By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The next wave of great young arms may indeed be on the way to the South Side of Chicago. On Wednesday, it was 21-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech getting the red-carpet treatment, including his own press conference and appearance on 670 The Score.
Kopech is just one of the exceptionally talented young pitchers who Chicago acquired over the past nine months in trades. He came to the White Sox in the Chris Sale trade with the Red Sox that also brought second baseman Yoan Moncada to Chicago.
Kopech made headlines last year by throwing a ball 105 mph from flat ground, but there’s many more reasons the White Sox are so impressed. They’ve seen maturity from Kopech that gives them hope he will be in a major league uniform soon.
“This year has been a lot of fun for me,” Kopech said. “I went through some things along the way, especially in June. I was still invited to an All-Star game and the Futures Game. The promotion to (Triple-A) Charlotte topped it all off.”
Kopech spent the summer at Double-A Birmingham, where he compiled an 8-7 record and 2.87 ERA with 155 strikeouts in 119 1/3 innings. He then made three starts at Triple-A Charlotte to end his season, registering a 3.00 ERA.
“That meant a lot to me because of a couple of months of good pitching at Birmingham. I won’t say I deserved it, but at the same time to see the organization was as excited as I was, it meant a lot to me,” he said.
Kopech will take the winter off and be ready to compete for a rotation spot in 2018. The smart money will have him start the season at Charlotte and make his way to the big leagues by next August. Along with Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and others, there’s plenty to anticipate for the rotation of the near future.
“He is really a great kid,” Giolito said of Kopech. “We got to know each other pretty well. He is really a hard worker. I saw him really getting down in the weight room last spring. He had a dedicated running and throwing program. He put the work in, and the results showed this year. What I saw in spring training was the ball flying out of his hand with a good slider to go along with it.”
The White Sox coaching staff will patiently wait for the young Kopech to catch up with the others who have progressed to the majors. Many believe he’s a closer of the future, but in his mind, he’s a starter.
“There had been talk of me going to the bullpen,” Kopech said. “My goal has been to be a starter all along. That is goal number one. If they put me in the bullpen, they put me in the bullpen. Whatever they need me to do.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.