Lefthander Ronan Kopp stands out even in a Dodgers’ system loaded with pitching prospects.
Size is part of it. Kopp is listed at 6-foot-7, 250 pounds. But another number has Kopp catching attention. The 20-year-old posted a 2.74 ERA and struck out 108 batters in 62.1 innings last season, all but a few of them for Low-A Rancho Cucamonga.
“An incredibly successful year, probably one of the biggest developmental stories of the year,” said Dodgers farm director Will Rhymes, who added that Kopp was flashing high-90s velocity and throwing strikes at 2021 instructional league.
“So we saw a ton of potential, and I would say he exceeded every expectation.”
Kopp’s potential was masked somewhat by the pandemic, but the Dodgers were familiar with the Phoenix-area product and drafted him in 12th round in 2021 out of South Mountain (Ariz.) JC after he posted a 1.46 ERA in the MLB Draft League.
Rhymes describes Kopp as “a sneaky good athlete for his size, and there’s a ton of deception to his throw.” So much so that Kopp’s high school coach, Tim Salmon, compared him with Madison Bumgarner.
“He’s not quite as crossfire as Bumgarner,” Rhymes said, “but I think in some ways he’s just as deceptive, and his velocity is really high. So I can see the comp. There just aren’t that many lefties as physical as he is with as good a fastball.”
As with many tall pitchers, syncing his delivery and improving his control is Kopp’s biggest challenge. He walked 6.2 per nine innings last season.
“You can go down the list of lefties who struggled with their command early in their careers and then reined it in over time,” Rhymes said. “I expect that to be a theme. But it is something that he has to improve.”
“This is one to keep an eye on, especially if you consider his age. There are very few peers as far as his age and the strikeouts—Kyle Harrison, the Giants prospect—is one. But there really is no one else.
“(Kopp) really is kind of under the radar and shouldn’t be. He’s a really good prospect.”
— The Dodgers signed righthander Jake Pilarski to a minor league deal after two years pitching in the independent Frontier League. The 24-year-old went undrafted after pitching at Division III Virginia Wesleyan for four seasons and The Citadel in 2021. Pilarski posted a 5.00 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 95.1 innings over two seasons in the Frontier League. After working at Tread Athletics, Pilarski increased his fastball velocity to a top of 101.4 mph, according to their social media.
— Among the players with MLB service time signed to minor league contracts by the Dodgers this winter, James Jones is the most intriguing. Jones, now 34, made the majors as an outfielder with the Mariners in 2014 and 2015 and is now trying to make it back as a pitcher. The lefthanded reliever has a 4.48 ERA with 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings over the past six seasons, reaching Triple-A in each of the past two. Jones was a two-way player at Long Island University whom Seattle drafted as a position player in the fourth round in 2009.