In 2014, Kopech graduated from Mount Pleasant High School in Texas. And he got drafted by the Red Sox (see Transactions below).
In 2015, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Michael as the 14th-best prospect in the Red Sox organization. They moved him up to #5 in the winter before 2016 spring training. After the White Sox acquired Kopech before 2017 spring training, he was rated #5 in their farm system.
And he jumped to #2, behind only LF Eloy Jimenez, in both 2018 and 2019. He was at #3 in the offseason before 2020 spring training. But he moved back up to #2 in the spring of 2021.
March 8 2016: Kopech was in trouble after he suffered a small fracture of his right hand during what the team described as an "altercation" with his roommate, Red Sox GM Mike Hazen said. The incident comes six months after Kopech finished serving a 50-game suspension for violating the minor-league drug policy. "It's disappointing, very disappointing. It was stupid," Hazen said. "He's going to have to grow up, obviously, with the things that have happened so far."
Hazen declined to get into specifics or divulge the name of Kopech's roommate in Boston's minor league camp. He also didn't say whether the team intends to discipline Kopech.
July 16, 2015: The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball said Kopech received a 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Oxilofrine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Michael released the following statement: "I would like to start by apologizing to all of baseball, baseball fans, and specifically the Red Sox and Red Sox fan base. I respect the game as much, if not more than, anyone else. With that being said, I never have and never will intentionally cheat the game that has been so great to me. I haven't bought any supplements that aren't NSF certified for sport. Therefore, I know I have not bought a supplement containing this drug. I have never heard of Oxilofrine, honestly.
"Apparently, it is a drug that many people use for weight loss. I have been trying to gain weight since I signed with the Red Sox. I do understand this is also a stimulant. This drug would have no positive outcome for me and that's why I chose to appeal. I realized I didn't have much evidence to prove that I'm innocent, but I didn't have any understanding of how I could have failed a test. I respect the system and understand why they have to be so careful with the testing. I also understand why that means my suspension couldn't have been overturned without proper evidence. I have 50 games to get to work and better myself and as a ball player. Next season I'll be better than ever. Drug free."
In 2016, Kopech finished the Arizona Fall League season with a 3-0, 2.01 ERA while striking out 26 batters in 22.1 innings.
In 2017, Kopech represented the White Sox in the All-Star Futures game.
2017 season: The first year with the White Sox for Kopech couldn't have gone much better. He was named the White Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Month for August/September after posting a 2-1 record with a 1.55 ERA, 38 strikeouts and a .210 opponents average over five starts for Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.
In what was easily a career-high 134.1 innings and 25 starts combined, the 20-year-old finished with a 2.88 ERA and 172 strikeouts to go with his .193 opponents average. He was named the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher, but it was a late promotion to Charlotte and the International League truly punctuating this campaign for the hard-throwing right-hander. (Scott Merkin - MLB.com -September 6th, 2017)
Kopech and his reality TV star girlfriend (Brielle Biermann) have said they may do a spinoff of Bravo’s “Don’t Be Tardy” if they get married. And on an episode earlier this month Biermann hinted they may soon move in together.
As Kopech takes each step toward reaching the major leagues, he dips the other toe in the entertainment world. He has made cameos on “Don’t Be Tardy” and has been posting several portfolio-ready pics of himself alone and with Biermann on social media. (Phil Thompson-Chicago Tribune-Dec. 27, 2017)
March 15, 2018: In drama befitting reality TV, it appears White Sox top pitching prospect Michael Kopech’s relationship status changes minute by minute. Citing multiple unnamed sources, US Weekly reported Kopech and “Don’t Be Tardy” star Brielle Biermann ended their relationship after nearly two years of dating because of their conflicting schedules. Biermann’s mom, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kim Zolciak, denied the report on Twitter.
Biermann also seemed surprised to hear the news. When an Instagram commenter mentioned the split, Biermann wrote:
“What? (Where) did u read that?” But the next morning, Biermann tweeted: “It is true. We have a lot going on right now we decided it would be for the best. What’s meant to be will always be.” Then she deleted the tweet.
Eleven minutes later she tweeted: “Still together.” She deleted that tweet too. Biermann, 21, lives in Atlanta, where she shoots “Don’t Be Tardy,” a Bravo network show that follows her family. Kopech, 21, has been in Sox spring training camp in Arizona. He pitched in 2017 for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights and Double-A Birmingham Barons. Biermann and Kopech began dating long distance in May 2016. Kopech appeared on Season 6 of “Don’t Be Tardy,” where they discussed moving in together. The pair attended SoxFest in Chicago in January. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The 2018 turning point for Michael is easy to pinpoint for Dustin Garneau, a veteran catcher who has been behind the plate with Triple-A Charlotte for Kopech. It was on July 5 at home against Durham, when Kopech exited after walking four and allowing four earned runs in three innings. Kopech's reaction to the home-plate umpire on that night and the situation overall was not a positive one in Garneau's mind.
"[Kopech] showed a lot of immaturity that game," said Garneau, who joined the White Sox this weekend from Charlotte. "The ump did squeeze him a lot. That didn't help. But the way [Kopech] reacted to it, I told him that can't work. After that game, he really learned maturity and now he is pitching."
In Kopech's four starts since that moment, he has yielded six earned runs on 19 hits over 24 innings with 32 strikeouts and four walks. There's no doubt in Garneau's mind Kopech's raw ability falls in that elite category, focusing especially on Kopech's fastball.
"It's electric. It's a next level fastball," Garneau said. "There are guys who have 100 mph and there are guys who have a different kind of 100 mph. That's what he has.
"Now, the last four or five outings, he's really learned how to throw and pitch with four pitches. He's got a changeup now. He knows how to pitch with the curveball and slider and he's got a real demeanor where he's more mature on the mound. He's looking really good." (Merkin - mlb.com - 8/4/18)
The weather did what the Twins offense could not do during their 5-2 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field: knock out White Sox starter Michael Kopech.
In front of a crowd of 23,133, including 8,000 tickets purchased since Kopech's start was announced on August 19, 2018, and another 1,400 vouchers cashed in for this night, Michael allowed three hits while fanning four in two scoreless innings. At that point, a heavy rain storm started and delayed the game 52 minutes.
Minnesota starter Jose Berrios returned, but Luis Avilan replaced Kopech for the third. That rain-induced exit didn't dampen Kopech's emotions for this special performance done in front of his parents, his sisters and many other family members and friends.
"It was a dream come true. It's everything I thought about since a little kid. I was pumped," Kopech said. "You see the fans engaged the way they were. It really made me feel more comfortable and feel like I belonged. I just tried to do what I do best and throw strikes."
"I thought he was unbelievable," said White Sox bench coach and acting manager Joe McEwing. "The energy, I'm sure he had so much adrenaline going from the excitement walking out of the dugout leading up to his warmup. And I think it was pretty special by the fans here in Chicago to give him that applause and follow him every step of the way."
"There was a lot of energy here," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Obviously the Sox fans are very well aware of this guy, and put him being part of the future. I thought he handled it pretty well. He's got three good pitches that we saw, got his strikeouts, all those things."
"My entire life I've tried to prep myself for this moment so I didn't feel overwhelmed when I did get here," Kopech said. "It was just about as spot on as I could imagine. The fans were a lot more engaged than I expected. I wouldn't say it was overwhelming but a really cool experience. It was amazing out there."
"I was a little bummed out. I wanted to go a little deeper into the game," Kopech said. "I didn't realize my pitch count was as high as it was already anyway. But I mean either way I got to experience the debut and like I said it was a dream come true. Even though I didn't get to go deep, it was a lot of fun. At least I got my feet wet and I'll get ready for the next one."
"For the most part, with me, the plan is always going to be to throw it until they hit it. Obviously it's going to get hit at some point and I'm going to have to throw my other pitches but I feel comfortable throwing all my pitches right now. Being able to do what I can with that early on is pretty much the game plan every game." – Kopech on throwing 19 fastballs among his 22 pitches in the first inning. (Merkin - mlb.com - 8/22/18)
August 2018: In a cycle that has become far too common in MLB these days, another young player is addressing homophobic and racial tweets they sent years ago. White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech was the latest player to delete and acknowledge “immature and inappropriate” tweets
The tweets were exposed following Kopech’s Major League debut. They include a homophobic slur and racial language, and were sent in 2013 when he was 17 years old. (Chris Cwik -Yahoo Sports -Aug 23, 2018)
MLB debut (August 21, 2018): Kopech's debut was cut short after two innings because of a long rain delay.
August 31, 2018: When it comes to Michael's starts at Guaranteed Rate Field, things can only get dryer during the month of September 2018. Kopech made his second career home start in Friday's 6-1 victory over the Red Sox. And for the second time, his mound effort was cut short by rain.
But torrential rain forced a delay of 2 hours, 9 minutes, leading Dylan Covey to take the mound when the teams returned to the field at 10:05 p.m. CT.
"I'm going to say a little prayer and see if we can figure things out," said a smiling Kopech. "I had no idea. I even checked the weather before my start today because I didn't want it to go like last time. Unfortunately, I guess the weather app wasn't on the same page. It came pretty quick there." (Merkin - mlb.com)
As a dejected but certainly far from defeated Michael sat in the White Sox dugout, he began to recite a litany of 2018 personal accomplishments to the media surrounding him.
"You know, after a rough beginning to the season for me, turning it around is really big," Kopech said. "It's exciting for me. I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. I cut down my walks. I went deeper in games. I pitched more efficiently. I got myself to the big leagues. It's been a whirlwind of emotions for me in the past couple of weeks, obviously. From just about my absolute peak to the absolute rock bottom for me."
That rock bottom referred to by Kopech was a September 7, 2018, announcement of the rather significant tear in Kopech's ulnar collateral ligament as diagnosed by Dr. Nik Verma following an examination. Kopech will seek a second opinion, but the initial recommendation is Tommy John surgery, which would keep Kopech out of action until Spring Training 2020.
"To say it's unexpected would be an understatement," Kopech said. "It sucks. That's it. It sucks."
"This is obviously a blow and something that we are still digesting. We only received this news within the last two hours or so," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. "We do know [we] believe Michael will be fully without restriction at the start of the 2020 season and in a position to build off what we feel is a very bright future for a long time in a White Sox uniform."
Even in a bit of shock, Kopech, who is known for his intense work ethic, reinforced his commitment to fighting through this setback. "It's unfortunate and sucks but I don't think my work ethic has ever been in question," Kopech said. "If it has, then I'm here to prove that it shouldn't be and I'll come back stronger than before."
"Probably speaks to how strong this kid really is," said Hahn of Kopech, who struck out six and hit 96.1 mph Wednesday even with his injury. "You can tell it from looking at him and you can see him on the mound and you see him walking around and his workout regimen. But he was pitching with a pretty significant tear in there and he was pitching pretty effectively at the big league level with it, it seems." (Merkin - mlb.com - 9/7/18)
Nov 14, 2018: Ask Michael about his 2018 season, which featured his Major League debut, and the No. 2 White Sox prospect brings up the phrase "rollercoaster of emotions." The 22-year-old, who will be sidelined for the 2019 campaign following Tommy John surgery in September, provided an honest look into that up-and-down ride.
"I went from having the yips for a month and a half, to getting my big league call, to blowing out my elbow and not getting to pitch again," Kopech told MLB.com. "It was kind of a crash and rebuild and then crash again. But it was definitely an unforgettable season."
Kopech's ulnar collateral ligament tear was diagnosed after his fourth start for the White Sox. A noticeably stunned White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made the announcement about Kopech's injury two days after that game against Detroit. Kopech is now two months removed from surgery and no longer wearing the brace he had for the first month during his rehab in Culver City, Calif.
Kopech has mobility and his arm feels good enough to throw although he understands he's not ready. Having the injury set in and getting into the nuts and bolts of the work doesn't necessarily make a positive Kopech feel any better.
"Honestly, it makes you feel worse and worse as the days go on," Kopech said. "It's going to be a mental struggle for me. I know that. I'm ready for it. I'm just going to do what I can to get better mentally in the time being. "It's depressing. There's no way around it. As someone who deals with anxiety and depression, it's a situation where I have to be aware of myself. I have to know what's going on and I have to be willing to say, 'OK, I'm not going to play next year. Let's get better this year meanwhile and get ready for 2020.' It has to be something where I come to realistic thoughts with myself. I'm in the process of doing that but it is going to be difficult."
Daily meditation helps Kopech, who said he's become a "little guru about meditation," and he's making sure his mind is as clear as it can be all the time. That concept returns us to the yips plaguing Kopech during his stint with Triple-A Charlotte. From April 9-July 5, Kopech walked 56 batters over 82 innings. But the problem manifested itself in more than finding the strike zone.
"I was having trouble figuring out how to throw a baseball," Kopech said. "I felt like I had never done it before, and I was having to figure some things out. It depended on the first pitch of the game for me. If the first pitch of the game for me was a strike, then most likely the next pitch was going to be a strike and most likely I would be able to get through that start. "If the first pitch was a ball, then it was going to escalate. There was a point where I walked eight or nine in 2 1/3 innings or something like that (eight walks in three innings on June 14) and I just had no idea where the ball was going. It was my own mental struggles.
"That didn't have anything to do with my arm or mechanics or anything like that. I was seeking for answers the wrong way. It's really hard to put into words how I felt physically. I mean, I couldn't feel my legs. My arm felt like it wasn't attached to my body. It was a really tough time for me physically, but more so mentally than anything." When Kopech eventually figured out important mental cues, he felt better than ever and posted a 59-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his final seven Triple-A starts. It's a learning experience he can use when he returns in 2020.
"Mentally, I felt like a completely different guy and that's what earned me my callup," Kopech said. "It was absolutely something I needed to have happen before I got to the big leagues. I know that sounds silly to say I needed to get the yips. That experience made me grow as a pitcher so I'm glad it happened." (S Merkin - MLB.com - Nov 14, 2018)
In 2019, Patrick Mahomes II was given the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award, after throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns and propelling the Kansas City Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game this season.
But to Michael Kopech, the White Sox top pitching prospect and a friend of Mahomes from their youth in Texas, Mahomes always was a baseball guy.
"In my opinion, Pat Mahomes the pitcher also plays football," Kopech said during a SoxFest interview. "To everybody else, it was probably the other way around. I thought he was going to sign when he got drafted. I thought he would get drafted higher than he did, but he wanted to play football. He knew what he wanted to do and obviously that's panning out for him pretty well."
Kopech, 22, says the duo's competitive friendship took root when they were 8 or 9 years old. They would begin to pitch against each other as they grew older and developed their craft. Although Kopech went to Mount Pleasant High School and Mahomes attended Whitehouse, schools not in the same conference, they became big rivals, according to Kopech.
"For some reason, we really hated their team, and I don't know if their team hated our team back," Kopech said. "We really decided that we wanted to beat Whitehouse more than any other team we played. We were able to really compete but kind of build a friendship out of everything because we knew that we wanted to compete at the next level. It was much deeper than a high school baseball game for both of us. Those were always the most fun games, pitching against him."
Quite possibly their most memorable matchup came in early March 2014, when Mahomes outdueled Kopech in a 2-1 victory. According to various news reports, Mahomes threw a no-hitter, struck out 16 and touched 92 to 95 mph on the radar gun. Kopech reached 98 mph and struck out 12. At the plate in that game, Kopech struck out in all three at-bats and Mahomes reached on an error and struck out twice. Kopech texted with Mahomes before sitting down for this interview, and Mahomes wanted it to be known that he took Kopech deep on a couple of occasions -- a statistic that a smiling Kopech would not corroborate.
What he would talk about is the immense number of scouts in attendance for that contest. Game coverage lists the total at around three dozen, but Kopech believes there were more.
"If I had to guess how many scouts were there? 60, at least," Kopech said. "There's a picture of it somewhere, and you just see waves of radar guns. "That's a Top 5 [game] for me. I know that's kind of silly to say. It's a high school game and I've pitched in so many. I will never forget that game. It was a lot of fun."
There's a big part of Kopech that is happy for Mahomes' great success. But on a much smaller level, he misses their baseball rivalry.
"Once he has his MVP and the NFL Hall of Fame, once he's done with all that, he's going to come play baseball," Kopech said. "We'll do it again. In the back of my mind, I still think he's going to come back and play. "We really pull for each other. There's not many guys who come out of the 903 area, as we call it. To see him perform at the highest level, it's pretty cool for both of us." (Scott Merkin - MLB.com - Feb. 5, 2019)
Feb 15, 2019: How good does Michael feel five months removed from Tommy John surgery? Let the 22-year-old explain those positive vibes from White Sox camp at Camelback Ranch.
"I feel like I could pitch if I needed to," said Kopech, ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect and baseball's No. 18 overall by MLB Pipeline. "But honestly, I know that's not in the cards." Kopech won't pitch during the 2019 season after having a UCL tear repaired last September. He remains on track in his rehab process after playing catch again.
He's throwing at about 50 percent, "easing up on the throttle," as described by Kopech. The goal is nothing too strenuous at this point, but just getting his arm used to what it needs to be doing in the early stages.
"It's baby steps and it's looking at every progression as a stepping stone, and not being too worried about how small the steps are," Kopech said. "I know that the throwing I'm doing right now doesn't look very significant from the outside looking in, but to me it's a very big step. "So, I'm excited about where I'm at. I know we've got a longways to go, but I feel good for the time being."
"We'll be the ones who slow it down," manager Rick Renteria said. "We understand it. Every player who has ever put on a uniform wants to get back on the field and do everything they can. He's no different. He's actually a little more driven than most."
"Yeah, I'm probably doing a lot more of the tedious stuff I didn't do so well before," Kopech said. "I'm going to be better in the long run because of it and not going to have to really worry about what the future is going to be. (S Merkin - MLB.com - Feb 15, 2019)
Jan. 4, 2020: Michael ushered in the new year with a wedding. The White Sox pitcher married "Riverdale" actress Vanessa Morgan in Homestead, FL.
Top White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech will be a new father when Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Arizona on Feb. 17. Kopech’s famous ex-wife, actress Vanessa Morgan, has given birth to a boy.
Morgan, star of the “Riverdale” TV series, and Kopech divorced last year after being married less than a month. E! News reported the birth and reported Kopech was with Morgan for the arrival.
“They’re both thrilled,” a source told E! News.
Kopech, 24, filed for divorce from Morgan, 28, last June, a month before Morgan revealed her pregnancy. They were married last January. (Sun-Times staff Jan 31, 2021)
- July 2020: "Michael informed the White Sox of his decision to not participate in the 2020 season,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn said in a statement, “We recognize that reaching this decision is incredibly difficult for any competitive athlete, and our organization is understanding and supportive. We will work with Michael to assure his development continues throughout 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our clubhouse for the 2021 season.” (Merkin - mlb.com - 7/10/2020)
Feb 20, 2021: has returned to the White Sox and spoke to the media via Zoom for the first time since last year's Spring Training.
Kopech, who is the No. 39 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, elected not to participate in the 2020 season and discussed his reasons for that decision, along with touching upon numerous other topics in an honest manner typical of the eloquent 24-year-old since he came to Chicago. He also talked about limiting his distractions and not worrying about outside hypotheses as to why he didn’t pitch, but he also brought up a realization made during his time away.
“I think I learned that I need this game a lot more than I realized,” Kopech said. “It's a lot easier said than done to take a step away from something you've done your entire life. It sounds like an exaggeration, but no, it's been my entire life. So taking a step back from that and realizing how big of a piece it is to this entire puzzle for me has kind of put it all in perspective, and it's made me kind of regain the motivation to get back out there, along with some other things that have happened in my life. “I've found that motivation that I may have lost -- not that I ever completely lost it, because I never want to be known as a guy that hasn't worked really hard for everything that he's had to earn. But with this time away, I've really had the chance to come back and prove to myself at least that this is what I want to do.”
Kopech was the last White Sox pitcher to start a Cactus League game, throwing a scoreless inning against the Rangers at Camelback Ranch last March 10 and dealing his first four pitches over 100 mph. It was the culmination of Kopech’s long rehab and recovery after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2018.Following a rainout and a day off for the White Sox, Spring Training was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July, the White Sox returned to Chicago for Summer Camp and the start of a 60-game season, in which they finished 35-25 and reached the postseason for the first time since 2008. But Kopech elected not to be part of that group. “There are multiple reasons,” Kopech said. “COVID being one of the reasons, with having some health issues with my family, but there were a lot of personal reasons as well.
“I've been pretty candid in the past about my mental health being important and prioritizing that so I can be the best version of myself on the field. That's a lot of what it came down to as well.”
La Russa said Kopech’s return was embraced by the team and that everyone was “really happy to see him.” They also were celebrating the birth of Kopech’s son, River, whose presence has influenced his change in motivation and clarity.
“My career doesn't just dictate my future anymore, but it dictates my son's. That's kind of all the motivation I need,” Kopech said. “In the past, I've put a lot of unnecessary pressures and anxieties on myself.
“For one of the first times in my career, I'm comfortable enough with what I'm doing where my only focus is internal. It's within the game itself, it's within competing, it's throwing strikes, it's working on my mechanics, it's doing all the little things right. And it's not that I didn't focus on those things before, but maybe they were affected by external factors and just trying to maybe worry about the wrong things. (S Merkin - MLB.com - Feb 20, 2021)
May 27-31, 2021: Kopech was on the bereavement list.
May 17-20, 2022: Kopech was on the paternity list for the birth of his son Vander.
June 14, 2022: Kopech’s son, Vander, was born on May 20 and had to wait all the way until June 7 to see his dad pitch at Guaranteed Rate Field. Kopech one-hit the Dodgers over six innings during a 4-0 victory on that night, striking out 8.
“They said he stayed awake for a couple of innings. So maybe he got to see something,” Kopech said. “It was really cool. “He won’t remember, but I always will. I assume he’ll probably ask about this game at some point. Just hope I can live up to expectations and make him proud. It was really cool to have them here.”
Setting a good example for his two sons is important to Kopech. That importance would rate the same high level even if Kopech wasn’t a public figure as an accomplished athlete.
“To be honest, I want to have that mindset just in general,” Kopech said. “With the career I’m fortunate enough to have and the career most of us are fortunate to have in here, there’s a lot of people tuning in and listening and watching, and I think being a role model of sorts to the next generation can go a long way.
“If that’s in my household, then it’s all the better. I want to be able to carry myself in a manner they can respect and learn from. I take a lot of pride in that.” (S Merkin - MLB.com - June 14, 2022)
June 2014: The Red Sox chose Kopech in the first round, out of Mount Pleasant High School in Texas. He signed for a bonus of $1.5 million, via scout Tim Collinsworth.
December 6, 2016: The Red Sox sent to the White Sox INF Yoan Moncada, RHP Michael Kopech, OF Luis Alexander Basabe; acquiring LHP Chris Sale.
|DOB:||4/30/1996||Agent:||Dan Lozano-MVP Sports|
|Birth City:||Mount Pleasant, TX|
|Draft:||Red Sox #1 - 2014 - Out of high school (TX)|
Kopech has a 96-99 mph and touching 102 mph 4-seam FASTBALL with late life and arm-side run. The ball jumps out of his hands and gets to the hitters quickly. It gets an 80 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has a 92-95 mph 2-seam SINKER that has plus life with cutting action with sink that produces ground balls.
He also has an 88-91 mph power SLIDER with abrupt two-plane break that has above average potential and is his best secondary pitch. It has a 60 grade for that slider. He needs to improve his CURVEBALL so it doesn't just blend in with his slider. He began developing his 90-92 mph CHANGEUP back in 2015, improving it to where it now has a 50 grade. And Michael gets a 50 for his command.
Michael's electric arm speed and high-octane arsenal have made it difficult for him to consistently throw strikes at times, but he has the athleticism and delivery to project average control as he continues to harness his raw power. (Josh Norris - Baseball America Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2021)
Before his elbow reconstruction, Kopech earned comparisons to Noah Syndergaard because of his electric stuff. He worked with late run on his fastball, regularly pushed his heater into triple digits and legendarily hit 105 mph during a 2016 start. He also blew hitters away with a slider with two-plane break.
Kopech was working on refining some softer stuff for his repertoire, showing a sinking changeup that got too firm at times and adding a curveball that has more velocity separation from his fastball. He doesn't have a history of providing consistent strikes, losing control when he rushes his delivery, though he did seem to make progress by totaling four walks in his final seven Triple-A starts. Assuming a normal recovery from Tommy John surgery, he should be able to get back on the path to becoming a frontline starter, though there are some scouts who wonder if he might wind up as a power closer.(Spring 2020)
The velocity was amplified by improved command achieved through a more repeatable delivery. (Spring, 2020)
Michael's heater, which not only comes in with high-octane velocity but finishes across the plate with exceptional late life. The pitch is reminiscent of Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel’s fastball.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 62.5% of the time, his Change 9.7%; and Slider 27.7% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 95.7 mph, Change 88.9, and Slider 81.1 mph.
2019 and 2020 Season Pitch Usage: Did not pitch.
Michael is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, that is long, lean and wiry, with broad shoulders, a tapered chest and long torso that lead to long, slender legs.
With long blond hair and a power arm, Kopech is compared with Noah Syndergaard.
“I’ve heard that (comparison) before, and I’m a fan of his,” said Kopech, a Texas prep and 2014 first-round pick. “I like his style. I like that he gets after it in the weight room.
“It’s hard not to compare a 6-foot-4, long-blond-hair, hard-throwing pitcher to another one. There’s not many of us.”
Kopech has a unique, max-effort delivery, kind of Jered Weaver-like. And with considerable flexibility throughout. Working from the far first-base side of the rubber, he has a high leg kick up to his shoulders, similar to Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman, and a pronounced hip turn that he eliminated in 2015. He throws across his body, but streamlined it and his momentum is toward the plate.
He is a loose flexible athlete with very impressive arm speed. And he repeats his mechanics, even though his long arms and legs provide more checkpoints. It costs him command on some outings.
His delivery is very rotational and has considerable east-west action, which creates deception. However, this rotation-heavy delivery is high maintenance and can be tough to repeat. He also has rigidity to the front side of his delivery.
He comes at hitters from a three-quarters arm slot.
"There's some wildness and there’s craziness in his delivery, but there’s enough athleticism to figure it out,” one scout said.
By 2015, Kopech had learned that there is more to life (and a good fastball) than velocity.
“I’m not just trying to go out there and blow it by people right now,” said Kopech, 19. “That doesn’t really work anymore. It’s trying to be effective, work to my strengths a little bit, get ahead in counts. Really that’s what the fastball is for.
"I don’t know if (throwing 100 mph) is still a goal. I think it would be cool—don’t get me wrong."
And he has fired more than a few 100 mph heaters, so far. But even at 95 mph, he gets a lot of swing and misses. Now, he has a better understanding of the process of getting hitters out. (June, 2015)
- Kopech has top-of-the-rotation potential.
July 13, 2016: A world record might have been tied during a high-A minor league baseball game in Salem, Virginia.
Michael Kopech, a 20-year-old pitcher threw a pitch clocked at 105 mph in his start, possibly tying what's believed to be the record for fastest pitch set by New York Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman (105.1 mph) when he was with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010. But the crazy thing about Kopech's pitch is that it happened in a start. Kopech pitched five strong frames for the high-A Salem Red Sox. (Sam Henken - ESPN)
Midway through the 2016 season, Michael sat down with Salem pitching coach Paul Abbott about furthering his development in the Carolina League, and it was during this meeting when the former big league pitcher gave Kopech a blueprint to follow as he continues to climb through the system and overcome past mistakes that could have cost him his dream.
"He's been really helpful this year kind of just telling me to put everything behind me," Kopech said. "That's the main thing I've been trying to do is one foot in front of the other and not looking back. "An improved changeup and slider helped Kopech post solid numbers in 2016.
"It's just trying to make everything come out the same way; trying to make everything look like a fastball out of the hand because that's what everybody expects when you throw hard -- they're sitting on a fastball," Kopech said. "It's really hard to sit on anything else against a guy throwing hard. That's actually been kind of a struggle for me because I know I can get away with three fastballs if I need it and have the confidence that not too many are going to hit that.
"But it's development at this level, so I'm mainly just trying to get the changeup to come out of my hand like a fastball—and that's been working well for me. And developing more of a power slider rather than the slurve I had last year. Mainly, it's just getting everything to look the same out of the hand so it's more deceiving."
Kopech reportedly hit 105 mph once and triple digits consistently. He struck out 14.7 per nine in 11 Carolina League starts and held hitters in that circuit to a .147 batting average.
January 2017: Baseball's most intimidating closer with a fastball consistently hitting triple digits has an equal in the form of Chicago White Sox prospect Michael Kopech, who recently hit 110 mph on the radar gun.
Kopech, the 33rd overall pick in 2014 by the Red Sox, was acquired in the deal that sent Chris Sale to Boston. Scouting reports indicate Kopech routinely fans batters with a fastball topping 100.Kopech touched light speeds without the benefit of a mound. He did get somewhat of an outfielder's running start with a crow hop, but nonetheless impressive. (Brad Crawford - 247 Sports - 1/20/2017)
Baseball America's Josh Norris was asked what Kopech needs to do, entering the 2018 campaign.
"He needs to develop better command inside the zone, work on keeping his delivery consistent, further refine his changeup, and continue to work on not overthrowing. Part of the reason they gave Kopech a two-seamer was to help him learn that he could be effective without throwing every pitch with max-effort."
Take one scout’s looks at righthander Michael Kopech in 2015, in his first taste of full-season ball. In three starts for low Class A Greenville from April to June he saw a pitcher who gave him three markedly different looks. Development was happening, and it was altering his report.
“I saw Michael Kopech pitch three times, and each time he was a different guy. First time I saw him in Hagerstown and it was early May, and he sucked,” former pro scout Ryan Isaac said. “The stuff was good, but it was all over the place. If you’re going to walk away from that, you’re a (bad) scout. You’re just not doing your job. You’re not listening to what the (radar) gun is telling you.”
A few weeks later, things had changed. It was clear the Red Sox had seen something with their young flamethrower that needed refinement and had taken steps to address the issues in the meantime.
“Second start he was stretch-only, so, without talking to anyone in the Red Sox organization, I can say they’re simplifying things for him. His delivery was way out of control, and I put that in my first report,” Isaac said. “That allowed me to project a little. They’ve got to get this guy on-line. He’s athletic enough to do it. His arm is plenty live. He just needs to work on his direction to the plate.”
By the time Isaac saw Kopech the third time, the pitcher had been allowed to pitch from the windup again. The athleticism and dynamic repertoire that had contributed to his lofty prospect status were there all three times, but he also showed the aptitude and ability to make changes without sacrificing any of his natural gifts.
“What encouraged me after the second start was there was a change. There was a developmental adjustment made. He was no longer in the windup, because the Red Sox recognized that this guy is not capable of throwing consistent strikes with his current delivery,” Isaac said. “Whatever the plan was, it involved taking him out of his delivery and getting him out of the stretch, stretch only, to simplify getting the ball to the dish.
2018 MLB Pipeline's best slider: Kopech backs up an electric fastball with a nasty breaking pitch. He gets two-plane break on a slider that sits in the mid-80s and approaches 90 mph.
Feb 5, 2019: White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech, ranked as the No. 18 prospect overall and the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, participated in his first throwing session since undergoing Tommy John surgery last September, 2018. The session took place at the team's Spring Training facility in Glendale, Ariz. "Today's like that milestone, that first little hurdle to jump before everything kind of starts to take off," Kopech said in a video of the throwing session provided by the White Sox. "Ultimately a year from now, I know that I'm going to be better because of all these minor tweaks. "These tweaks are going to be what makes me the type of pitcher I want to become in the future, which is top-of-the-rotation caliber and a pitcher that helps us win a World Series."
Kopech, 22, made four starts for the White Sox after being called up from Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 5.02 ERA with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 14 1/3 innings. He allowed four home runs and seven runs over 3 1/3 innings at home against the Tigers on Sept. 5, and it was two days later when general manager Rick Hahn announced Kopech sustained a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and he would be lost for the 2019 season following surgery.
Hahn pointed to boredom as the biggest challenge Kopech will face as he works his way back this season. But Kopech seems to be on the right path and a good path in the recovery. "I'm feeling good," Kopech said at SoxFest. "I've put myself in a good position with the rehab I've done down there in Arizona and in L.A. this offseason. I'm in about as good of a position as I can be. "I mean, I'm going to get to watch these guys go out there and compete, and it's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be tough to sit back and not participate, but I'm going to be the biggest cheerleader there is."
White Sox righthander Michael Kopech, ranked as the No. 18 prospect overall and the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, participated in his first throwing session since undergoing Tommy John surgery last September.
The session took place at the team's Spring Training facility in Glendale, Ariz.
"Today's like that milestone, that first little hurdle to jump before everything kind of starts to take off," Kopech said in a video of the throwing session provided by the White Sox. "Ultimately a year from now, I know that I'm going to be better because of all these minor tweaks.
"These tweaks are going to be what makes me the type of pitcher I want to become in the future, which is top-of-the-rotation caliber and a pitcher that helps us win a World Series."
Kopech, 22, made four starts for the White Sox after being called up from Triple-A Charlotte last season, posting a 5.02 ERA with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 14 1/3 innings. He allowed four home runs and seven runs over 3 1/3 innings at home against the Tigers on Sept. 5, and it was two days later when general manager Rick Hahn announced Kopech sustained a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and he would be lost for the 2019 season following surgery.
Hahn pointed to boredom as the biggest challenge Kopech will face as he works his way back this season. But Kopech seems to be on the right path and a good path in the recovery.
"I'm feeling good," Kopech said at SoxFest. "I've put myself in a good position with the rehab I've done down there in Arizona and in L.A. this offseason. I'm in about as good of a position as I can be.
"I mean, I'm going to get to watch these guys go out there and compete, and it's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be tough to sit back and not participate, but I'm going to be the biggest cheerleader there is."
Jan. 14, 2020: Kopech was named one of the top 10 MLB pitching prospects entering the season. Kopech regularly operates in the upper 90s and pushes into triple-digit territory with late run that makes his fastball even more difficult to hit, though Kopech did miss all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery. Kopech reached 105 during a 2017 start in high Class A. Kopech has a well above-average slider on a consistent basis. His sits in the upper 80s with two-plane break, and it was his best offering during his brief big league debut in 2018.
2020 Season: It looked like Kopech would be back in 2020 during Spring Training. He was really good in his one appearance before COVID-19 shut them down. He opted out of the 60 game season.
2021 Season: After missing the last two seasons, it was great to see Michael Kopech in a White Sox uniform in 2021. His season started great as Kopech flashed his potential on several occasions leading to the thought of more incredible things to come. However, a hamstring injury knocked him out for a month, and his stuff suffered. After two lost seasons, he pitched out of the South Side bullpen in 2021, sometimes with spectacular results (a 1.53 ERA in 18 first-half outings) and sometimes with less-than-spectacular ones (a 5.56 ERA after the All-Star break). All told, he logged 69.1 innings, with his last two performances of 2021 a pair of postseason efforts against the Houston Astros that saw him yield a combined six runs.
- As of the start of the 2022 season, Michael had a 5-4 career record, a 3.76 ERA having allowed 13 home runs and 74 hits in 83 innings and 118 strike outs.
- 2022 Season: 25 G, 119.1 IP, 21.3% K, 11.5% BB, 15 HR, 3.54 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 2.2 bWAR, 1.0 fWAR
Kopech got pretty close to 120 innings, which is right around where it felt like he might sit coming into this season. Through the season’s first two months, Kopech was virtually untouchable, but injuries and (likely) fatigue started to get to him as the season wore on. His fastball velocity fluctuated a great deal from start to start and noticeably dropped from the 95-96 mph range he averaged when he was at his best. Still, this is as predictably uneven as the experiement was going to be. It’s a step forward, and hopefully something he can build on after recovering from knee surgery. (PATRICK NOLAN - OCTOBER 19, 2022)
March 7-July 12, 2016: Kopech had another abbreviated season after fracturing his right (throwing) hand in an altercation with his Spring Training roommate.
Red Sox GM Mike Hazen confirmed media reports that Kopech broke his pitching hand in an altercation with his roommate.
“It’s very disappointing. It was stupid,” Hazen told reporters. “He’s going to have to grow up, obviously, with the things that have happened so far. He’s got a long road to go to get to the big leagues. Right now we’re unsure exactly how much time Kopech will miss. There’s a wide range of time-frames depending on what we have to do.”
What was required was the insertion of a screw into his right hand as a result of a fracture suffered in a spring fight with a teammate. He won’t be able to throw until late April, at least.
Sept 8-Oct 29, 2018: Kopech was on the DL with ulnar collateral ligament sprain in right elbow.
September 18, 2018: Michael underwent Tommy John surgery and he is back home recovering from a successful procedure. The operation was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Kopech is expected to make a full recovery in time to participate at Spring Training in 2020.
May 28-June 30, 2029: Kopech was on the IL with a strained left hammy.
June 25, 2021: Kopech threw a simulated game with hitters in the box pregame, marking a big step toward a big league return for the right-hander.
“Arm had that life. For not being on the mound and throwing to a catcher and a hitter, he had good command of all of his pitches,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “Had him do a little fielding and threw a couple of pickoffs, but he's making excellent progress.”
Aug. 23-Sept 7, 2022: Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech was placed on the 15-day IL, after feeling some discomfort behind his left knee.
Sept 17-Oct 6, 2022: Kopech was on the IL with right shoulder inflammation.
Sept 27, 2022: RHP Michael Kopech is shut down for the season. General manager Rick Hahn hinted at this situation, with the White Sox taking care of a baker’s cyst on Kopech’s right knee causing the right-hander problems. Hahn also said that Kopech’s right shoulder, which put him on the latest IL stint, has recovered nicely.
Oct 5, 2022: Kopech had the surgery recently to address an issue with the meniscus in his right knee. He rejoined the team on Oct. 1 in San Diego and is expected to be ready for Spring Training without limitation. That meniscus injury was related to a cyst problem near his knee, leaving him pitching at less than full strength.