Michael Kopech was taken by the Boston Red Sox with the 33rd pick of the 2014 MLB draft from Mount Pleasant High School, in Mount Pleasant, Texas. Kopech was a compensation pick for the Red Sox losing Jacoby Ellsbury to free agency. Considering this was Kopech’s first season in professional baseball, he has a limited sample size of performance (15.1 innings, 5.87 ERA over nine starts) so let’s start with his scouting report.
Kopech is a six foot three, 195 pound right hander. In scouting parlance, his frame is called “projectable”, long limbs on an athletic frame. One report compares him to Jered Weaver in his delivery. His fastball sits in the low 90s with the ability to occasionally hit 98 on the radar gun. The concerns with Kopech revolve around the repeatability of his motion which has a twist to it that might affect his balance. Here is a scouting video which shows you what his motion looks like.
There was a definite philosophy of limiting Kopech’s innings last season. Before the draft, he had already pitched 64 innings in his senior season in high school. In 2014, the Red Sox gave him nine starts for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, but none lasted more than three innings. Each of the four times, Kopech allowed runs it was more than one, speaking to a pitcher who has yet to develop the ability to get out of innings without surrendering a crooked number. While the 15.1 innings, Kopech twirled last season aren’t enough to make much of a prediction, encouraging signs are that he gave up only 15 hits and he struck out 17 (at least one in all but one appearance). On the bad side, you see the walking of 11 batters, also at least one in all but one appearance. So many walks and strikeouts also says Kopech might working on pitching to weak contact to limit his pitch counts.
Remember that Kopech is just 18 years old. He is part of a Red Sox new philosophy of drafting pitchers out of high school in the first round. In three of the last four years, the Red Sox have taken this course. Perhaps it is the rapid development of Henry Owens, the 36th pick of the first round in 2011, that opened up new possibilities for developing young pitching from high school to the majors. With the seventh pick of the 2013 draft, the Red Sox snapped up high schooler Trey Ball who came into his own in the second half of 2014.
Next season will be an important one to see how Kopech evolves. If he cannot develop a consistent change up or more effective breaking pitches, he could be ticketed for the bullpen, where his ability to work off his fastball will be crucial against batters he will only see one time a game. The Red Sox might take him the route of Tommy Hunter, a starter with average velocity who has developed a blazing 97 to 98 mph fastball in short stints out of the bullpen. As a first rounder, he will see multiple opportunities to succeed, while Sox fans hope it is with the Red Sox, it could be elsewhere instead.
Stay tuned to BoSoxInjection for more profiles of the top prospects in the Red Sox minor league system.