Michael Kopech was expected to be knocking at the major-league door about now, but the flame-throwing right-hander’s recent extended run of wildness has made the White Sox’ top pitching prospect’s expected arrival anything but imminent.
“Not unlike a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path,’’ director of player development Chris Getz said. “And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point [this season].’’
Kopech, 3-5 with a 5.08 ERA, 88 strikeouts and 46 walks in 67⅓ innings in his first season at Class AAA Charlotte, has a 6.69 ERA with 37 walks in his last 40⅓ innings covering nine starts. However, he has allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of his last seven outings. Against the Columbus Clippers on Wednesday, the 22-year-old walked four and struck out six while allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits in five innings, which qualified as a gain after he finished with three scoreless innings.
“I was really happy with what he was able to do and that’s really in comparison to probably his last four outings or so,’’ Getz said. “He had a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with us upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.’’
In his previous outing against the Norfolk Tides, Kopech had no control, walking eight in three innings, hitting two batters and throwing five wild pitches. Of his 86 pitches, 35 were strikes.
“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing,’’ Getz said. “He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches and a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing.’’
Kopech was acquired with second baseman Yoan Moncada, who is batting .227/.300/.404 with nine homers and 14 doubles but a whopping 102 strikeouts in 255 plate appearances and nine errors, in the trade for Chris Sale.
The Sox also received outfielder Luis Basabe, a Carolina League all-star promoted to Class AA Birmingham on Thursday, and right-hander Victor Diaz, who has not pitched this year due to an injury.
Kopech is the No. 8-ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. His recent struggles and Moncada’s uneven performance in his first full season has generated some angst among those keeping score of the Sale trade, but the Sox insist it’s much too soon to declare a winner.
And they’re probably right.
“I think we’ve got a chance to see him [in the majors in 2018],’’ Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter.’’