Michael Kopech is striking out 14 batters per nine innings in double-A ball this season for the Birmingham Barons. Chris Sale is striking out just under 13 batter per nine innings at the highest level for the Red Sox. The difference between the two, besides the levels of play, is the fact that Kopech is almost as likely to walk you as strike you out while Sale is barely averaging a walk per start.
We know what kind of arm Kopech has. If he were to get the call up tomorrow he’d already be one of the hardest throwers in the game. But that’s just what he is right now: a thrower. He can strike out a billion batters this season but if he’s walking a guy per inning it won’t matter.
It’s not unusual for a pitcher born in 1996 to have control issues. Some seasoning in the minors can easily help Kopech throw more strikes which will make his electric pitches even more deadly. However, he needs much more than a slight improvement in the control department to make his hay as a starting pitcher in the Bigs.
The comp everyone jumps to with Kopech is Noah Syndergaard. Now challenging Clayton Kershaw for the title of most dominating pitcher in the game, Syndergaard never had the outlandish control issues that Kopech does. While in the minors Thor hovered around 2-3 walks per nine innings. After four starts in 2017, Kopech is at seven walks per nine. That’s too many. That may be indicative of a bullpen arm rather than a top of the rotation starter.