One year ago, if you were to ask any knowledgeable Sox fan who the top pitching prospect was, all you'd here is, "Anderson Espinoza throws 98 mph and he's only 18 years old!" "Espinoza has such electric stuff!" "Espinoza is going to be the next Pedro!" Anderson Espinoza has since been shipped to San Diego in exchange for Drew Pomeranz. Consequently, 20-year old Michael Kopech has been thrust into the spotlight. It's pretty safe to say that he has not disappointed.
To put this into perspective, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel put up 14.1 K/9 and ALCS MVP Andrew Miller finished 2016 with 14.3 K/9. The key difference here is that relievers such as Kimbrel and Miller are meant to come into games and strike out the side to end it. On the other hand, Kopech is supposed to be going at least 5 innings per start. His stuff is just so overpowering that he racks up all these K's without even trying.
This brings us to the Arizona Fall League. Playing in the AFL was Kopech's opportunity to prove that he could hold his own against some of the best prospects that baseball has to offer. As expected by all Sox fans, he went down there and tore it up. In 22 1/3 innings of work, Kopech went 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA and 26 K's. You can't ask for much more out of a guy who spent much of his early professional career flying under the radar for one reason or another. He has truly proven that he deserves to be regarded as one of baseball's best young stars. Based on the reports that we've gotten, scouts seem to feel the same way.
Michael Kopech oozes potential. He has all the raw talent (and hair) in the world. If he can just keep himself on the field, then we might just have our first homegrown ace since Jon Lester. Unfortunately, he will remain in the minor leagues for at least one more year. But look on the bright side, if someone's going to be throwing 105 mph, at least it's someone in our organization.