Rookie of the Year for 2018: Boston Red Sox’ Michael Kopech

Nov 5, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; West pitcher Michael Kopech of the Boston Red Sox during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; West pitcher Michael Kopech of the Boston Red Sox during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox plan ahead and so do the fans. We enjoy the speculation on future talent and now a look at two who will succeed.

The early odds are out for one area in which the Boston Red Sox have two prime candidates – Rookie of the Year for 2017. The early favorites according to an article on the MLB website are Boston’s Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada, outfielder Aaron Judge of the Yankees, right-hand hurler Carson Fulmer of the White Sox and the Indians outfield prospect Bradley Zimmer.

A few months ago I wrote about Benintendi who I consider the favorite in this baseball show horse competition. Benintendi clearly demonstrated his potential in his injury impacted visit to Boston in 2016 – an injury that will allow him to be placed in rookie designation for 2017.

What I have to discount is Moncada for a legitimate shot at the award. Moncada – like the Yankees Judge – showed more holes in his swing than Pedro Cerrano did in Major League. I believe the tally was eleven straight whiffs on a variety of offerings as Moncada never saw a pitch that he didn’t disapprove of.

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Moncada will go to spring training and is certainly in the mix for third base. Pablo Sandoval may or may not look like a sumo wrestler, so he could have the inside track if his body mass is not that of a small Saturnian moon. Others are in the competition and the baseball brass certainly hopes that Moncada rises to the challenge – $62 Million is on the line.

Moncada will not be ROY and may not even make it to Boston. My assumption is further honing of his immense skills is needed and Pawtucket may be his destination for most of 2017. My money – what little I have remaining – will be on Benintendi to win the sweepstakes, but 2018 awaits – just not for Moncada.

I will go out on the prediction limb and say that the Red Sox will have a back-to-back on ROY. Just who will gather in the award in 2018? That is going to the power arm of Michael Kopech. Kopech ability to throw hard – very, very hard – has been well documented, as has some of his difficulties such as a drug suspension and an incident with a teammate resulting in a broken hand.

"Kopech was “only” 96-99 mph in his outing at Surprise, where he retired all nine batters he faced in three innings of work, throwing strikes but not really commanding the fastball. His slider and changeup were inconsistent but flashed plus, the slider at 85-88 with tight spin, the changeup at 86-89 with a couple that was good enough for the majors, including one he threw at 89 mph inside to a left-handed batter. Kopech cuts himself off a little in his landing but gets enormous extension out over his front side, so that 99 mph may very well look like 105 to a hitter. Keith Law ESPN"

Kopech was ranked by Basball America as the second best prospect in the fall Arizona League for 2016. Kopech tossed two perfect innings with three strikeouts in the Falls Stars Game. Just another addition to his resume.

Kopech is refining his skills in the minors and when those skills play off a fastball that ticks near 100 MPH you certainly have a strong foundation. In 2016 Kopech showed a glimpse of his talent when in 12 starts between Lowell and Salem the Texas product fanned 82 in 52 innings. The negative was 29 walks, but that is what the minors are for.

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Kopech is currently ranked 67th among all prospects on the MLB Pipeline and that took me somewhat by surprise. That figure will – hopefully – bounce into a top ten or twenty as Kopech starts his season in Portland. Portland can easily become Pawtucket and the Boston by year-end or to start 2018.