If Wishing Made it So: Can Michael Kopech Win You a Fantasy Championship?

What a treat fantasy baseball owners received Sunday morning. The White Sox announced that Michael Kopech, the man who hit 110 mph on the radar gun, will make his major league debut on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins.

There is no denying that Kopech, long since squirreled away in dynasty and keeper leagues, has the talent to be in the upper echelon of pitchers for years to come. No one needs to read another article talking about the tremendous upside Kopech has. The real question is can Kopech help you win a fantasy title this year in a re-draft?

Just the idea of an 80-grade fastball is enough to make fantasy owners start purging their FAAB budgets. Mix in the chatter about a devastating slider and a developing change-up that already has swing-and-miss potential and it seems that he could be the secret ingredient to fantasy playoff success.

I don’t disagree that the upside for Kopech is a guy who could mow down hitters for the next month, making your quest for fantasy supremacy a breeze. At the very least he gives us all a reason to tune into a White Sox versus Twins game in late August. However, I would like to take this opportunity to temper expectations a little bit.

It’s a fact that Kopech throws extremely hard. His fastball sits in the upper 90s and hitting triple digits is not a rare occurrence, but he does not…I repeat he DOES NOT throw 110 mph. Because no one actually reads past headlines anymore (yet I’m still writing this) people went nuts when they saw the headline in January of 2017 that said White Sox prospect throws a 110 mph pitch. What he actually did was throw a 3 oz. ball (not a 5 oz. baseball) 110 mph with a crow-hop. I’m not saying it’s not impressive, it’s otherworldly, but when he only hits 100 in his first few starts you shouldn’t be disappointed. More important than just being able to throw hard, Kopech is still able to get some movement on his fastball instead of just whipping in high-speed batting practice.

Adjusting to MLB Hitters
Remember when Lucas Giolito was going to save your fantasy team? What about Jose Berrios, Tyler Glasnow, Julio Urias and Trevor Bauer. Not everyone just jumps into a big league rotation ready to assert their dominance. It sure would be nice if Kopech came up in Stephen Strasburg fashion (hopefully with more durability) but that’s a lot of pressure to put on a 22 year-old kid.

We also can’t forget the two natural enemies of the fantasy owner: pitch counts and innings limits. The White Sox may want to give fans a taste of the future, but they also don’t want to jeopardize that future to hold on to a fourth place finish in the AL Central.

It’s easy to focus on all the good things about Kopech because there are a ton of them. We’ve already talked about the pure awesomeness of Kopech’s arsenal, but it’s the effectiveness with which he utilizes his repertoire that has resulted in a 31.3% K-rate and 12.11 K/9 this season. It’s important to not gloss over the very real control issues that have been the biggest hurdle keeping the White Sox from calling Kopech up to this point. Last season he had a career low BB/9 and BB-rate at 3.00 and 8.1% respectively – neither of which would put him among the elite at the MLB level. This season his BB/9 currently sits at 4.27 while his BB-rate has increased to 11.1%. When putting Kopech in your lineup you need to understand that the positive numbers he provides in strikeout could be outweighed by a negative effect on your team’s WHIP.

No one seems to like wins as a category and yet we keep using it. If what you really need is wins then good ole Shane Bieber will be more helpful than Kopech. Sad but true.

At the end of the day it’s probably more fun to have Kopech on your team than to have him playing against you, just don’t put too much pressure on him – he’s just a boy.

Jake Blodgett

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Like most of you I am addicted to fantasy baseball. Since I spend most of my time talking about it, I figured I would write some of my thoughts down. I am a shameless promoter of Mike Trout and an even more shameless Shohei Ohtani apologist.