Chicago White Sox prospect Michael Kopech has a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow and will likely undergo Tommy John surgery, according to reports. The White Sox announced that Kopech would seek a second opinion, but he will most likely have the surgery.
The 22-year-old Kopech is one of the key pieces to Chicago’s rebuild. Acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade back in 2016, Kopech was the No. 17 prospect in all of baseball heading into this season according to Baseball Prospectus. Kopech made his major league debut in late August 2018. He allowed one run across 11 innings in his first three starts before the Detroit Tigers tagged him for seven runs in just 3 1⁄3 frames in his last outing. His prodigious velocity was lower than usual in that outing, as his four-seam fastball averaged just 94.2 miles per hour.
While Kopech’s injury doesn’t halt the progress Chicago has made in their rebuild — they still have several talented young players in their system, including outfielder Eloy Jimenez — it does slow their momentum a bit. Kopech would have joined Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and a finally healthy Carlos Rodon in the Sox rotation, and played alongside an offense supported by Jimenez, Jose Abreu, and former No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada.
This doesn’t mean much for Detroit — they’re still going to be bad next year, y’all — but it does have an impact on the AL Central at large. The Cleveland Indians will still be the strongest team in the division, and Kopech’s absence will hurt one of the two teams likely to challenge the Tribe in 2019. The Minnesota Twins are still in a stasis of sorts, as they wait for their top young talents (Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton) to improve at the major league level.
Here’s hoping Kopech comes back strong and performs well (except against the Tigers) in 2020.