Cactus League Game 4: Felix v. Kopech
M’s at White Sox
KING FELIX v. Michael Kopech, 12:10pm
A very happy Felix Day to all of you.
We’ve had the novelty of live baseball on the radio, and we’ve explored the some of the lower-tier roster battles that make up the meager drama that this spring can gin up. Today, though…today, we get something interesting, and a game that most baseball fans would tune in to if they could (seriously, still no TV?). King Felix takes the mound for the first time, showing off what a few months of training hard than he’s ever trained before can do. Opposing him is one of the crown jewels in the re-made White Sox farm system, and one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the minors last year, right up there with M’s reliever Thyago Vieira. Michael Kopech was a Red Sox prospect who garnered a lot of attention for throwing 100 and being a much more advanced pitcher than seemed fair. In high A last year, Kopech made 11 starts, spanning 52 innings, yielding just 25 hits and whiffing 82. That’s someone who needs a new challenge. Like Vieira, he was pushed to the Arizona Fall League, where he averaged 98.4 MPH on his four-seam. Yes, that’s a tick or two slower than Vieira, but remember: Kopech’s a starter.
The White Sox acquired him in the big Chris Sale deal, and if you’d heard of him before then, it was probably due to the story circulating that he hit 105 MPH with a pitch in the Carolina league. He’s also now in an organization that’s shown a remarkable ability to reduce pitcher attrition and DL trips. He’s still just 20 and hasn’t hit AA yet, but he’s certainly someone to watch.
So why’s he ranked “just” the 36th best prospect by BP? Two things: first, he has a tendency to walk people. It’s not dire, but he doesn’t have pinpoint command, and that runs his pitch counts up. Second, and much more importantly, many scouts and observers have him ticketed for the bullpen. That’s why this year’s so important. If he can shoulder a starter’s workload this year (his career high in IP came this year, at just 78), and if the Sox keep him healthy, he’s got a good shot at shooting up the rankings for next year. The Sox picked up a number of high-ceiling arms, including top 10 arm Lucas Giolito, but Kopech may end the year as the biggest “get” in the Sox rebuild.
The game’s in Glendale, which means there won’t be an pitch fx. However, it IS a Trackman ballpark, so hopefully that gets pushed to Gameday, and that the broadcasters can give us some information about how hard Felix and Kopech are throwing.
1: Gamel, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Vogelbach, 1B
6: Haniger, RF
7: Ruiz, C
8: Heredia, LF
9: O’Malley, 3B
SP: KING FELIX
Sooooo, Yovani Gallardo…. how about that?
Dylan Unsworth is in the clubhouse for this one, along with fellow non-40-man guys Andrew Moore, Jean Machi and UW product Braden Bishop.