Breaking camp back in March, many felt that Michael Kopech was the best pitcher in the White Sox organization. That may have been true as well. The prevalent belief was that the team would call up it’s most exciting pitching prospect since Chris Sale sometime soon after the deadline for an extra year of service time passed in April. The deadline passed as April turned into May, May turned into June, June turned into July and July turned into August. Feelings of optimism and excitement turned quickly into frustration as it appeared the team, which had at one time developed a reputation for rushing prospects into the majors, had now chosen to play service time games and hold prospects down for months longer than necessary.
General Manager Rick Hahn claimed he wanted to be absolutely sure Kopech (and Eloy Jimenez) had “checked all the boxes” before they were called up. A quote that has since turned into a running joke amongst Sox fans. While Kopech may have been ready to make an impact at the major league level in March, the developmental strides he has taken since Spring Training are impossible to miss. It turns out he was indeed checking boxes in Charlotte. In his last seven starts in Charlotte, Kopech showed that the biggest box he had left to check, finding his control, was indeed checked. Kopech walked only four batters in what turned out to be his final seven minor league starts. Finding a consistent breaking ball to use when batters cheated on his electric fastball was another box for Kopech to check. He did just that and the strikeout numbers went up as the walk numbers went down. He had clearly checked all his boxes.
Compounding the frustration of Kopech being held down in the minors for so long was a season that has gone so badly, many are questioning a rebuild that began less than two years ago. The other big ticket player that came over with Kopech in the Chris Sale trade is scuffling through his first full season in the majors in a major way, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito have shown some concerning signs of regression, and the team’s record has sat comfortably at the 30 game under .500 mark for nearly two months now. All of this while two potential faces of the organization showed every time they played how ready they were to contribute at the major league level.
While Eloy Jimenez remains in the minors, Tuesday finally brought the long awaited arrival of Michael Kopech. Service time, checked boxes and rebuild talk could finally be put on hold, as fans can finally smile about something for the first time since Luis Robert hit a home run against the Cubs in spring training. It’s been a long and grueling season for White Sox fans, but today they can smile.
What the future holds is still up in the air, and will be for some time. But what Kopech’s call up does is prove one important point that had begun to become difficult to see, there is progress in this rebuilding process. The future is drawing nearer every day, and for a team in the postion the White Sox are in, that little bit of hope, the simple reassurance that there is progress, comes as a relief. No one can blame fans for not being able to see the progress on the big league level, you have to really squint. But on Tuesday, that progress will be on display for all to see as Michael Kopech makes his major league debut. Michael Kopech is ready, Michael Kopech is here, exciting White Sox baseball is right around the corner. Let yourselves be excited fans, good things are coming.
Follow David Wildman on Twitter–Feature Photo Credit: Laura Wolf/Charlotte Knights