As it stands right now, the Chicago White Sox are one of the best teams in baseball. Despite injuries and adversity, they've dominated their competition with strong pitching performances. Most importantly, they've found these performances from unlikely contributors. One of the most recent examples is right-handed fireballer Reynaldo Lopez.
With injuries to starter Carlos Rodon and bullpen arm Evan Marshall, Lopez has been a jack of all trades. Most importantly, it's allowed top pitching prospect Michael Kopech to stay in his current bullpen role. In 12 appearances, including four starts, Lopez has looked as confident as ever and his numbers have backed it up.
Simply put, Lopez has been a pleasant surprise. While he has been a constant in the organization with the potential to be a Major League contributor, this is really the first time we've seen it on a consistent basis. His ability to start when needed has been an incredible weapon for manager Tony La Russa in the second half of the season.
However, his long-term place on the roster may not be in the rotation.
Addition By Subtraction
Regardless of the final result for the White Sox this season, tough decisions will inevitably be made. With Carlos Rodon expected to test the open market and Dallas Keuchel potentially being shopped in a money-saving move following the 2021 campaign, future spots in the rotation are expected to be open. While Lopez has been impressive in his spot starts this season, there's a very good chance that Michael Kopech will make the full-time move to the rotation in 2022.
While some may see this as a demotion for the man affectionately known as 'ReyLo', this could be the best chance for him to be a long-term member of the team. If Kopech has proven anything this season, it's that effective middle relief pitching is an important component to a winning team. With both Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks expected to lock down late-inning work for the foreseeable future, Lopez could fit like a glove in the middle of the pen. His stuff absolutely plays and he benefits from facing opposing hitters once per appearance. It's also very possible that pitching coach Ethan Katz can unlock some more velocity on an already overpowering fastball.
While it's merely speculation at this point, giving a guy who has hovered around 99 MPH in the past a chance to lock down an inning can be one lethal weapon.