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2016 Red Sox top prospect voting: Michael Kopech takes 5th on half a season

Michael Kopech had a great start to his season, but it ended on an unfortunate note indeed. Still, it's enough to earn him the fifth spot in our top-20.

Kelly O'Connor

It was all going so well for Michael Kopech. After landing a $1.5 million signing bonus from the Red Sox as the team's compensatory pick for losing Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees, what was supposed to be Kopech's first full season was turning heads. He'd breezed through the first half with a 2.63 ERA, striking out more than a batter an inning. Yes, there were more walks than you'd like, but that's pretty par for the course for fresh-out-of-high-school pitchers in Single-A. Remember how young Rafael Devers was for his level? Kopech only has six months on him.

And then came then news. On July 16th, it was announced that Kopech had made his final start of the year. The reason? A positive test for the banned amphetamine Oxilofrine. Kopech claimed innocence, if only in knowing what he was taking, but it's an unfortunate ending to what had been a very positive start to his career.

He'll be able to get back into the swing of things come 2016, and given his success at Greenville, can probably expect to start the year in Salem even after missing the second half of the season. Given where he was taken in the draft, Kopech's performance was not exactly a surprise, making it hard to imagine much if any of his performance was the result of the Oxilofrine. But he'll still have to prove himself again, this time clean, and work hard to put this unfortunate incident in his past.

The Red Sox, for their part, would probably prefer this happen now rather than once he's under the harsh scrutiny that faces major leaguers. With a fastball that touches triple digits he'll almost certainly make it to the top level whether it's in the rotation or out of the bullpen. But whether Kopech did or didn't know what he was taking, a positive test like this will likely make him step very carefully with anything he takes in the future. This incident will be forgotten in ten years if he's pitching well. But if it came in the majors, or if he winds up with a second black mark on his record, it's hard to move past that.

Onto number six! Voting with recs in the comments as usual. I think by now you all know the drill.

Vote away!