Chicks may dig the long ball, but that is so 1998. (Unless you’re adding new-fangled terms like exit velocity and launch angle.) Nowadays, more baseball fans — regardless of gender — are fascinated by rocket-launcher fastballs. People dig triple-digits on the radar gun.
Lighting up radar guns and scoreboards with numbers never seen before has made Chicago White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech arguably the most intriguing prospect in MLB. Last season in the minors with the Red Sox’s advanced Class-A Salem affiliate, Kopech hit 105 mph. That had baseball fans drooling with anticipation. Kopech was only 20 at the time (he’ll turn 21 on April 30).
What more could he be capable of doing once he’s major-league ready? The right-hander spritzed more gasoline on that fire by throwing a ball 110 mph in January, though it was on flat ground, not from a traditional wind-up, and wasn’t a game situation.
In a feature by Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller, Kopech has a very clear goal in mind. Obviously, he wants to make it to the major leagues soon. That’s the goal of any minor league prospect, let alone one considered the top young arm in baseball.
I didn't just wake up and throw 105 one day homie… https://t.co/JfsRnAacAB
— Kopech (@MichaelKopech5) March 15, 2017
But he wants to hit a number that could make him legendary, throwing a baseball faster than Aroldis Chapman’s 105 mph. Kopech is aiming for 107 mph on the gun.
“It’s something I told a scout right before I got drafted, and the scout actually laughed at me,” Kopech says. “And you know, I understand. It’s laughable almost to have goals that big. But I think that’s the size your goals should be. If you’re reaching a level of something somebody laughed at before, that’s pretty amazing. If you’re setting goals that someone has already reached, then it’s not that big of a goal, in my opinion.”
Kopech hitting 107 mph would be phenomenal, something we might never see again on a major league pitching mound. (Though young pitchers seem to throw harder and harder each year, testing the limits of just how much velocity a human arm can generate.)
But we’ve seen other young pitchers who appear more interested in hitting a number than learning the art of pitching. As soon as the ball hits the catcher’s mitt, they’re turning around to look what number is on the scoreboard. Sure, hitting triple-digits will get oohs and aahs from the crowd, bring everyone to the top step in a dugout, make scouts look up from their notebooks, and fuel hundreds of tweets. Yet the ultimate goal is to get hitters out and help the team win games.
So will Michael Kopech be more of an Aroldis Chapman, feared and admired throughout MLB by players and fans? Or will he end up as more of a Joel Zumaya, briefly burning bright and ultimately succumbing to the limits of his body and an arm that couldn’t handle what he put it through?
There is plenty more in Miller’s long profile of Kopech, including the potholes he’s hit during his minor league career, his upbringing, workout dedication, and a personal life that flirts with celebrity. It’s definitely worth your reading time.