Michael Kopech

From BR Bullpen

Michael Talbert Kopech

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Michael Kopech was taken by the Boston Red Sox 33rd overall in the 2014 amateur draft out of high school; the pick was compensation for the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury to free agency. The scout was Tim Collinsworth. Kopech had fanned 129 in 64 IP as a high school senior, going 3-0 with a 0.44 ERA. His signing bonus was $1.678 million.

He pitched for the GCL Red Sox in 2014, going 0-1 with 16 strikeouts and a 4.72 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. In 2015, he was 4-5 with 70 strikeouts and a 2.63 ERA in 65 innings for the Greenville Drive. Going into 2016, he was ranked the #89 prospect in minor league baseball and the #5 prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America. Baseball America said he had the best fastball in both the South Atlantic League and the Red Sox chain and the best slider in the Red Sox chain. He was suspended for part of the 2016 season for testing positive for a banned stimulant and also missed some time with a broken following an altercation with his roommate in spring training. He made one start with the Lowell Spinners and 11 with the Salem Red Sox that year. Combined, he was 4-1, 2.08, pitching 56 1/3 innings and striking out 86 while walking 33.

On December 6, 2016, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox along with Yoan Moncada, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz in return for ace starter Chris Sale. He was named to the United States team for the 2017 Futures Game. he went 9-8, 2.88 in 25 starts between the AA Birmingham Barons and AAA Charlotte Knights that season. He struck out 172 batters in 134 1/3 innings and was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year. He started 2018 back at Charlotte and was 7-7, 3.70 after 24 starts when the White Sox announced that he would be making his major league debut on August 21st in a start against the Minnesota Twins. He was still overpowering minor league hitters at that point, with 170 strikeouts in 126 1/3 innings, against just 100 hits allowed. It was clearly time for him to show what he could do against major leaguers. In his first start, he pitched 2 scoreless innings, striking out 4, then a 52-minute rain delay meant that he wasn't able to come back for the 3rd. Luis Avilan relieved him. Shortly thereafter, he became the latest player to have his youthful indiscretions on social media catch up with him, as stupid messages dating back to 2013 were unearthed. He quickly deleted these and apologized. He recorded his first career win on August 26th, 7-2 over the Detroit Tigers. However, on September 5th, he had trouble getting loose before a start and after struggling during the game, allowing 7 runs in 3 1/3 innings aginst the Detroit Tigers, he was diagnosed with an elbow injury of the type that would require him to undergo Tommy John surgery. He had gone 1-1, 5.02 in 4 starts.

He missed all of 2019 as a result of the surgery but seemed set to return in 2020 until he decided to sit out the season on July 10th. While he did not make a public announcements like some other players had done, it was assumed his decision was taken out of health and safety concerns. He had been absent from training camp for what had been called personal reasons. It turned out that he was in the middle of divorcing his wife, actress Vanessa Morgan, after only six months, and only days after Morgan announced she was pregnant. He did return in 2021 and was outstanding at the start of the season, striking out 27 batters in his first 15 2/3 innings, to go along with a 1.72 ERA in his first 7 appearances. He was used mainly as a reliever, making 4 starts in his 44 appearances, and going 4-3, 3.50 with 103 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings. He pitched twice in the Division Series against the Houston Astros, and in 3 innings was banged around, allowing 6 runs on 7 hits and a walk, even if he did strike out 5 batters.

In 2022, he was moved back to the starting rotation and over his first 8 starts, while his record was only 1-1, it came with a splendid 1.29 ERA, 17 hits allowed in 42 innings, and 39 strikeouts. In two consecutive starts against the New York Yankees on May 15th and May 22nd, he retired 30 straight batters, three more than are needed tor ecord a perfect game: the last 13 in a 5-1 loss in the first game, and the first 17 in the second. He recorded his first win of the year in that game, but almost ended up with yet another no-decision, as his teammates finally scored their runs in the top of the 8th, after he had clearly expended all of the pitches he had in him that day: he had issed his only two walks of the evening with two outs in the 7th with the game still scoreless before reaching back to strike out Estevan Florial to end the frame. It was clear that manager Tony LaRussa would have taken him out of the game had he failed to retire Florial.

His fastball has been timed regularly at 101 mph and as high as 105 mph in a minor league game, which explains why he is such a highly-regarded prospect in spite of limited experience.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Kopech is on fire. Stats show he's even better", mlb.com, April 27, 2021. [1]
  • Betelhem Ashame: "Kopech tosses a perfecto ... over 2 games", mlb.com, May 23, 2022. [2]
  • Ted Berg: "A 20-year-old Red Sox prospect threw a 105-mph fastball", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, July 15, 2016. [3]
  • Chris Landers: "Get to know Michael Kopech, the White Sox's newest flamethrower and tabloid magazine star", "Cut 4", mlb.com, August 20, 2018. [4]
  • Scott Merkin: "Kopech ready for MLB call, whenever it comes: White Sox top pitching prospect discusses speculation, developing changeup", mlb.com, January 25, 2018. [5]
  • Scott Merkin: "Itch to pitch: Kopech set for return to mound", mlb.com, March 8, 2020. [6]
  • Scott Merkin: "Kopech motivated, focused for 2021 return: After not playing last season, righty prospect ready to help White Sox", mlb.com, February 20, 2021. [7]
  • Scott Merkin: "Kopech's '22? Elite on field, grateful off of it", mlb.com, May 27, 2022. [8]
  • Jeff Passan: "For 105-mph-throwing Michael Kopech, breaking the speed limit is well within his law", Yahoo Sports, March 21, 2017. [9]

Related Sites[edit]