White Sox

Michael Kopech wants to know when Michael Kopech will reach the big leagues

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USA TODAY

Michael Kopech wants to know when Michael Kopech will reach the big leagues

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Michael Kopech is just like White Sox fans: He wants to know when he’s going to reach the bigs.

But Kopech has connections.

As the Winter Meetings got started Monday in Florida, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made an appearance on MLB Network, where analyst Harold Reynolds relayed a message from Kopech, asking the man who will eventually make that decision when the White Sox top pitching prospect will reach the big leagues.

As for the answer to that question, Hahn made an apt comparison to last season, when the White Sox weren’t expecting Kopech to dominate the minor leagues the way he did. Kopech, acquired in the Chris Sale trade around this time last year, posted a 2.87 ERA in 22 starts with Double-A Birmingham, striking out 155 hitters in 119.1 innings of work. He gave up just five runs in a trio of starts with Triple-A Charlotte at the end of the minor league season.

Hahn mentioned that Kopech wildly exceeded expectations last year. So why can’t he do it again in 2018?

“A year ago at this time, the very reasonable goals for Michael Kopech would have been (to) take the ball every fifth day, which he had not done yet, and hold his own at an advanced placement, at Double-A, at age 21. He radically surpassed both of those,” Hahn said on TV. “Not only did he take the ball every fifth day, he set a career high in innings, 135-ish, but he also dominated Double-A and earned a promotion to Triple-A.

“So we’ll again enter 2018 with a very reasonable development plan for him, and the good ones will knock the doors off of it. Michael’s a good one, Eloy (Jimenez) we expect to be a good one. They have a way of changing our plans on us. So we’ll see.”

That “we’ll see” is surely enough to make White Sox fans hope to see Kopech in a White Sox uniform very soon.

It seems Kopech is hoping to see that, too.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.