Michael Kopech has had a rough start to his career between a suspension for taking a prohibited substance and a serious hand injury suffered in a fight with a teammate.And for all that, he's stayed in top-100 prospects lists, at the top of the second tier of Boston's prospects outside of the insane top-four, and now seems likely to be headed upwards because oh my God what:
Kopech's 105 mph pitch last night was recorded by multiple radar guns in stands. Not a stadium gun reading. https://t.co/YlwV0XHvMC— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) July 14, 2016
This is not the first we've heard of Kopech throwing insane heat. We knew he could hit the upper-90s without too much trouble, and in his previous start he'd reportedly hit 101 at the end of an immaculate inning. It seemed like it might have just been a juiced gun at the time, but given what Baseball America reports...
Kopech sat at 98 mph last night, but he touched 100 mph and beyond on a regular basis. That's nothing new for a pitcher who sat at 100 mph in his high Class A debut for four innings at Carolina.
"We did have a reading of 105. We double-checked. Another gun beside ours had 105 as well," Salem manager Joe Oliver said.
...it's starting to look like this might just be what Kopech has become in his second year since being drafted.
It was just Kopech's third game back from injury (so he's very much still fresh in the middle of the year) and certainly his best start. He still hasn't allowed a run in any his three outings between Salem and Lowell, but this is the first time he avoided the walk as well, giving up just one while striking out eight.
Generally, High-A is around the point where simple velocity alone isn't enough to beat hitters, though Double-A is the point where there's little question. But when you're talking about 105, a lot of the typical rules of progression go out the window. You throw that fast, and simply showing the ability to hit the strike zone on occasion might even be enough to make you a major league success.
Whether Kopech can maintain this kind of insane heat remains to be seen, and seems pretty unlikely as a starting pitcher. But if he's a guy who sits in the upper-90s as a starter and 100+ as a reliever, he's going to have to have some serious problems to not be a productive arm. He'll probably stick in Salem for the rest of 2016 given his late start, but if he handles the bump up to Portland without much trouble, we might even see him in Fenway before 2018.