With the MLB Draft on the horizon in just two days, Red Sox writers and fans alike have been looking back to recent drafts to gauge what Boston’s plans might be on Monday. Last season’s draft hasn’t produced any tangible results yet, with almost all of the draftees still very raw and playing in the low minors, but if there’s one player from the 2014 draft that has broken out this season, it’s Michael Kopech.
The Red Sox selected Kopech with the 33rd overall pick in the draft, a pick granted to them by virtue of Jacoby Ellsbury signing with the Yankees. At the time, Kopech appeared similar to Trey Ball, Boston’s first-rounder in 2013, in that both were raw high schoolers with lanky, projectable pitchers’ frames.
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But though Kopech is still raw and just 19 years old, he has excelled in his first taste of full-season baseball with Low-A Greenville. Kopech has been on a fairly strict innings limit, but through his first 9 starts of the season (34.1 innings), he owns a 2.62 ERA with an incredibly impressive 10.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 along with a .220 opponents’ batting average.
Kopech’s calling card when he was drafted was his fastball, which he throws in the mid 90’s with great sink and projects to be an elite pitch. That has held true in Greenville this season, as he is still able to dominate opponents with just a two-pitch mix for the most part, also mixing in his solid slider.
During last season’s draft, the two main knocks on Kopech were his delivery and his command, or lack thereof. With a high-effort, busy delivery, some doubt his ability to start in the long run. However, he has already toned down some of the excessive movement since joining the Red Sox organization and, at just 19 years old, he could have that totally sorted out before he reaches the majors.
The command is more of a concern from Kopech, but it hasn’t really shown through in 2015. Perhaps his control will become an issue when facing more advanced hitters, but his 3.1 BB/9 rate is completely acceptable this season.
At just 19 years old and with multiple issues to work on, Kopech is still a long way from Boston. It’s nice to see him succeeding in his first full season as a professional baseball player, but one can’t take anything definite away from his performance in Greenville. Nonetheless, Kopech might have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Red Sox organization and, if he refines his delivery and command, could develop into a top-of-rotation starter for the Red Sox. It won’t be for a while though.