Michael Kopech Could Be The Key

CHICAGO—The White Sox held out for the best possible package of young talent for Chris Sale—and their patience paid off.

Chicago received four top prospects from the Red Sox in the two clubs’ Winter Meetings exchange. Second baseman Yoan Moncada could make an impact in 2017, and the organization is high on outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and righthanded reliever Victor Diaz.

In time, 20-year-old righthander Michael Kopech might emerge as the key piece.

“He’s an extreme competitor,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “You can see that from the physicality in his mound presence. His stuff is obvious with his plus-plus fastball and his slider. We project him out about as well as just about any minor league starter out there.”

Kopech went 4-1, 2.25 in 11 starts at high Class A Salem in 2016 while striking out 14.2 per nine innings. Armed with a fastball that regularly hits 100 mph, he capped his season with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, where he recorded a 2.01 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 22.1 innings.

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 comes to the White Sox with baggage. In 2015 he was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Last year in spring training he broke his pitching hand during a fight with a Red Sox teammate.

“We got comfortable with . . . the back story behind him,” Hahn said. “There is still a fair amount of development left for him, given the missed time and where he finished the season, but he did perform extremely well in the Arizona Fall League, which sort of reinforced our projections.”


The White Sox selected righthander Dylan Covey from the Athletics in the major league Rule 5 draft. He went 2-1, 1.84 in six starts at Double-A Midland in an injury-abbreviated season. He will compete for a bullpen spot.

Chicago sold righthanders Tyler Barnette to the Padres and James Dykstra to the Rangers.

— Scot Gregor covers the White Sox for the Daily Herald

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