With the season starting in just a few months and pitchers and catchers reporting on February 15th for the White Sox, the time is nearly upon us for baseball. The starting rotation looks to be set on paper and truthfully should be a strength for the 2023 version of the squad. Among those starters is right-handed fireballer Michael Kopech. Kopech had surgery in late September to repair an ailing right knee which bothered him throughout most of 2022. While reports say Kopech’s rehab is technically behind schedule, White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz says Kopech should be full go by the start of spring training. What do the Sox expect from Kopech in 2023 and what do they need from him to be successful?
Michael Kopech Health
Above all else, the Sox need availability from Kopech. While the same could be said for the entire Sox roster with the front office adding little depth this offseason, their starting rotation has two of their five starters heading into 2023 with huge question marks regarding their respective health. Kopech’s innings limitations and knee problems limited him to just 119.1 innings pitched over 25 starts in 2022. In comparison, Dylan Cease, the White Sox ace, threw 184.0 innings last year.
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While some say that is an unfair comparison, and maybe it is, the Sox need 150 innings or more from Kopech to be successful in 2023. With Clevinger surely to hit the injured list at some point in 23′ along with Lance Lynn who turns 36 in May, the White Sox cannot afford a lengthy IL stint for Kopech.
As previously stated, Michael Kopech threw only 119.1 innings in 2022. With the 2022 season being a year the Sox were limiting his innings regardless of performance, Kopech’s health, and frequently deep counts with high pitch counts early in games, Kopech likely limited himself from throwing 150.0 plus innings. If the Sox are to play deep into October, Kopech needs to shrink the pitch counts, pitch to contact occasionally, and get deeper than the 5th more frequently.
While starters stretching into the seventh and eighth innings is somewhat a thing of the past, getting into and usually through the sixth would be ideal for Kopech and the White Sox. With the loss of Liam Hendriks for the foreseeable future, taking a load off of the bullpen whenever possible is paramount for the Sox.
While Michael Kopech’s ERA in 2022 wasn’t bad at 3.54 over 119 innings, that number is slightly deceiving. A 105 / 57 strikeout to walk ratio proves Kopech lacks control at times. If Kopech can locate that electric fastball up and down in the zone his slider and occasional curveball are plenty good enough to wipe out even the best hitters in baseball. Watching Kopech mow down hitters with the high fastball is always pleasing as well. A little fine tuning over his hopefully fully healthy spring could keep him in the zone especially early in counts where he can work ahead and expand hitters strike zones helping retire hitters with fewer pitches.
If Kopech can stay healthy and gain control, expect great things from him in 2023. If not, things could change quickly on the Southside as early as July says James Fox of SoxMachine and FutureSox. You can follow him on twitter @JamesFox917.
With a healthy Kopech and Clevinger the White Sox starting rotation should look like this opening day.
- Dylan Cease
- Lance Lynn
- Lucas Giolito
- Michael Kopech
- Mike Clevinger
On paper, this could be an elite rotation. Dylan Cease should once again compete for and American League Cy Young. A healthy Lance Lynn should be great again and provide veteran leadership as he usually does.. Expect a huge bounce back from Lucas Giolito in a massive year for him personally. If Kopech and Clevinger can be good on the back end of the rotation while remaining healthy, look out Cleveland. While there is not a ton of depth behind these five, (Davis Martin would be starter #6) if they can stay healthy and effective, the White Sox could be extremely dangerous.
Bullpen pieces like Jimmy Lambert, a returning Garrett Crochet, Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, and possible closer Reynaldo Lopez will need to step up in the abscence of Liam Hendriks. The Sox should do more to solidify their pitching staff heading into 2023, but then again the belief amongst White Sox fans is the money has been spent.
Let us know your predictions for the White Sox rotation in the comments below!
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