Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada among five White Sox prospects sent to minor league camp

Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada among five White Sox prospects sent to minor league camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The future is on hold — for now.

As expected, the White Sox sent their top five prospects to minor league camp on Tuesday afternoon after a productive first month of the 2017 season.

Shipped to Triple-A Charlotte were second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer, while pitcher Michael Kopech has been re-assigned to minor league camp. Kopech, the No. 16 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, could start the season at Single-A Winston-Salem. Though all five have more development ahead, the White Sox front office is beyond pleased with what they've observed.

"I have not been this excited about the White Sox future in a long, long time," executive vice president Kenny Williams said. "It's been personally invigorating to see these guys in this clubhouse and on the back fields to see the second wave of guys that will be coming after this first wave of prospects. And to sit down and talk to Rick (Hahn) about the possibilities trade-wise we may have out there in the future, free agency, international signing-wise, we're in full go mode and it's exciting."

Four members of the group were acquired during the winter meetings in trades involving Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. Each earned high marks after getting out to a slow start.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Lopez, the team's fourth-ranked prospect, is easily the most polished of the bunch, especially after he moved to the middle of the rubber and began to throw the cut-fastball more often. Over his final four starts of spring, Lopez posted a 1.50 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 18 innings.

Kopech had everyone across the Cactus League oohing and ahhing as he put his dazzling arsenal on display. The tall, lean right-hander struck out 11 and walked two hitters in six innings with his fastball touching 102 mph on the radar gun.

While Giolito struggled in his final outing of the spring, he hit his stride in the previous two innings, allowing a run and four hits over seven innings.

Moncada, the No. 2 prospect in baseball, saved his best run of the spring for the final week of camp. He went 10-for-22 with three doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs over seven games.

In discussing the group for five minutes, Hahn noted how Fulmer, who finished his first season with three consecutive strong starts, continued to work on the adjustments he made late in 2016.

"All the five of them impressed in different ways," Hahn said.

The White Sox brought their top seven prospects, according to MLB.com, with them to camp last month. Of that group, only reliever Zack Burdi remains in camp. Pitcher Spencer Adams and catcher Zack Collins were sent down in previous rounds of cuts.

"Really positive," manager Rick Renteria said of the group. "All of them actually. They all have certain things to work on. They were all very impressive, and we are really, really happy to have them."

The White Sox have 41 players left in camp after Tuesday's moves.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Tim Anderson's new deal, 2017 predictions

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Tim Anderson's new deal, 2017 predictions

On this edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien talks with CSNChicago.com White Sox Insider Dan Hayes about Tim Anderson's new contract, Reynaldo Lopez' lights-out performance against the San Francisco Giants, Michael Kopech mowing down the Cubs and much more.

Later, CSN's Ryan McGuffey and Chris Kamka join the podcast to give their 2017 White Sox predictions.

Finally, CSN's Tom Cooper stops by to discuss if David Ross has "jumped the shark" with the Cubs.

Check out the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast here:

Projected as a starter, White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech dominates Cubs in relief

Projected as a starter, White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech dominates Cubs in relief

GLENDALE, Ariz. — While he prefers to be a starting pitcher and profiles as one, the White Sox potentially have another dominant reliever in Michael Kopech.

The team's third-ranked prospect pitched in relief on Friday afternoon and came out blazing, touching 102 mph in a dominant performance against the Cubs. Kopech struck out five batters and only allowed a hit over two scoreless innings. The Cubs beat the White Sox 7-3 in front of 12,792 at Camelback Ranch.

An outing in which he struck out three major leaguers and two top prospects is the type that makes Kopech feel as if it the opposition doesn't matter when he throws like he did.

"In my opinion, no," Kopech said. "Obviously I know that there are going to be big league hitters with a big league approach and I'm going to have to make adjustments to those approaches. There's a guy who put a great at-bat up on me today and I threw a lot of pitches. I probably should have put him away earlier and done something different."

One of two centerpieces in the Chris Sale trade, Kopech needed few pitches to complete his first inning. He struck out Jason Heyward and Tommy La Stella with a Willson Contreras fly out in between.

He returned in the seventh to strike out Jon Jay and Ian Happ and Jeimer Candelario, two of the Cubs' top prospects. During his outing, Kopech's four-seam fastball ranged from 99-102 mph and was overpowering when mixed in with a good slider.

One of his and the team's top goals — aside from improved fastball command — is to further develop Kopech's changeup. MLB.com rates Kopech's changeup as 50 on the 20-80 scouting scale, which means it can be an effective pitch at the big league level. His fastball grades at an 80 and Kopech's slider is at 60, which has many thinking he could be a dominant, late-inning reliever immediately.

Development of the changeup as well as building the arm strength necessary to eventually complete 200 innings will take time. But all the White Sox have plenty of time as they're in the early stages of a rebuild and want to see if Kopech can stick as a starter.

"That's a tough call," said one National League scout. "(Kopech) has a reasonable chance to remain a starter but there are definitely some indicators that point to success in the 'pen sooner."

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox to give Carlos Rodon first Cactus League start Sunday]

Kopech wouldn't rule out pitching out of the bullpen. There's no doubt he prefers to pitch as a starting pitcher. But if it gets him to the majors, relief is fine, Kopech said.

"I'll do whatever I can to contribute to the team," Kopech said. "I'd rather start, but it's not up to me. It's up to the team. If I can help the team in the bullpen, that's what I will do."

Derek Holland started for the White Sox and retired the first seven batters he faced. But Holland struggled in the third inning against three fellow left-handers as he walked La Stella and Jay before he surrendered a three-run homer to Kyle Schwarber. The veteran southpaw allowed six earned runs and four hits with three walks in four-plus innings.

"I have to work on a few things," Holland said. "I was upset with the lefties, two walks. Hats off to (Schwarber).

"Good pitch. He turned on it. He was probably looking for it so hats off to him.

"Thought I attacked the zone but the frustrating thing was two walks to lefties. That's supposed to be a strength."

"I feel pretty good. This is spring. This is where we work on stuff."

Zack Burdi struck out one in a scoreless inning for the White Sox.

Peter Bourjos went 2-for-3 while Todd Frazier doubled and walked in three trips to the plate. Tyler Saladino tripled and scored and Nick Delmonico homered for the White Sox.