When the White Sox made the trade that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, fans were hurt. It was the end of a flame-throwing era on the Southside that Sox fans got up for every fifth day regardless of the standings. It was Chris Sale day and Sox fans knew win or lose the pitching from then Sox ace would be electric. Sale would lead the league in strikeouts in 2015 and dominate opponents with high heat and a backfoot slider that many considered to be the nastiest in baseball.
That all changed on December 6th, 2016. The White Sox sent ace Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for their top position player in Yoan Moncada and their top pitching prospect in Michael Kopech. Outfielder Luis Basabe and pitching prospect Victor Diaz. At the time of the trade, Moncada was the number one prospect in all of baseball and Kopech was the fifth ranked prospect in the Red Sox orginization.
When the Red Sox made the trade many White Sox fans did not know who Kopech was. Moncada was the catch in the deal for White Sox fans and a good one at that. Moncada has been solid for the White Sox since coming over but Sox fans want and expect more from him going forward. Let us all hope that comes to fruition.
On August 21st, 2018 Michael Kopech made his major league debut on the Southside of Chicago in electric fashion. For the first time since Chris Sale was traded away, White Sox fans felt like they had a legitimate ace on the mound. Kopech"s debut was sortened by inclement weather that night and he only threw two innnings striking out four including Joe Mauer on high fastball at 98 mph, and scattering three hits.
Unfortunately, on September 18th, 2018 Kopech would undergo Tommy John surgery as many young hard-throwing pitchers do.
Kopech was expected to be fully healthy and ready to roll for spring training heading into the 2020 season and then the pandemic hit. Kopech decided to sit-out the 2020 season which had many Sox fans questioning Kopech"s dedication to the team and the game. While the specualtion would fly about Kopech"s dedication to the sport we all love in retrospect, Kopech was coming off of Tommy John surgery and would have a shortened spring training to prepare for what was a sixty game sprint to the postseason. Kopech was not comfortable with that timetable being placed on him and his recovery based on the fact that he was just so young and did not want to risk re-injuring himself with a short sprint of a season. Kopech was playing the long game and Sox fans today should be glad he did.
Kopech was back in the saddle in 2021 and ready to pitch however the Sox felt they needed him. That particular role turned out to be in the bullpen with the likes of Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease cemented in the starting rotation along side Lucas Gioltio, Lance Lynn, and Dallas Keuchel. This was a much softer easier way to bring Michael along during the 2021 campaign requiring shorter outings and ramping him up slightly as the year went on. Kopech was solid out of the bullpen for the White Sox in 2021 and actually became quite the weapon to roll out and either pump the brakes on a rally, or lockdown an inning or two when the Sox were holding a slim lead. He finsihed his 2021 season with 69.1 innings pitched, a 3.50 earned run average, and strking out 103 batters. While Kopech was good in his role out of the pen in 2021, things may change in 2022.
The White Sox have been adament on their view of Kopech as a starter. They have never waivered from that stance, nor should they. Kopech has always been a starter and deserves a shot at the rotation. With the Sox not extending a qualifying offer to Carlos Rodon this year and Dallas Keuchel coming off the worst season of his career in 2021, the Sox need Kopech to be great in 2022 as a starter.
They should ease him into this role once the season starts, pending the lockout and not ramp him straight into seven inning appearances. While they could still re-sign Rodon, that seems unlikey and they will need an arm to fill his void left in the rotation. Enter, Michael Kopech. With huge shoes to fill based on Rodon"s 2021 campaign, the Sox should look to add depth in the bullpen and possibly a back end starter as an insurance policy against another horrible year from Keuchel or heaven forbid, another injury to yet another starter. Kopech should open the season as possibly the 4th or 5th man in what should be a pretty solid rotation including Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, and Dallas Keuchel. If Keuchel can have a bounceback year and Kopech can emegre as even a decent starter, the Sox rotation should be good enough to defend their American League Central title.
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