White Sox rebuild suffers major setback with Michael Kopech’s injury

The Chicago White Sox rebuild was dealt a severe blow Friday afternoon when the team announced that their top pitching prospect Michael Kopech had a tear in his UCL ligament. The tear will most likely require Tommy John surgery as Kopech will miss the entire 2019 season.

The devastating news is just one of many injuries suffered by White Sox prospects in 2018.

Before the injury news, Kopech had started four games for the team after being called up on August 21st. Three of his four starts were interrupted by rain delays where he was forced to come out early due to the delays in two of the starts. In his last start that was delayed by rain, Kopech returned only to give up seven runs on four home runs in just three and a third innings pitched.

His best start of the four outings came on August 26th on the road against the Tigers where he only allowed one run and struck out four over six innings pitched picking up his first career win. Along with starting pitcher Carlos Rodon, Kopech was building a lot of confidence for the White Sox and their fanbase showing that there were strong positive signs for the rebuild.

Before having surgery, Kopech will seek a second opinion, but in all likelihood will need to have Tommy John surgery with the hopes of being ready for the team’s 2020 spring training. What once was seen as a risky surgery, has now become a norm amongst young MLB pitchers. The White Sox have three current prospects who had the surgery and fully recovered from it in current minor league prospects Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, and at the MLB level in Lucas Giolito.

Of the three pitchers, Giolito has had the most success in his return as he has been a decent starting pitcher for the White Sox in the second half of this season recording four quality starts in his last five outings. On Friday, Cease was named MLB Pipeline’s 2018 Pitcher of the Year and is expected to be promoted to the majors in 2019. Burdi required Tommy John surgery last season and has spent the 2018 season rehabbing, he is expected to ready for 2019 and could be the White Sox’s future closer.

The concern is if Kopech will be able to return will the same powerful makeup which led to him being so highly ranked as a prospect. Featuring a 100mph fastball, sharp slider, and a quality changeup led many to believe that Kopech could be one of baseball’s best future starting pitchers.

The 2018 season cannot end fast enough for the White Sox and the health of their young prospects. Throughout the season, the organization has seen six of their top 30 prospects be sidelined for extended periods due to injuries. The team’s 2017 first round pick Jake Burger tore his Achilles tendon twice and missed the entirety of this season, and could miss all of next season too.

Pitchers Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning have missed multiple weeks with different arm injuries throughout the season. International outfield prospect Luis Robert missed most of the first half of this season with a sprained thumb.

The key going forward for the White Sox organization is the ability of their top prospects to return to full health in order to continue their development. General manager Rick Hahn has worked endlessly during the rebuild to acquire as much talent as possible to overcome unforeseen injuries like they are experiencing now.

Now with the Kopech injury, the White Sox window to compete most likely won’t begin until the 2020 season. If luck is on their side, Kopech’s return could coincide with the arrival of other prospects from the organization in which optimism for White Sox fans could be at its highest. It may be tough now, but it is best if the team suffers injuries now rather than when their prospects are in their prime and ready to compete.

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