First look at post-surgery Michael Kopech is a good one

Michael Kopech returned to the mound in front of people who could honestly tell us what he looked like with an instructional league appearance on Thursday, and he made short work crossing off one set of concerns by flashing his expected velocity.

Eric Longenhagen said Kopech’s first pitch clocked in at 99 mph, and Baseball Prospectus’ Steve Givarz said he sat 97-98 while touching 100 over 30 pitches and five outs, including this strikeout of No. 2 overall pick Bobby Witt Jr.

Seeing him throw at his old velocity just 12½ months after Tommy John surgery puts him on a different plane than Zack Burdi, who still hasn’t touched his Louisville heat in the two years since his procedure. There’s still plenty of work ahead — refining command, working deeper into games, making appearances on a reliable schedule — until Kopech is out of the woods, but imagine the responses if the video through the chain link fence showed him throwing 93.

If you can’t somehow fathom it, here’s Alec Hansen to provide an incredible simulation.

I’m guessing Hansen won’t require 40-man roster protection this winter.

* * * * * * * * *

While we’re mentally in Arizona, here’s a quick rundown of performances by White Sox prospect in the Arizona Fall League. It’s quick because you won’t want to spend much time thinking about ’em:

HittersPAXBHBBKAVG/OBP/SLG
Gavin Sheets28119.148/.179/.185
Blake Rutherford31358.192/.323/.375
Micker Adolfo261313.136/.269/.273


I suppose there’s some solace that the Glendale Desert Dogs have six other players batting under .200, including a 1-for-32 performance from Jonathan India, but the idea of a pitcher-friendly league evaporates when seeing what White Sox pitchers have posted so far.

PitchersGIPHHRBBKERA
Tyler Johnson 44.120310.00
Bernardo Flores38.1121366.48
Bennett Sousa43.260147.36
Vince Arobio45.162428.44


Flores has to dig himself out of a hole he created by giving up four runs over two-thirds of an inning in his AFL debut. He’s looked Flores-like in his two starts since, with all that entails. Johnson’s appearance in the AFL is more about logging innings and appearances, but it wouldn’t suck to see him miss bats, as he is one of the reliever prospects for whom the Sox have significant plans.

When you compare the hitters against the pitchers, it doesn’t surprise that Glendale has the AFL’s lowest team batting average (.205), OPS (.578) and run total (35 in 12 games) by fairly large margins.

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roke1960

How many do we now have on the 40-man?

Jason.Wade17

White Sox really shouldn’t be dropping major news during the post season.

zerobs

They haven’t yet.

asinwreck

Forevermore shall Charlie Tilson’s nickname be Major News.

karkovice squad

They literally broke Major News in his first start.

Checks out.

Neat_on_the_rocks

Cordell and Palka behind him wouldn’t bother me one bit.

PauliePaulie

Don’t stop now, boys!

Trooper Galactus

Well, that trade worked out for nobody. Except maybe Jerry, who pocketed Zach Duke’s remaining salary.

dwjm3

Welcome news on Kopech

egib52

The Sox really need to start picking some lanes. Go all in on free agency or development. Ideally its both, but if you look at the Astros and Dodgers there minors are replete with MLB contributors and trade capital. I am tired of seeing such high draft picks/ prospects floundering.

roke1960

If they want to be competitive in the next few years, then it has to be free agency that gets them there. Development would be needed to replace these free agents 3-4 years down the road. They must spend big this winter.

anthonyprinceton

It’s really about development and trades. Unless your payroll is north of $200m, it’s really hard to add that much value on the open market. Free Agency is fine for filling gaps here and there. One positive I have seen in this rebuild is that the prospects obtained from the Sale, Eaton and Quintana trades could realistically account for nearly a third of the 26 man roster by 2021, given that most have already made their MLB debuts with the exception of Basabe and Dunning. That’s good. Now it’s time for the high draft picks to hit like Madrigal and Vaughn. Fulmer looks like a bust and Rodon has to stay healthy for more than a few months at a time. Collins is a TBD, but at least he made the majors, while Burger hasn’t really started his pro career yet due to injury. Robert appears to be a very good international FA signing.

Like you said, it’s time to add a few veterans to compliment the young players this off season. The Machado fiasco last off season was an embarrassment but it might turn out to be a good thing for the Sox in the long run if his first season in San Diego is indicative going forward. As of a week or two ago the very early preliminary ZiPS projections from Fangraphs had the Sox near 80 wins for the 2020 season. It wouldn’t take that much more to compete for a playoff spot given the state of the AL Central.

karkovice squad

After so many injuries and disappointing performances in the minors, they don’t have enough standout talent behind Robert to deliver immediate, guaranteed returns in trade. They also don’t have the Rays’ analysts, researchers, and coaches to increase the likelihood of coming out on the right side of challenge trades.

They do have a massive delta between committed payroll and the salary suppression threshold.

Neat_on_the_rocks

The Twins plugged a few major holes in the roster with timely Free Agent signings last offseason and look what happened to them.

With Robert and Madrigal set to fill 2 holes, The Whitesox have 3 glaring holes and 2 smaller ones for 2020 currently. SP/RF/DH are glaring and RP/SP#2 are the smaller ones.

You plug those 3 glaring holes with average players and the Sox could be fringe playoff contenders. You plug 2 of those glaring holes with bonafide studs and they’re legit playoff contenders. Cole/Martinez/Bumgarner, for example, makes this team a legit playoff contender to start the season, in my opinion (That is a pipe dream, I know).

The TLDR is I believe the Sox are in a position to possible make major strides via a handful of free agency moves, right now

karkovice squad

I mean, development can happen in a single season. But they’d have to both commit the resources to it and execute it well. They’re also running low on high-ceiling talents like Giolito and Robert who could be expected to make big improvements. So it’s harder to predict both who would make a leap and how big it would be.

Free agency is where they’ll find the most certainty in the short-term.

PauliePaulie

Sustained success isn’t achieved through free agents.

roke1960

Of course it’s not. But we don’t have any kind of success right now. So free agency is needed to get us up to success, then improved development will get us to sustained success.

PauliePaulie

Successful teams reverse that order.

Trooper Galactus

Well, the Sox ain’t doing that any time soon.

karkovice squad

We’ve already established the Sox have failed at executing those models.

Also, when the league’s competing over everything except free agents, free agents become the new market inefficiency.

As Cirensica

Are you Steve Stone by any chance?

karkovice squad

It’s not an either/or. Except that the Sox have exhausted most of their existing non-cash resources and $150m in annual revenue is basically locked in as the floor for the near future.

PauliePaulie

Looking at how recent playoff teams are constructed, it absolutely is either/or.
If you believe this team has exhausted all non-cash resourses, they’e in deep trouble.

Sox have a bottom 10 TV deal and a bottom 10 attendance. Those teams traditionally play in the $110mil- $125mil payroll arena depending on playoff appearances.
$ saved the last 3 years could get them to $150mil short term. Adding multiple top tier FA;s to expected arb contracts will quickly devour that.

We know where each other stands on this. Have a great day, karko.

karkovice squad

Sox attendance and ratings historically track with wins, $ spent on payroll, and postseason appearances. They’re not numbers set in stone. They are also just above their effective floor. They saw a 10% boost in attendance this year just from 12% of their roster improving.

The Sox ownership also has a stake in their sports network. They benefit from the Bulls and Hawks, too. And their own better ratings mean more revenue from ads.

And they have 1 of the best existing stadium deals around.

All of that is also the small part of the pot compared to shared revenue sources. That’s why their revenue floor is $150m before even talking about prior year profit.

And solely chasing the last/current fad means you miss the next development.

But yes, they’re in deep trouble as far as sustainability goes. Absent changes to their M.O. we’re looking at a neither situation.

PauliePaulie

IMO- Due to the mass of players signing pre FA extensions and the post steroid era aging curve, I see no market ineffiency in FA’s as a reliable building block.

karkovice squad

You’re excessively fixated on the sustainable part so much that you’re missing that, except for extreme outliers like the Rays, $ spent correlate strongly to wins in the first place. That hasn’t changed in the new player development era.

Sure, a chunk of that spending is in trading for contracts like Stanton’s that were the product of extensions or were already signed in free agency instead of signing them directly. But the Sox don’t have that farm. And they haven’t developed the ability to successfully operate like the outliers.

PauliePaulie

“$ spent correlates strongly to wins” is a true statement.

Not all $ spent is equal.
We’re talking about “$ spent of FA’s” correlating to wins. And it’s a distant 3rd to $ spent on home grown talent and trade acquisitions.
“The Sox don’t have that farm.” They also don’t have the stomach to spend or the ability to convert on cost effective FA’s, when they have.
It’s odd to me that you point out a franchize deficeincy to poo poo one approach, while ignoring an equally concerning shortcoming when pushing for another.

karkovice squad

That the team needs a combination of new ownership or management can be read as a given. That’s unlikely to happen yet they’re still going to participate in the league next season and the seasons after.

It’s easy to reconcile the apparent contradiction. Winning now is better than not winning at all. Winning isn’t going to happen if they just play out their current strategy. I’d rather see them try their best remaining option and maybe fail but maybe not than just accept the failure.

roke1960

karko, that is the best take on this situation. This management team is probably not capable of long-term success. So a little short-term success is better than none at all.

egib52

Totally agree.

PauliePaulie

And there it is. An honest take, and the truth about how you feel.
Attempting to win by signing FA’s isn’t the best method. It’s not a market inefficiency. It’s not the smart way forward. It’s just the easiest way, in your mind, for them
to not TOTALLY shit the bed on this.
I completely understand the lack of faith, as this FO and ownership has earned none.

karkovice squad

Your last 2 sentences are accurate. The rest isn’t.

The lack of interest in Grandal, Harper, Keuchel, Kimbrel, and Machado absolutely was a market inefficiency. And big market teams like Chicago should spend like it so teams like Milwaukee and Minnesota can’t find bargains and Cleveland can’t take shortcuts without paying a price on-field.

The Sox are also just worse than good teams at the other bits, too.

Greg Nix

And solely chasing the last/current fad means you miss the next development.

This x 1000. The Astros and Dodgers have already lapped the Sox in building the way Paulie is describing. The Sox have to be creative in different ways, including free agency. 

Also, if you REALLY want to look at “recent playoff teams” you can’t ignore the huge impact that aggressive free agency additions have had on the Brewers, Twins, Nationals, and even Rays. The Sox aren’t ever going to be the Astros; they’re more likely to have success emulating the second-tier teams, relying on the lack of elite orgs in their division, and hoping they get hot during a playoff run or two.

PauliePaulie

The #’s don’t support this. The Twins have 4 free agent signees providing 8.6 fWAR on their playoff roster. This comment section was filled with people bashing them, as well as the Braves, for NOT signing FA’s last year.
Here is the breakdown for each playoff team-
https://www.mlb.com/news/how-the-2019-postseason-teams-were-built?t=mlb-pipeline-coverage

karkovice squad

Yeah, 2 teams that completely rebuilt their baseball operations rather than just turned over their player rosters. And also benefited from a massive amount of luck.

A straight swap of production isn’t definitive or anything but, for example, MIN wouldn’t have needed Garver to turn into an All-Star equivalent at 28, a year after being replacement level, if they’d signed Harper to demote Cave. That would’ve only put them a bit above the median payroll, too.

Sure, luck is the residue of design. But if you have the resoures to do so you should eliminate as much luck as you can.

egib52

It’s also not achieved through not investing heavily in development. The fanbase keeps getting sold on the prospects, but the system is so top heavy free agents are incredibly important.

35Shields

Willing to settle for unsustained success.

dwjm3

The Dodgers and Astros both have ownership groups committed to doing whatever it takes to win. Both teams are also really innovative and take on new methodologies for talent acquisition and development

In the case of Jim Crane he is pretty creative as well. Shell didn’t renew its sponsorship of the local PGA Tour event in Houston. Jim Crane took over the event and made the Astros charity the beneficiary of the event. In essence he helped the city and local charities. Meanwhile our owner doesn’t even fire people who fail at their jobs. My point is we really have a ceiling with this owner.

Josh Nelson

Me looking at the AFL hitting numbers

via GIPHY

roke1960

Sox currently have 39 on the 40-man roster. These 10 should come off-
Cordell
Skole
Goins
Castillo
Yolmer
Santiago
Banuelos
Detwiler
Frare
Nova
(This is assuming Abreu is re-signed)
That would leave 29. Of course Robert, Madrigal and Kopech will need spots by late April at the latest. That makes 32. Are there other minor leaguers that need to be added to protect them? We should be able to add 5-6 players this winter. And there are still a few guys on the current 40-man that could come off (Fulmer, Vieira, Ruiz, Palka). It should be a busy winter for Rick.

Trooper Galactus

I’d say everybody you listed except Yolmer is a lock to come off the 40-man. Palka shouldn’t have a spot, that much is for certain.

roke1960

Yes, Yolmer could be tendered (or more likely non-tendered and re-signed). And I agree that Palka should come off too, and I think Vieira should also.

joewho112

When do guys on the 60-day IL get added back into the 40-man roster?

PauliePaulie

As this was the year when prospect development was expected to cause a 40 crunch, that’s some depressing stuff.

BTW- Does anyone know- If a team declines to offer a player arb, are they locked out from negotiating a contract with that player for a time, or can they continue to negotiate on a level field with the other 29 teams??

zerobs

Nova, Santiago, Jay, and Detwiler are free agents unless the Sox offer them extensions before the playoffs are over. So they’re bound to come off by rule. As was Tilson since he is out of options and they weren’t going to put him on the 26-man.

Castillo has a contract option but if the team declines it he’s off the 40-man. Cordell and Palka still have an option year left so they won’t be DFA’d unless they need to make room after agreeing to terms with a sixth free agent, and as you say there is also Banuelos, Frare, Covey, etc. who are much easier cuts than Palka and Cordell, who, like them or not, can be stationed in RF. I assume Yolmer – the team’s best defender – is tendered; I can’t see them opening the season with Madrigal, and putting Leury at second makes the team worse.

knoxfire30

My expectations remain shockingly low for Rutherford and Sheets.

Great to see Kopech on the right side of TJS with basically all his velocity back.

The 40 man chopping block should be interesting as always but I dont anticipate a really tough choice ahead, kind of the only upside to a lot of guys being hurt and or underachieving in the minors/majors this passed season.

joseValentinsMustache

I was thinking about all of this Tommy John stuff and was wondering if you think it could be attributed to the fact that Coop is telling everyone to throw as hard as they can (which I do understand with relief pitchers being so plentiful). I’m wondering if you think it would be better to back to saving it for high leverage situations just from a health perspective?

jorgefabregas

More Kopech video, four batters worth and in front of the gate. https://twitter.com/JasonPennini/status/1180191613009584128?s=19

jorgefabregas

I kind of hope someone takes Hansen in the rule 5 and fixes him, because I don’t think the White Sox can.

dwjm3

“As for pitchers, don’t look for the White Sox to pursue Gerrit Cole. However, RHP Zack Wheeler, LHP Alex Wood, LHP Cole Hamels and RHP Jake Odorizzi are interesting rotation names, while LHP Will Smith, RHP Will Harris and RHP Collin McHugh could hold bullpen interest. How about a reunion with RHP Daniel Hudson, who the White Sox originally drafted in the fifth round out of Old Dominion in 2008?“

I noticed this little tidbit from Merkin’s column from yesterday.  I wonder if that Gerrit Cole comment came from anywhere or if he is just speculating.