I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech, a first rounder who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox 33rd overall in the 2014 MLB Draft. He is the #14 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, according to MLB.com. The 18-year-old possesses one of the more projectable frames among pitchers in last years class at 6’3, 195 pounds.
He has excellent athleticism which allows him to repeat a busy and deceptive delivery. The righty initiates with a big side step prior to a high leg kick to turn at height of his delivery bends back his leg as he nears release point to create leverage and whipping action with his arm. Baseball America rated his fastball the best among the 2014 draftees as his fastball sits comfortably in the mid 90s and has topped out at 98-99. His arsenal of pitches also includes a promising change-up, hard slider, and a curveball. Kopech, will be headed down to Fort Myers, Florida from his home town of Mount Pleasant, Texas when pitchers and catchers report February 12th.
Michael is excited to be drafted last June by such a rich organization in Boston and to be apart of the well-known franchise. “I’m thankful for getting drafted and honored by being drafted by the Red Sox. It’s great to be part of rich history, the fact to have been drafted by an organization that has won recently and can win in the future.”
While talking to Kopech, I got the feeling that being a draft pick in the first round was at the top of his list and he expected nothing less.
“Being a first rounder was a main goal. We rented out a civic center and my parents, friends, coaches, and teammates were besides me when I was selected. Boston was one of my favorite teams as it is, they are a very successful team. Friends and some family members wanted me to be drafted by my home state team, the Texas Rangers, but I’m happy to be part of the Red Sox organization.”
Michael Kopech originally signed his letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Arizona.
“First rounder was a set goal. I sat down with my dad first to talk it all over and then sat down with the head coach of Arizona. He said I might not ever get this chance again in my life. Who knows what could happen from now to then.” Shaun Cole, the pitching coach at the time when Kopech signed, left for USA Baseball. He added, “that was the main reason I signed and wanted to play at Arizona.”
Kopech has made some offseason adjustments and improvements to his pitches. “I’ve been working to perfect my change-up and sharpen my slider as well. If you can have control and good movement on your change-up that’s huge. It gives me the ability to change speeds when I want to and have my breaking pitches to get hitters to chase out of the zone. I’m also working to maintain that mid-90s velocity and controlling it. I can always get better.” There has been no offseason for Kopech, who participated in the Dominican Instructional League in the Dominican Republic with fellow rookie ball teammates and played in the Gulf Coast League with the Red Sox.
With Kopech heading to Red Sox Spring Training camp within the next couple days, he is without a doubt anxious get down to Fort Myers with the club.
“I’m looking forward to being around other Red Sox players and getting comfortable with the atmosphere there. I want to see how well I can perform and get that Major League experience in my time down there.”
Michael has had Boston Red Sox players, coaches, and minor guys who have helped him through the process of getting acclimated to everything. He said, “Will Middlebrooks. He is from the same area as me and contacted me when I was drafted. Teddy Stankiewicz, who is in the minor leagues with Boston has reached out to me as well. Dick Such, we call him Suchy, is my pitching coach for rookie ball in Florida, he has helped me a lot with my mechanics and pitches.”
The right-hander has had numerous people who have made him the person he is today, but one person who has stood out to him throughout his baseball career.
“My dad, the guy pushes me a little bit more everyday, he implanted that in me. One day he isn’t going to be there. I have to motivate myself.”
Michael’s dad has been very influential throughout his entire life and baseball career. His dad has become very knowledgeable on everything from throwing programs, nutrition, and strength and conditioning in an effort to give Michael the best chance at success. He has done this all while running his own private law practice. In the end, this helped him to know how to negotiate Michael’s draft bonus himself. Kopech’s signing bonus with the Red Sox was $1.5 million. Not too shabby for an 18-year-old.
The Red Sox draftee has a plan for the upcoming spring season. “It depends how I do during spring training. I would like to be in Greenville, South Carolina, which is low A baseball. I just have to motivate myself to work harder.”
Kopech, has tremendous upside and has the many qualities in being a successful MLB starter. While he doesn’t know his timetable for the bigs, it will be interesting and exciting for Red Sox nation to see what this kid is made of and how he produces during Spring Training.