No. 2 Starter: Michael Kopech
CURRENT LEVEL: AAA
2017 SEASON: 9-8, 2.88 ERA, 134.1 IP, 171 SO
MLB ETA: 2018
From video of him throwing 110 MPH on a crowhop, to dating a reality television star, Kopech is already a star in baseball. All of that being accomplished without throwing a single pitch in the majors. That surely will change with how Kopech progressed in the minors this past season. Already a top prospect before his 2017 season began, Kopech was the second biggest piece apart of the Sale trade.
His stock soared tremendously since being drafted 33rd overall in the 2014 draft by the Boston Red Sox. As a fire-balling, 18-year-old kid out of Mount Prospect, Tx., Kopech became an instant top prospect in the Red Sox system. After going 8-7 with a combined ERA under 3.00 through three years in the Red Sox system, Kopech turned into a strikeout machine. His 13.7 K/9 in 2016 was the highest throughout any minor league system that year (minimum of 100 innings pitched). His biggest accomplishment of that 2016 season might have come on one pitch. Kopech through a 105 MPH fastball against the Wilmington Blue Rocks; making it one of the fastest recorded pitches in professional baseball history.
Kopech managed to impress even more people around baseball this past season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. In just over 119 innings at Birmingham, Kopech posted a ridiculous 11.7 K/9 rate, 1.14 WHIP, and earned himself an All-Star selection. He received a call-up to Charlotte at the beginning of August and pitched well there over 15 innings of work. Kopech was awarded for his accomplishments at the end of his 2017 season. He was named minor league pitcher of the year in the White Sox system; adding yet another impressive accomplishment on to his list.
Kopech’s fast rise to the big leagues is almost inevitable at this point. He will start his 2018 campaign at Triple-A Charlotte and get called up at some point during next season as another piece to the rebuilding puzzle will be set in place. As electric as Kopech is on and off the field, he will have two foes to face. Off the field, Kopech has dealt with his fair share of revelry. Dealing with that will be one stumbling block separating him from good and greatness.
His on field issue is his command. Over his 2017 season, Kopech’s overall 4.4 BB/9 rate almost cancels out his strikeout dominance. The more men Kopech puts on base the higher the likelihood he will be unable to pitch over his free passes on the mound. If he can calm that demon, there will be nothing getting in his way of being one of the most dominating pitchers of his generation.