Kopech hit 105 MPH with his fastball in his last start
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The answer to the Red Sox starting rotation problems might be in Salem. The Red Sox 2nd best pitching prospect and 5th overall prospect, Michael Kopech has been pitching lights out in Single A+ ball.
The 20 year old made headlines across the country when he hit 105 MPH on the radar gun during his last start. Yes you read that right. He touched 105 MPH with his fastball. The fastest pitch ever recorded in the majors was Aroldis Chapman at 105.1 MPH in 2010. Chapman again hit 105.1 against the Orioles last night, tying his own record. Salem's manager, Joe Oliver, was even shocked about Kopech hitting 105.
“I’ve never seen it before,” said Oliver. “When we were doing the reports last night, we had to double-check, but there was another gun that had that reading. You knew he was throwing firm. With the naked eye, you can’t tell the difference between 100, 101, and 105. It’s coming pretty quick.”
“I put my glasses on, because when they start putting three digits in those little boxes, they get hard to read,” added pitching coach Paul Abbott. “He hit 103 a couple times the last start. . . . Matt Kent, a pitcher, and I did the chart. I looked at it and went, ‘Man, is that really a 5?’ I went and asked somebody, ‘105?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, and it wasn’t just my gun. Others had it, too.’ ”
Kopech was drafted in the first round in 2014 out of Mount Pleasant High School in Texas. Since then he has spent time in Greenville, Lowell and now is pitching in Salem. He has a prototypical pitcher's frame as he stand at 6-3 and weighs 195 lbs. SoxProspects.com describe his mechanics as,
Throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a high leg lift. Live, loose arm. Plus arm speed. High effort delivery that has already improved since high school. Jerky mechanics. Turns at the waist prior to coming forward, but the turn is less pronounced than it once was. Long arm action behind. Stiff front side and lands off-balance, hard to the first base side. Could have issues repeating delivery in longer outings.
Kopech's fastball is one of the four pitches he offers. He also throws a slider, changeup and curveball. His fastball is consistently explosive and hits 94-98 MPH. It apparently tops out at 105, but control is an issue. His slider has potential to be very good. It can consistently reach 85 MPH and tops out around 89. It could one day be his swing and miss pitch. His changeup will reach the 85-88 MPH zone. If Kopech can improve his consistency it can develop into a nice third option for him. His curveball tops out around 83 MPH. The Red Sox have asked him to drop the pitch and focus on his other three, we will monitor what happens there.
In his four games in Salem, Kopech has been outstanding. Besides hitting 105 on the radar gun, he's surrendered just one earned run in 18.1 innings. He's struck out thirty-one batters in that time. Opponents have only have twelve hits against Kopech, and he struck out a career high nine batters (five innings) last night vs Potomac. He recorded seven of those strike outs though three innings and needed just seven pitches to record three outs in the 2nd inning. His only negative is he's allowed fourteen walks.
Through all the good with Kopech, common and control continue to haunt him. The fourteen walks need to be cut down. None of his pitches have above average command, maybe to do with some of his mechanical problems. If he figures things out and his delivery becomes more consistent, he could be a big part of this rotation in a few years. That fastball could do some damage in the majors. But if he struggles to throw strikes, he could see a future in the bullpen. His stuff could transfer into playing a late inning role.
Hopefully Kopech can figure his command and control problems out and become a factor on this team. It would be tough to watch another elite talent end up in the bullpen or not make the team. As of now, we can watch him dominate in Salem and hope to see improvements in his mechanics.
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