White Sox

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White Sox

Michael Kopech’s stat lines might look ready for the major leagues. But according to the White Sox general manager, Kopech still needs time to cook in the minors.

There’s been no greater focus for South Side baseball fans this season than the one on Kopech and fellow top-10 prospect Eloy Jimenez and when they might make the jump to the big leagues. Kopech has been striking guys out left and right at Triple-A Charlotte, and Jimenez has been raking at Double-A Birmingham. If you were playing fantasy baseball, you’d obviously want them on your roster.

But Hahn and his front office are not playing fantasy baseball, instead working to make the baseball fantasy of having this White Sox team compete for championships on an annual basis a reality. To do that, all that talent the organization has acquired over the past year and a half has to take the time to fully develop in the minor leagues.

Simply put, Kopech and Jimenez haven’t reached those points yet. You will almost certainly see Kopech pitch in a White Sox uniform this season. But you won’t see it right now. Jimenez, Hahn said for not the first time, will be going to Triple-A and not making the jump to the bigs from Double-A.

“There continues to be various developmental matters that each of them are working on. All I can say is we are trying to put them in the best position to have long term success,” Hahn said Monday. “As thrilling as it would be to potentially have one or both or other enticing prospects up here tonight, just because that would be interesting and exciting and perhaps even show some level of advancement in this rebuild, what happens here is going to have nothing to do when these players arrive.

 

“It’s going to be based strictly upon their own development and when they are ready for the next challenges presented by the big league level. Eventually they will tend to force that issue. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Eloy is going to stop in Charlotte. So those thinking his next stop is Chicago haven’t been paying attention to what the developmental plan is for him. Kopech, he’s put together a few real good starts and had others that still show you the elements he needs improvement in. But he’s certainly getting closer.”

Hahn and his front office ultimately will make the decision when it’s time to promote Kopech to the big leagues, and he admitted Monday that he does not have an answer for when that might be.

What is a certainty is that if fans — and plenty of media folk, too — got to make that decision, Kopech would be here by now. It’s easy to punch up Kopech’s stats from this season and make the determination that he could be facing tougher competition. He’s struck out 80 hitters in 59.1innings over 12 starts. (It’s worth noting, though, that he’s also got a less-than-appealing 4.70 ERA.)

But Hahn and his team are looking for far more than just strikeouts.

“You can’t simply look at his stat line and say he’s ready,” Hahn said. “There are many factors that go into it, many of which happen in face-to-face conversations between he and the coaches and other players and our developmental staff that dictates when in fact he’s ready for a promotion.

“Not getting too far down into Michael’s checklist of what we want to see him accomplish, but he hasn’t checked them all off yet. He’s had some real good starts. He’s getting closer, and it’s not going to surprise me seeing him here at some point in the not too distant future. But he’s not there yet.

“There have been flashes of real progress and there have also been some steps backwards along the way. We need to see more consistency. That’s one of the things, one of the determining factors.”

It’s understandable why fans are antsy. Kopech carries enormous expectations and the promise of blow-em-away stuff that would be immensely fun to watch. Not only that, but future-hungry folks are watching inconsistent performances from Lucas Giolito and want to see a potential ace excel at the big league level. Even if there are growing pains to be had, why aren’t they happening up here — where they happened for Carson Fulmer and where they’re happening for Giolito?

 

“These guys certainly are equipped to come here and survive. There’s no doubt they could come here and survive right now, especially if we wanted to drop them in the ‘pen and use them for one or two innings every so often. That’s not what we are trying to do,” Hahn said. “We are trying to develop a front-end starter in Michael’s instance.

“The difference between players who may not be having success up here is that they’ve already answered some of those questions at the minor league level. They checked the boxes we wanted them to check there, and now they are going through struggles at the big league level.

“There may come a point where you may have them go back for another finishing touch, take a half step back to take two steps forward. But how any individual is doing in Chicago has zero impact on Michael Kopech’s developmental plan or when Michael Kopech gets here. He’s in control of that.”

Of course Hahn won’t reveal exactly which boxes Kopech still needs to check. But know that the general manager’s message remains unchanged: Kopech’s not ready for the majors yet, and neither is Jimenez.

This year was always going to be about patience for this rebuilding organization. It’s going to take plenty more before all the pieces arrive on the South Side.