a couple of highly touted pitching prospects who are still toiling in the minors. You may have heard of them, Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech. The White Sox have another prospect that should be arriving in the majors soon as well in right-hander Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez came over from the Nationals in December's Adam Eaton trade.
I wrote about him just about a year ago when he made his MLB debut:
"This year has been the year that Lopez has finally started to cash in on the promise that caught our eye as long ago as 2013 after he signed out of the Dominican the year before. The 6-0/185 right-hander is a hard thrower who cruises the mid-90s frequently and he posts triple digits on occasion. His velo is generated without max effort. He's extremely quick once he engages his arm and his arm slot on the fastball is a little low. That adds some dive to his fastball which generally gives him more favorable GB rates than you expect from a power pitcher.
He's just 22 (and a half) so you know the drill by now I imagine. He throws a curve that can be deep and good, but it's a box of chocolates, and he's bringing a change along. That change looks good right now because his high-end velo gives you a lot of delta, but if I can pick up his arm deceleration, more sophisticated hitters are going to see it as well. This is all just mechanical tinkering, though. I'm not concerned. To me, it just means he needs more seasoning. Not to get back into picking apart his first start, but his deployment was 57%/31%/11% FB/CU/C and that bodes well in terms of his willingness to throw his offspeed stuff and the confidence he has in it.
Lopez really does have a closer's skill set, especially if (more so when, I think) the Nats start tightening that curve and turning it into a slider. I don't know whether that will be an exchange of pitches, curve for slider, or an addition of a slider, but still, I like the idea of that kind of velocity backed by two or three additional pitches. Right now I think he'll be developed as a starter. I'm not sure he even projects as an NL #2 starter but I think he can be a very good starter. I want to see a few more starts at AAA to watch his BB and K rates and see where they go. I think he needs more time to bring along his mechanics and secondary stuff. Executive summary? Nice young pitching prospect who I think stays on a starter's development path. Good ceiling but not a #1 starter ceiling and probably not a #2, so don't pay for either."
So what happened with those AAA starts? We saw improvement in his K rate this year to 25.4% but we've seen a slip in his walk rate. His SwStr% is good at 11.9% but not overwhelming. The thing I see that I don't like in his stat line from this year is the drop in his GB rate to 36.3% in AAA, down from his AA rate of 40%. That AA rate shows a lot less GBs than he threw in the low-minors when he was producing 45% in high-A and 60% in short stints in the early levels. This brings us back to the lingering knock on Reynaldo as a prospect. He's a night-hander who is optimistically 6-0. What that leads to, especially with his arm slot, is lack of downward plane and sink, so the ball gets in the air. Not what you want to see in baseball circa 2017.
Don't get too hung up in that, though. Lopez brings a lot of velo, with average velos in the mid-to-high 90s and he's capable of posting triple digits. He has a curve that sometimes is very good with a 15+ mph delta off his fastball and he's bringing along a change. I still can't call him a three-pitch pitcher, though. That change just isn't ready.
Here's the thing that bothers me. Reynaldo looks for all the world like a high-leverage-inning reliever to me, and I might have started him on that path last year. That's especially true if I am the Nationals because well, we've seen the Nationals' bullpen this year. Not only did they choose not to develop a much-needed bullpen arm in Lopez, they traded him away. One of us, either the Nationals or me, is missing something here. They saw Lopez every day and so I have to believe that it's me.
A change in organization is often a positive catalyst for young pitchers. Fresh eyes are usually good, and Lopez has pitched well in the White Sox organization so far. The reviews on his consistency and his change up have been mixed. There's still time. He's just 23, but he now has thrown 121 IP for this development team and it would be nice to see how his stuff plays in the majors. I think we are going to see that soon and I think he will be serviceable as a starter with some K upside (and some learning curve volatility). I think he can be useful if he's promoted and you are cautious picking his starts. In the long term, Reynaldo could be a low-end #3 or a #4 with a K ceiling.
Or he could end in the bullpen...
Long-Term Fantasy Grade - B-
Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays
I'm going to caution you a bit, as you search for impact prospects for the remainder of 2017 to be a little bit cautious about a young right-hander who is wrecking AAA. In his last 10 starts, Brent Honeywell gave up 6 runs in 2.2 IP against Norwich on June 19th. Otherwise, he allowed 1 run or less in 6 of the remaining 9 starts, and 4 of his last 5 starts. He gave up 2 runs on July 23rd and 3 runs in each of back to back starts on June 24th and 29th ... Let me recap that ... In his last 10 starts he's held opponents scoreless in 3 of those starts and allowed just 1 run in three others. He's also allowed 4 runs in his last 5 starts. So that ERA you are looking at below is more impressive than it looks.
Brent is at 113 IP this year. He threw 115.1 last year, and 130.1 in 2015. He's 22 years old and if Brent stays on schedule he has 5 more starts before callups in which he'll pile up close to 30 IP, which will get him to 143 IP which really should be about it for the year. If the Rays weren't contending I'd say they could give him 5 innings in a September starts, but they may not be able to afford that.
The bottom line is that I am sticking with my earlier evaluation this year and telling you that if you are looking for a 2017 contribution, I'd bid very cautiously. Long term though, I love the kid:
"Brent Honeywell is one of my favorite pitching prospects. Not that he's the best pitching prospect in the game, but the kid throws a screwball for God's sake. He's also the pitching equivalent of a power/speed combo hitter. A lot of pitching prospects work from velo with a varying degree of support from their secondary offering(s). Or they work speed and location with varying degrees of velo support. Brent has the goods both ways.
He can go fastball quite a bit with his smooth mid-90s velocity. But he backs that with an array of quality offerings. That array is led by what is a surprisingly good screwball. Behind that is a quality change that should mature nicely and the beginnings of a good curve.
Brent ties all of this together with good mechanics, advanced command and control and Brent also has a real passion for sequencing and approach. He likes the craft. Look at what that package has produced in AAA this year, from a kid who just turned 22 and has just crossed off the 100th IP of his high minors career, a 28% K rate, a 4.3% BB rate ...
If I had to pick on a flaw here, and at this point, I really have to search for one, I'd like to see him throw more ground balls. And despite the quality and variety of his offerings, I have yet to see a true, reliable out pitch emerge. Again. He just turned 22. There's time.
I love the floor on Brent's projection. I think it would be an upset (injury notwithstanding) if Brent doesn't rise to the level of a #2. Until a dominant out pitch shows itself, I am not sure he has the ceiling of a #1, but I think that's going to happen. I am just not sure when.
Things move faster in player development these days, but the Rays don't play those reindeer games like the other reindeer do, either in a developmental sense or a financial sense. I would not bet anything on a 2017 contribution from Brent and I'd also be a little surprised if he started 2018 with the big club. Whenever it happens, however, I am looking forward to seeing this."
Long-Term Fantasy Grade - A
Registered members can click on the following link to see the complete Prospect Central article for this week, which includes other prospects: http://www.fantistics.com/