White Sox

Cool as a cucumber, Reynaldo Lopez stayed calm to pick up his first White Sox win

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USA TODAY

Cool as a cucumber, Reynaldo Lopez stayed calm to pick up his first White Sox win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kauffman Stadium crowd was fired up in the fifth inning Monday night, the enthusiasm of Royals fans growing with each hit.

The momentum built every time Kansas City scored as the Royals quickly closed the gap from five runs to two. But even as the chaos continued around him, White Sox rookie Reynaldo Lopez was the picture of calm on the mound.

Since he arrived in the big leagues last month, the White Sox have noticed their prized pitching prospect is unflappable when it comes to big moments. When everyone else’s pulse is increasing, Lopez is cool as a cucumber, trying to figure out how to escape the jam he’s in. The belief is that this poise displayed by Lopez — who earned his first White Sox victory with six-plus strong innings on Monday — will pay great dividends as he makes his way through the American League for the first time.

“He’s truly very focused on what his game plan is and how he’s going to attack hitters,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think he does trust his stuff. I think he’s very self-critical, you can see it after a walk when he comes into the dugout. He’s upset with himself for not having executed certain things. But he keeps it under control understanding in his head what he’s going to do next time in that particular situation. The demeanor is very poised for a person of his age.”

While it doesn’t have the same rock concert-type atmosphere as Dodger Stadium, Kauffman is no joke when the crowd gets going. The White Sox have seen the park’s effect many times in recent years, notably in last season’s Memorial Day Weekend meltdown. One hit gets the boisterous crowd going, and before you know it an avalanche of noise is headed your way.

Lopez got his first taste in the fifth as his five-run lead nearly evaporated.

Brandon Moss blasted a solo homer to make it a 5-1 game. Kauffman then started to buzz when Alex Gordon singled with one out and the volume increased substantially when Whit Merrifield hit a run-scoring triple. Merrifield’s hit brought Don Cooper to the mound for a visit and yet even that didn’t stop the bleeding as Lorenzo Cain followed with a run-scoring single.

As much as the situation seemed to be getting out of hand, Lopez didn’t rattle. He instead made a quick adjustment and retired Melky Cabrera and Eric Hosmer to escape with the two-run lead.

“It gets pretty loud,” catcher Omar Narvaez said. “But he’s the same guy. The only thing I saw was he was leaving the arm behind, which left the ball up. But he made the adjustment to come back and get everybody else.

“He’s just been the same guy, trying to attack the zone and make them swing. That’s why he’s effective because first of all he throws strikes and second he makes everybody swing. That’s the most important for a pitcher.”

Lopez followed with a six-run White Sox rally in the sixth with another important aspect of pitching — a quick inning. The right-hander bounced back from a lengthy fifth with a seven-pitch sixth inning. The quick frame kept Lopez’s pitch count down enough where the White Sox brought him back for the seventh inning on a hitter-by-hitter basis. Lopez allowed a leadoff single in the seventh and was pulled immediately, but would have continued on had he recorded an out.

“I just tried harder to keep my focus, to not lose my focus on the game in (the fifth inning),” Lopez said through an interpreter. “And I was able to do that, and that’s why I was able to get out of that situation.”

Renteria thinks it’s partly because of who Lopez is and in part because of his previous major league experience. The way Lopez has operated so far has impressed the White Sox manager.

“I do think one of things he does have is a tremendous confidence about him,” Renteria said. “He’s not an arrogant person. He’s a person that keeps it within and knows how to go out there and kind of control his emotions a little bit. He’s very good at doing it right now.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Class A manager Justin Jirschele, youngest manager in professional baseball

27-year-old Justin Jirschele made quite an impression in his first season as manager of the White Sox Class-A affiliate in Kannapolis. He helped lead the Intimidators to the South Atlantic League championship, and was named White Sox Minor League Coach of the Year. Jirschele came on the podcast to speak with Chuck Garfien about how he went from playing minor league baseball with the White Sox to coaching in their system. He talks about how growing up with a dad who was coaching minor league baseball helped mold him as a manager who is wise beyond his years. Jirschele also gives a report on some of the top White Sox prospects he managed last season such as Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Miker Adolfo.

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

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USA TODAY

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.

In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.

Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.

Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.

But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.

While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:

4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen