White Sox’ top prospects remain in holding, developing pattern

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Michael Kopech participates in a drill at the team’s spring training baseball facility Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP)

Patience, White Sox fans.

It’s not something everyone wants to hear or exercise when it comes to outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-hander Michael Kopech, the faces of the Sox’ farm system.

Jimenez, 21, is the No. 3 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, and he’s hitting a ton at Class AA Birmingham. Kopech, 22, is the No. 8 prospect and has struck out 80 batters in 59 1/3 innings at Class AAA Charlotte.

They are the hottest things going, and everyone wants to see them. Like, now.

But general manager Rick Hahn and the rest of the Sox’ brain trust want to be absolutely certain Kopech and Jimenez don’t struggle when they get to the majors. Jimenez still has a stop to make — Charlotte — before he arrives, Hahn said.

Before the Sox opened a homestand with a 4-0 loss Monday to the Indians, Hahn was asked when fans will see them in Chicago.

‘‘They are available at Charlotte and Birmingham,’’ he said, cracking a grin.

Hahn said that Kopech and Jimenez have ‘‘various developmental matters’’ they are working on and that what happens on the field at the major-league level ‘‘is going to have nothing to do with when these players arrive.’’

Right-hander Lucas Giolito struggled through developmental matters of his own against the Indians, throwing only 46 of his 93 pitches for strikes and allowing four runs, four hits and four walks in five-plus innings. Giolito, who has walked 43 batters in 66

innings, has a 7.09 ERA after pitching to a 2.38 ERA in seven starts after being called up last season.

Giolito said his stuff was as good as it has been this season, but he had no feel for where the ball was going.

‘‘I’m beating myself, 100 percent,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m going out there walking a bunch of guys. Not going to have success that way.”

Kopech has walked nine in eight innings in his last two starts, and the last thing the Sox want is to have him struggle like Giolito at the major-league level. He walked five in his most recent start, the latest indication he’s not commanding the strike zone. He is 2-4 with a 4.70 ERA with 34 walks and seven hit batters.

‘‘He’s put together a few real good starts and had others that still show you the elements he needs improvement in,’’ Hahn said.

Jimenez is batting .321/.373/.576 with 10 home runs, 13 doubles and two triples in 47 games. He hits with power to all fields, has a plan at the plate and sure looks ready, although his defense is behind his offense.


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‘‘It’s going to be based strictly upon their own development and when they are ready for the next challenges presented by the big-league level,’’ Hahn said.

Awaiting Jimenez in the majors are pitchers such as the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco, who allowed two hits and struck out 11 in seven innings Monday.

‘‘We all know that once they get here it’s a different world, and they’re going to have to deal with all the nuances of being at the major-league level,’’ manager Rick Renteria said.

Kopech, who has a fastball that can touch 100 mph, is getting closer, but his changeup still needs work and his command of his fastball and slider isn’t screaming ‘‘ready.’’

‘‘You get here, these guys are going to study him,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘They’re going to try to take advantage of any weakness he has. And he’s going to have to try to exploit them.’’

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