Michael Kopech, the top pitching prospect who the Boston Red Sox sent to Chicago in the Chris Sale deal, makes his major league debut Tuesday night.
Critics of Dave Dombrowski tend to harp on him for leaving the Boston Red Sox with a weak farm system. However, the pipeline is barren because the president of baseball operations shipped out many of the organizations top prospects to acquire elite major league talent. That was the case when he sent Michael Kopech to the Chicago White Sox as part of a package for Chris Sale.
The current front-runner for the Cy Young has panned out fine for the Red Sox so there are no complaints on this end about trading for Sale. Now Chicago will get their first glimpse at the pitcher they hope will supplant Sale as their future ace as Kopech prepares to make his major league debut on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins.
MLB.com ranks Kopech as the No. 13 overall prospect. He’s listed as the fourth best pitching prospect and second among right-handed pitchers.
Kopech possesses a blazing fastball that sits between 96-99 with good movement. He can crank it up to triple-digits without the pitch becoming too straight. If hitters sit on the fastball then he’ll embarrass them with a filthy slider.
The scouting report makes Kopech sound like a stud and there’s a strong possibility he will be one day. You know who else thinks so? Pedro Martinez. The Red Sox legend called Kopech the “biggest up-and-coming arm in baseball.”
Kopech has the tools to become a force in this league but he’s not without his flaws. The 22-year old still needs to refine his changeup and improve his control. Kopech owns an elite 12.1 K/9 in Triple-A this season but his 4.1 BB/9 leaves a lot to be desired. He was able to get away with it in the minors to post a respectable 3.70 ERA over 24 starts with the Charlotte Knights this year. Major League hitters will make him pay for those bouts of wildness.
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Chicago fans who have watched Sale dominate since switching the color of his Sox must be eager to reap the rewards of a trade meant to jumpstart their rebuilding effort. The other headliner in the deal was infielder Yoan Moncada, who has shown flashes of brilliance but still has clear holes in his swing. His 15 home runs and 11 steals are an indicator of the power/speed threat he was advertised as. Unfortunately, Moncada pairs that with a putrid .217 average and league-leading 176 strikeouts. He has also been below average defensively at second base. Moncada isn’t exactly the five-tool player Chicago was promised, at least not yet.
Likewise, Kopech shouldn’t be expected to dominate out of the gate. This is a young pitcher with much to learn. It wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he has a successful debut against a depleted Twins lineup. The book on Kopech will be fairly limited and his overpowering velocity could be enough for him to get by. However, big league hitters will figure him out soon enough and Kopech will be forced to adjust. The learning curve will be harsh if he doesn’t harness his control.
The future remains bright for Kopech but we’re currently in the present where Sale is a legitimate ace and the young right-hander is merely the embodiment of potential. A Red Sox team eager to win now made the right move to acquire Sale but that doesn’t mean Chicago was wrong to make the deal. The White Sox were in desperate need of a rebuild and they managed to land what seemed to be an impressive haul for their All-Star starter.
How impressive will that haul prove to be? That hinges on the development of Kopech. We can’t judge those results based on what happens tonight but Kopech’s promotion is a step in that direction for the White Sox organization.