Lost in all of the madness of the White Sox reportedly reaching an agreement with Cuban phenom prospect, Luis Robert and the White Sox 16-1 dismantling of the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, was the performance of top pitching prospect Michael Kopech on Friday evening.
The current third overall prospect in the White Sox system and 21-year old flamethrower had his best start to date during the 2017 season. Kopech fired seven innings of one-run ball against a very good Tennessee Smokies ball club, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Kopech allowed only one run on three hits while striking out eight hitters and walking a pair en route to the victory.
Kopech is now 3-2 with an excellent ERA of just 2.76 over the course of his first eight starts for the Birmingham Barons. Over his 42.1 innings of work with the White Sox Double-A affiliate Kopech has struck out 59 opposing hitters while walking 23 and allowing 21 hits, good for a WHIP of 1.04. Considering the fact that most thought that Kopech should begin the season at the High-A level with the Winston Salem Dash and that starting in Double-A would be a challenging assignment, Kopech is certainly rising to the occasion through the first quarter of the season.
Kopech has shown vast improvement in limiting his walks and controlling his pitch counts gradually over the course of his first eight starts, while still keeping his strikeout number among the best in his level of competition. When the prospect rankings are reshuffled around the mid-way point of the season, expect to see Kopech continue to rise as he did in the most current rankings.
Lopez Leading the Way in Charlotte
In Charlotte another White Sox pitching prospect is having himself quite the stretch. The White Sox fourth ranked prospect, Reynaldo Lopez is unbeaten since April 11 when he suffered his only loss of the season against the Norfolk Tides. Lopez is 5-0 since that time, and checks in with a 5-1 record on the campaign. Lopez currently owns a 3.14 ERA through his first eight starts of the season, tossing 43 innings over that span.
Lopez has struck out 45 opposing hitters and walked 22 while allowing 36 hits thus far, giving him a WHIP of 1.35 through the first quarter of the season.
Also worth noting, Carson Fulmer is 5-2 with a 3.86 ERA through his first eight starts for the Charlotte Knights. Fulmer has logged 44.1 innings of work in his eight starts, striking out 35 hitters while issuing 17 free passes. Zack Burdi has a 2.16 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP to go along with a 25/6 K/BB ratio through his first 16.2 innings of work with the Knights.
Where Will Luis Robert Fall?
One of the more frequently asked questions by White Sox fans on Saturday after news broke that the White Sox had reached an agreement with Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, was where he would fall in the White Sox farm system. As far as farm system/prospect rankings are concerned, Luis Robert is seen as the equivalency of a number one overall pick in the MLB Draft, if in fact Robert was a draft eligible player.
That being said, you can likely expect to see Robert crack the White Sox top five prospects, potentially falling in at number three behind Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech in the next reshuffling that we see from the minds at MLB Pipeline. As far as Major League Baseball’s Top-100 prospect list, expect to see Robert fall anywhere in between 10 and 20, maybe even as low as 25.
Robert, who will cost the White Sox just short of $50 million dollars after all is said and done, immediately becomes a top prospect in their system and one of the top prospects in all of baseball, but Sox fans shouldn’t expect to see him anytime soon. At this point, it’s unknown where the 19-year old outfielder will begin his professional career, but the most common line of thinking at this point would have him begin at Low-A in Kannapolis, and progress his way through the White Sox system gradually given his age.
How fast will he progress through the White Sox system? Well, that becomes very hard to predict, but I would imagine that we could expect to see Robert at some point during the 2019 season, possibly even the start of the 2020 season.