Kopech throws 100, but Sox offense lags behind

Good news first: Michael Kopech dropped some jaws with a high-octane first inning; it was downhill from there for the White Sox. (@CST_soxvan)


Michael Kopech got on the mound and quickly showed that he is back. Not just, “Hey, it’s my first game of competitive ball since 2018!” No. Kopech is BACK back, and tweets are a little better at describing the the pure joy of having the righthander back.

That … was … ELECTRIC! Kopech only went one inning, which is a good approach as he is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Odds are he will be in Chicago after the first month of the season, and maybe that estimate even pushes back until June. Whatever the case is, hitting 100 mph multiple times is the best news the Sox have had this spring training.

However, that was just the top of the first inning, so there was a lot more game to go. Let’s put it this way: The excitement went away pretty quickly.

Maybe Drew Anderson was busy fawning over Kopech like everyone else, but he came into the game and did not do well out of the gate. Drew was all over the place, allowed three hits and walked two in his first inning on the bump, although Tim Anderson did not help any, with his third error of the spring. Drew’s second inning was much better, but he was finally lifted for Carson Fulmer in the fourth after allowing his fourth run. Really the only positive during Anderson’s outing was that Yasmani Grandal added another spring hit to his tally.

Quite frankly, depending on injuries and how well Andrew Vaughn continues to do when the games matter in the minors, today’s lineup looked like an August or September down-the-stretch lineup (maybe sans Adam Engel, but he was hitting ninth so it still fits).

But, more excitingly, back to Kopech.

Back to Yasmani Grandal:

Man, Grandal can do anything — what a fantastic signing. There are no holes in his game.

Now, back to Fulmer:

This game did not have a lot of positives, but Fulmer was one. Almost his entire spring has been great, and even that breaking ball on the Grandal caught-stealing had pretty good late movement. Even though Fulmer was pretty bad last season, he showed clear signs of improvement on just about everything. Obviously, it is very early to say the former first round pick is finally looking like it, but Fulmer has been very impressive. He now has a 1.86 ERA so far this spring.

Other than Kopech and Fulmer, no other pitcher really did well today. Codi Heuer finally looked like a minor leaguer, and Kodi Medeiros allowed the ninth and final run to the Rangers.

As for the offense, it finally added some runs — once the bench guys came in. There were not fireworks with these runs, they were not because of big hits, but runs are runs. Gavin Sheets finally broke the Sox out of the goose egg with a sac fly in the eighth inning. Zack Collins added the second and final run for the Sox with a single. With that, Collins is now hitting .333 and has an OPS of 1.261. So, while Yermín Mercedes is getting headlines (including from myself), Collins is still doing well enough to hold him off for the Opening Day roster at this point.

Sure, the Sox lost, but the best news of the day was that Kopech stole the show.


If you want some back-field work, James Fegan has you covered with some young guys.

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 49: Sammy Peralta

Coming into focus: The southpaw is another hunch that’s playing out wonderfully so far for the White Sox. (@SammyFP16)



Sammy Peralta
Left-Handed Relief Pitcher
6´2´´
205 pounds
Age: 21
SSHP rank among all left-handed relief pitchers in the system: 6
2020 SSS Top Prospect Vote Rank: 46

Sammy Peralta, a native of Queens, was a well-traveled collegian who pitched for San Jacinto CC, Palm Beach State College and Division II powerhouse University of Tampa. Other than a high walk total that caused his ERA and WHIP to balloon a bit, he supplied his Spartans enough strikeouts to entice the White Sox to select him in the 18th round of this year’s draft. In 2019 for Tampa, Peralta posted a 4.93 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 22 appearances (42 innings) by allowing 33 hits and 25 walks (13.2%) while striking out 74 (38.9%). Excluding his first four outings, he was terrific over his final 34 ⅓ innings, posting a 2.62 ERA and 1.08 WHIP during that span.

After four outstanding appearances for the AZL White Sox this year, in which he allowed just three hits and two walks in 6 ⅓ innings while striking out 13, Peralta was promoted to Great Falls on July 4. Peralta continued his mastery of rookie league hitters with the Voyagers, as he kept his walks and hits down while striking out 45 hitters in just more than 30 innings. Combined with both teams in 18 outings spanning 36 ⅔ innings, Peralta compiled a 1.96 ERA and 0.95 WHIP by relinquishing just 25 hits (.182 OBA) and 10 walks (6.7%) while fanning 58 (38.7%). When hitters made contact off him, they hit grounders over 43% of the time. While lefties hit Peralta at a .250 clip this year, he held righties to a .165 average.

In addition to a fastball which he uses to set up hitters, Peralta features a wipe-out curveball and changeup to help put them away. Peralta is likely to begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis.

 

 

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 50: Caleb Freeman

Found fortune: This “Wild Thing” had a tame — but killer — pro debut. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)



Caleb Freeman
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
6´1´´
190 pounds
Age: 22
SSHP rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 8
2020 SSS Top Prospect Vote Rank: 45

Despite incredible stuff, Caleb Freeman struggled for Texas Tech largely because of his lack of control and command. His best year with the Red Raiders was his sophomore one in 2018, when he finished with a 5.18 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 22 contests spanning 33 innings, as he allowed 35 hits and 18 walks while fanning 31. Freeman’s junior season this year saw him slip to a 6.89 ERA and 2.49 WHIP in 15 2/3 innings, as he relinquished 26 hits (.388 OBA) and 13 walks (16.3%) while also striking out 13. The White Sox drafted Freeman in the 15th round with the hopes that they could help him reach his high ceiling.

Freeman did well at all three of his stops (AZL, Great Falls and Kannapolis) this year. In a combined 17 games totaling 24 ⅔ innings, he saved four with a 2.19 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. In those innings, Freeman allowed just 15 hits (.170 OBA) and nine walks (8.9%) while striking out a whopping 38 batters (37.6%). It’s like he found his control and command overnight.

Just before the draft, Baseball America stated Freeman’s fastball typically runs 94-98 mph and flashes of a plus curve. However, they continued, his 20-grade control and command keeps him from taking advantage of his high-end stuff.

Freeman will likely to return to Kannapolis to begin the 2020 season, as he only entered two games for the Intimidators before season’s end. If he can continue to hone both his command and control next year, expect him to move up the ranks rather quickly.

 

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 51: Jason Bilous

Back-end bonus: Bilous appears to have a promising future as a short man out the bullpen. (Coastal Carolina University)



Jason Bilous
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
6´2´´
185 pounds
Age: 22
SSHP rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 9
2019 SSS Top Prospect Rank: 79

Jason Bilous was ranked among the Top 200 draft prospects by MLB Pipeline prior to the 2018 draft, but slipped to the 13th round due to concerns about his control. His fastball was graded 65, slider 55, changeup 50 and control 40 by MLB Pipeline at the time.

Bilous, in his junior season with Coastal Carolina, fanned a whopping 103 hitters but walked an incredibly-high 66; Bilous’ 7.13 BB/9 rate in 2018 for the Chanticleers was nearly identical to his overall college rate of 7.12. Upon being drafted, Bilous was immediately inserted into the Great Falls rotation, where he suffered through a 7.81 ERA and 1.95 WHIP, with 46 hits (.324 OBA) and 24 walks (13.9%) while striking out 31 (17.9%) in 39 innings.

The 2019 season in Kannapolis was kinder to Bilous, as his ERA and WHIP improved to 3.70 and 1.39 respectively in his 31 appearances (17 starts) spanning 104 ⅔ innings. Opponents hit just .220 against this year, while he improved his strikeout rate to 24.5%. Bilous’ walk rate did improve a bit, but was still way too high at 13.2%.

Bilous is athletic but has a long arm action in the back of his delivery that hampers him from repeating his release point and keeping his mechanics in sync. It’s that which hampers his control, which could ultimately force him into a bullpen role going forward. Bilous’ ERA out of the bullpen this year was 2.86 compared to 4.01 as a starter. Thanks to his ever-improving changeup, lefties hit just .184 against him while righties fared better at .242.

If Bilous ever finds that release point, he could move up the system quickly. In the meantime, he may begin next season at hitting-friendly Winston-Salem.