The day White Sox fans have been waiting for is finally here.
In another benchmark moment on the timeline of this rebuilding process, top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech will make his major league debut Tuesday night in a game against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Kopech, acquired in the rebuild-jumpstarting trade that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, has been the subject of much attention at Triple-A Charlotte this season. After he dominated at the Double-A level in his first season in the White Sox organization, striking out 155 batters in his 22 starts, he’s had an up-and-down 2018 campaign. But boy has he been electric of late.
He was dominant in his first five starts of the season, with a 2.86 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 27 innings of work. But over a two-month stretch from early May to early July, he had a 5.69 ERA with 47 walks over 12 starts. But Kopech got things back on track in a big way. He’s allowed just nine earned runs and struck out 59 batters compared to just four walks in his last 44 innings over seven starts. He posted a 3.70 ERA on the season at Charlotte.
Kopech’s long been advertised as a flamethrower with blow-em-away stuff, and that has obviously grabbed the imaginations of White Sox fans dreaming of him anchoring the rotation of the future. Kopech’s the highest-profile of the team’s wealth of starting-pitching prospects that includes Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen, among others.
But Kopech’s arrival — as well as that of outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who could also be up before season’s end — will bring the most excitement. The 22-year-old is ranked as the No. 13 prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.
It’s a strong indication that Hahn’s rebuilding effort is moving along as planned, even if the big league squad is struggling in the win-loss department. Kopech’s promotion is changing the storyline surrounding this team from waiting for the youth movement to watching it in action.
Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist).
The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started.
According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.
Yu Darvish: "I feel most most disappointed [out] of everyone in the world, I think."— Steve Greenberg (@SLGreenberg) August 19, 2018
Says he requested an MRI tomorrow. #Cubs
The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 31-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled.
95 MPH on Yu Darvish‘s first strikeout since coming back.— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) August 19, 2018
Clean first inning, stranding two runners in scoring position. pic.twitter.com/kMxL97KmJg
At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.
Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were banking on getting Darvish right by the time rosters expand in September.
Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central.
But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans.