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Tigers vs. White Sox Preview: Better days are ahead for the Tigers

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The White Sox are entering the exciting part of their rebuild right now.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

This season has not been fun for the Detroit Tigers or their fans. The team has struggled on the field, falling well below .500 even before they started selling off their top talent for prospects. Things have gotten worse since their last two deals; the Tigers are just 3-12 in September with more than twice as many runs allowed (105) as runs scored (50).

Things may look bleak now, but the team across the diamond is living proof that better days are ahead. The White Sox have fared even worse than the Tigers on the field this year, but they have started to promote some of their top prospects over the last couple months. Fans have gotten a taste of the future, and the team has responded by playing more competitive baseball of late.

We saw part of that future on Friday when Carson Fulmer tossed six strong innings at Comerica Park. Hard-throwing righthander Lucas Giolito has a 2.56 ERA in five starts. All-world prospect Yoan Moncada has an .865 OPS since the start of August. Starter Reynaldo Lopez has a high ERA, but that’s mostly thanks to one rough outing against Texas.

The Tigers will get their first look at Lopez on Saturday. White Sox fans are understandably excited when he, Fulmer, and Giolito take the mound. The Tigers aren’t there yet — they are still largely running out a skeleton crew pitching staff this September — but they will be soon.

Chicago White Sox (59-88) at Detroit Tigers (61-86)

Time/Place: 6:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation site: South Side Sox
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (1-3, 4.76 ERA) vs. RHP Myles Jaye (1-1, 6.75 ERA)

Game 148 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Lopez 28.1 17.9 8.1 4.96 0.2
Jaye 9.1 4.3 8.5 6.37 -0.1

When the White Sox acquired Lopez and Giolito from the Nationals in last December’s Adam Eaton trade, many wondered just how close Lopez could come to matching Giolito’s lofty ceiling. No one was bold enough to say Lopez was the better prospect, but there were some questions about whether Giolito was truly as good as everyone was saying.

Lopez, on the other hand, has only seen his stock rise over the last few years. He started out as a raw, undersized righthander with a big fastball and iffy command. Most of those things are still true, but Lopez has refined his secondary pitches and command to the point that he looks more like a starter at the MLB level. His size may still get in the way — he runs a slight 6’0, 185 pounds — but there are plenty of “undersized” pitchers with live arms in the majors today.

And Lopez’s fastball is as “live” as it gets. He has averaged 96 miles per hour with the heater in his MLB career, and hit triple digits on the radar gun last year. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen graded it as a true double-plus offering thanks to Lopez’s “elite arm acceleration.” His curveball is also a potential plus pitch, with the changeup lagging behind. He has thrown the changeup more often in his five big league starts, though; lefthanders have seen it nearly one-third of the time.

Key matchup: Myles Jaye vs. missing bats

Jaye looked like he belonged in the big leagues in his first two appearances, tossing 5 23 scoreless innings in relief against the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals. He only gave up three hits and two walks in those two appearances, and did not get into many jams along the way. The problem? Jaye didn’t strike out a single batter in those two outings. He finally racked up a punchout in his next appearance, a start against the Indians on Monday. Unfortunately, he also coughed up seven runs on seven hits in 3 23 innings.

This seems to be a new problem, though. Jaye posted reasonable strikeout numbers in the minor leagues, even striking out over a batter per inning in 14 starts at Double-A Erie this year. That strikeout percentage dipped when he moved up the ladder, but he still has 73 strikeouts in 99 13 frames at Triple-A across the last two seasons. While Jay’s stuff won’t result in a boatload of strikeouts anytime soon, he should start to regress positively to the mean over his last few starts.

Prediction

Lopez struggles early and the Tigers make it two in a row.