Blue Jays: Previewing the White Sox starters for weekday series

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 1: Justin Smoak
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 1: Justin Smoak /

The Toronto Blue Jays just battled their way to a tough series split with the New York Yankees. On paper, the Chicago White Sox should be a break from the tough lineup and pitching staff of the Bronx Bombers.

Reynaldo Lopez:

In the opening game of the series on Monday night, the Blue Jays will face a young right-hander in Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez has some experience, with eight starts last year and six starts in 2016, but at 24 years old he is far from a grizzled veteran.

In 2017, Lopez pitched to a 3-3 record in 47.2 IP with a 4.72 ERA and 1.322 WHIP with the White Sox. Lopez features four pitches, a four-seam fastball, change-up, curveball, and cutter. However, the cutter is rarely used.

The four-seam fastball averages 94.68 Mph and is used 60.35% of the time. Lopez does a good job taking the sting out of the bat with the four-seamer, as batters managed just a .126 ISO against the heater last year.

Lopez uses the change-up 23.48% of the time but it is significantly less effective than the fastball. While the pitch did produce 31.11 whiff/swing percentage last year, batters often make hard contact when they connect on the change. Last year, batters hit a huge .314 ISO on the pitch.

The curve-ball is used much more sparingly at 13.73%. Like the fastball, Lopez holds power below average against his curve to the tune of a .120 ISO. Lopez almost never uses his cutter, depending on it just 2.44% of the time.

Facing a primarily fastball, change-up pitcher, look for Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak to have big days. The bringer of rain hit a monstrous .687 SLG against fastballs and an impressive .543 SLG off change-ups. Smoak held a similarly impressive .570 and .554 SLG on fastballs and change-ups, respectively.

As far as previous experience, only the left field platoon has faced Lopez. Curtis Granderson is one for two against the young right-hander with a home run and three RBIs. Pearce is hitless in one opportunity.

Miguel Gonzalez: 

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Miguel Gonzalez will open his 2018 campaign against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday. Splitting time between the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox last year, Gonzalez pitched to a losing 8-13 record in 156.0 IP with 100 strikeouts and 55 walks. Despite the poor record, Gonzalez was just a little below league average last year with a 95 ERA+.

Gonzalez features five pitches and splits time between them fairly evenly. Gonzalez uses a four-seam fastball, sinker, and slider the most, while also mixing in a curve and splitter.

The heater averages 91.30 Mph and was used 26.48% of the time last year. Despite being used the most, it was not effective last year for Gonzalez. The pitch was responsible for just 23 strikeouts to 25 walks. As well, hitters demolished the pitch, as shown by the .242 ISO it allowed.

The sinker is the clear secondary pitch and it is more effective than the straight fastball. Interestingly, the sinker averages a faster 91.50 Mph but was used a little less at 22.88% of the time. The sinker produced ground-balls last year 41.67% of the time.

Despite featuring a low-velocity fastball and sinker, Gonzalez mixes in a hard slider 21.22% of the time. The slider is just behind the sinker in terms of producing ground balls, creating ground-balls at a rate of 43.68 GB/BIP.

The pitching repertoire is rounded out with a curve which is used 16.96% of the time and a splitter that is used the least at 12.45% of the time. The splitter produces both the most whiffs and the most ground balls. The splitter, producing a 33.09 whiff/swing and 57.40 GB/BIP, should be something to look out for.

Randal Grichuk has been relatively quiet with the Blue Jays, so far. With just two hits in ten at bats with his new team, Grichuk could break out against Gonzalez. Devon Travis has also struggled out of the gate, hitless in eight at-bats. However, with past success against Gonzalez, he could break out of the slump Tuesday.

With Gonzalez featuring a fastball, sinker, and slider, primarily, Grichuk should come into this game ready to hit. Last year, Grichuk hit for a .275 ISO with a .492 SLG and nine home runs against four-seam fastballs.  As well, he hit for an even more impressive .316 ISO and .711 SLG against sinkers. While he struggled against sliders, he hit for a great .379 ISO and .622 SLG with 4 home runs against curveballs.

Travis has been historically successful against Gonzalez. With three hits in seven at-bats including a home run, a familiar face could be the perfect thing to break Travis out. However, this is a scheduled rest day for Travis so there is no guarantee he is in the line-up.

Carson Fulmer:

Carson Fulmer will finish off the series against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night. Fulmer is a young righty who split time last year between the bullpen and starting rotation. In seven games and five starts, Fulmer pitched to a 3-1 record over 23.1 IP with an above average 113 ERA+. However, he was susceptible to the home runs ball, pitching to a below average 1.5 HR9–welcome news for the power-heavy Blue Jays.

Fulmer mostly uses a fastball and a cutter while also mixing in a change-up, curve, and sinker.

The right-handed hurler uses his fastball 45.20% of the time and it averages 93.64 Mph. Interestingly, Fulmer struggles to hit the zone with his fastball. In 193 pitches last year, the fastball was registered as a ball 37.31% of the time.

The cutter was used by Fulmer 25.29% of the time last year. It averaged a velocity of 89.08 Mph and was a tough pitch to solve for opposing batters. Through 108 pitches, batters hit for a .105 BA against the cutter with five strikeouts.

The change-up is pretty hard at 87.14 Mph and is used 10.54% of the time. The high velocity is made even more curious when compared to the 93.64 Mph fastball. In fact, the fastball generates 19.78 whiffs/swing while the change-up creates just 16.00 whiffs/swing.

Rounding out the selection of pitches is a curve and sinker. The curve was used the third most at 12.41% and the sinker was used the least at 6.56%. The curve produced the most missed bats out of all of the pitches at 23.81 whiffs/swing but also produced the most line drives at 40.00 LD/BIP.

No Blue Jays batters have ever faced Fulmer; usually, this signals an advantage to the pitcher. However, with little experience in the big leagues, and this being just his sixth major league start, the Blue Jays should be able to make some noise.

Aledmys Diaz may welcome a start from Fulmer. Although Diaz struggled against four-seam fastballs last year, Fulmer’s shouldn’t be too much to handle. As well, Diaz has had success against curves, cutters, and change-ups in the past.

Against curves in 2017, Diaz managed a .250 ISO with a .500 SLG and two home runs. Against cutters, Diaz hit for a .333 AVG with two extra-base hits. Finally, against change-ups, the infielder managed an above average .471 SLG as well as adding a home run.

Next: Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar steals his way to franchise record

The Blue Jays will begin the series against the White Sox at 7:07 PM at the Rogers Centre Monday night with Jaime Garcia getting his first start for the Toronto Blue Jays.