The dip in velocity from his last start makes a lot more sense now…
Michael Kopech needs Tommy John Surgery. The announcement came around mid-afternoon on Twitter:
You could see the disappointment in Kopech’s face as he was interviewed by the media. He’s been electric and exciting since he’s come up, and it’s awful we won’t get to see this for a little while. But the point of this article is not to sulk with a “Woe is Us” attitude.
We’ve had a night to digest this news so let’s get a grip and look at what this all means:
What Does This Mean for Michael Kopech
Michael Kopech isn’t the first one to go through this surgery. You might recognize some of the names: Jacob DeGrom, Walker Buehler, Alex Cobb, Patrick Corbin, Yu Darvish, Nathan Eovaldi, Max Fried, oh, and Dylan Cease (you know, the MiLB Pitcher of the Year) and Lucas Giolito. Now, sure, for every success story there are plenty of failures. However, what’s the common ground amongst all the pitchers I listed above? They were all vastly talented before their injury too.
Both Steve Stone and Bill Melton highlighted an important fact: this surgery is not likely to impact Kopech’s velocity. Changes in velocity are highlighted by shoulder problems. However, what is likely is that Michael Kopech may need some time to re-invent himself as a pitcher. He’s going to have to learn to not throw 100% of the time to help some of the stress he puts on his elbow. He can still be lights out, but he has to be prepared for himself not to be. He will come back from this injury, and he still will have the talent, work ethic, and mental make up to be a Major League Pitcher. The only question will be what type of pitcher he will become. You can be an ace without throwing 100 mph. Hopefully he can come back stronger than when we last saw him.
What Does This Mean for the White Sox Rebuild
Is the rebuild over?!?! THE REBUILD IS OVER!!! IT FAILED!!! WIN NOW, RELOAD!! TRADE THE FARM RICK, TRADE THE FARM!!! GET ME JAY BRUCE, BARTOLO COLON, EVERYONE!!! BRING BACK THE 2005 SQUAD!!!
Alrighty, glad we got that out of our systems.
Bernie is right in a way, but he is also wrong in a way. There is no guarantee that Michael Kopech 2.0 will be as good as the original. However, this is far from a big blow to the rebuilding efforts of the team. Rick Hahn has talked about the importance of farm system depth since he began this process. We’ve now seen that importance a few too many times this year (Burdi, Burger, Kopech… you get the point). The best way to approach this: Next Man Up.
The door has been opened up for many names now that were shoved to the back burner by guys like Kopech and Cease. The spotlight should shift to guys like Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens, or even Dylan Covey. A door has been opened for them throughout this coming year – it’s time to make an impact. Fulmer has to find himself – this offseason and next Spring Training are HUGE for him. Jordan Stephens has come close to cracking the bubble, but has fallen just short. His time could be around the corner with a good Spring. Dylan Covey has shown flashes of brilliance. He has a chance to show if he can put it all together. Championship teams find value in places that it seems unlikely for it to be found. It’s time for the White Sox to do just that.
This move also increases the possibility that James Shields returns next season, assuming there aren’t two starters in AAA who are ready for the MLB. Assuming the White Sox would not pick up James Shields’ $16M option, bringing back James Shields for another season wouldn’t be a bad thing – he pitched well this year and ate up innings. Plus, he would not be blocking anyone’s rotation spot in the process. It all depends on whether James Shields wants to try and sign with a contender as his retirement looms.
The White Sox could also consider signing another low-risk, high-reward starter on the free agent market – guys like Tyson Ross and Nathan Eovaldi come to mind. The Sox could also put in an offer for Kershaw (if he opts out) or Patrick Corbin if they are determined to get a long-term arm into the rotation for next year. However, this plan of attack seems far less likely, as the White Sox will most likely be focusing their free agent dollars on the offensive side of the market. Either way, Kopech’s injury leaves the White Sox with some things to consider about their 2019 rotation.
As many people have mentioned as well, if Michael Kopech HAD to get injured, this was a good time for it to happen. This team isn’t meant to compete until 2020, and given that it will take a few months for Kopech to be fully himself, he will be prepared to be an important piece of the rotation when the team is ready. The window opens in 2020; it doesn’t close.
What This Means for White Sox Fans
This stinks, we all know it. We’ve seen our fellow White Sox lovers react on Twitter, and it has been nothing but negative (except for WhiteSoxDave, who kindly helped rally the troops last night on Instagram). However, as the Director of Morale, I want to continue to challenge White Sox fans to stay confident and weather the storm.
What can we do as fans? First, recognize that this rebuild is not over. It’s not even set back. If people were placing the weight of this entire rebuild on the weight of Michael Kopech’s shoulders, then they were making the same mistake that many did when they placed the weight of this rebuild on Yoan Moncada. This is a team game, and thus requires a team effort. Everyone will have to contribute for this to work, even those who you might not consider to be “as important” as Yoan Moncada or Michael Kopech. That’s why “winning now” never worked: after Sale, Q, and Eaton, no one else was contributing. It’s a 25-man game.
Second, and just as importantly, take this time to focus on some other prospects who are doing some GREAT things in the minors. Laz Rivera, Bryce Bush, Jordan Stephens, Luis Gonzalez, Alex Call, Joel Booker….. that list should get you started. Part of seeing why this rebuild can work is looking beyond the headlines in the news and seeing the same two names over and over again: Kopech and Eloy. Who was thinking about Daniel Palka before he came up? Or whoever expected Jace Fry to be a stud after he flopped so drastically in 2017? Yet, if you look deeper into the farm system, you can continually see flickers of hope. Those should be what gets you through these dark days.
Michael Kopech’s injury is absolutely brutal. I’d never wish this on any player on any team. I hope the rest of Sox Nation feels the same way. This rebuild was never going to be an easy process – and this certainly doesn’t make it easier. However, the worst thing Sox fans can do right now is give up. Look at what happened when Abreu got hurt – guys stepped up and made an impact. New guys have a chance to do the same thing here.
I know nothing good seems to last on the South Side, but the reality is nothing comes easy in baseball. That’s the beauty of the game. It makes you appreciate the good times when they finally come. And they will come.
So snap out of it, pick your fellow fan up, stick with this process together, and Don’t Stop Believin’.