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Heyman | White Sox prospects turning heads

Jon Heyman



USA Today Sports

Perhaps no team has more high-end prospects than the Chicago White Sox – who have Luis Robert, Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez, for starters.

Robert is turning heads in the Cactus League, including on Wednesday, when he hit a late go-ahead grand slam. He is a “beast,” one rival GM says admiringly. While he’s quite a talent, the adjustment is going to be an early key; he’s been in the Unites States less than five weeks total after defecting from Cuba.

“There will be moments of wonder,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn said of the uber-talent. “But whether he hits .240 or .340,” the key, he said, will be how much he adjusts and develops off the field as well as on. While he’s 20, he’s a baby in terms of being in America. Robert will likely play a lot at High-A Winston-Salem, where he will have the benefit of being managed by near-Hall of Famer (and possibly future Hall of Famer; disclaimer, I did not vote for him his first time on the ballot) Omar Vizquel, who is also a Spanish speaker — which will also help.

Kopech is also a kid who causes wonderment, and he’s hit 100 mph already this spring. He has overpowering stuff, but says he fully understands why he’s starting the year in Triple-A, and not the majors, after rising from Class-A last year with dominance. He came with a reputation for being strong-willed but he is totally with the program.

“Tools-wise I’m ready and mentally I’m ready. But there are probably some things that need to be refined,” Kopech said.

The one obvious thing is the changeup (he already has a plus slider and fastball – obviously – but is working on a changeup.)

“He gets it,” Hahn said.

While Kopech had a couple incidents in the low minors with the Red Sox, the White Sox have only seen positives.

“He has great makeup. He’s a great worker. And he understands the process,” veteran James Shields concurred, saying Kopech’s work is admirable. 

Kopech doesn’t seem too focused on the velocity right now, either, which seems like a good sign. I had to ask him, though, about being clocked throwing a pitch 105 mph at Salem in 2016, for the Red Sox (101 is his top figure this spring), before he was traded to Chicago in the Chris Sale deal. It was the reading of a Stalker gun manned by a teammate and also the other team, so it seems possibly legit (Shields and others tease him, saying it was the old gun, but they admit that they believe it is real.) 

“I’m not too worried about velocity right now.”

At this point, the speed he is most interested in is the speed with which he’ll get to the majors. He will start at Triple-A and he says he’s fine with that.

Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.