White Sox prospect Michael Kopech is hair today, focused on tomorrow

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech is hair today, focused on tomorrow

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The shoulder length blonde hair that is one of several noticeable similarities between Michael Kopech and Noah Syndergaard is no more.

Earlier this month, the White Sox prospect cut down a mane he’d grown for more than 18 months at the request of his new employers. But uncertain how much they wanted him to remove, Kopech said he went to the barber shop four times in a span of several weeks, including three after SoxFest.

“My girlfriend was harping on me to get it trimmed,” Kopech said. “I got it trimmed right before SoxFest. I say trimmed, it was a lot. I cut about three or four inches off and then right after SoxFest, Rick (Renteria) gave me a call and ‘That wasn’t short enough.’

“I went through that whole process again. I kept thinking about how much they wanted me to cut off. So at first I went to the barbershop and got a little cut off and thought, ‘You know what, this probably isn’t enough.’ So I went back again two days later and thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t enough either.’ So I went back again. I went to the barbershop three times in a week.”

When the deed was finally done, Kopech posted a picture of his new haircut on social media and noted “If you’re not sitting … I encourage you to do so.” White Sox teammate Tim Anderson commented that Kopech looked like “Sunshine” Ronnie Bass of ‘Remember the Titans’ fame. Kopech — who was acquired from Boston in December in the Chris Sale trade — has begun to adjust to his new hairstyle. He also told reporters earlier this week he probably won’t grow his hair as long again.

 “You’ve got to get used to the short hair thing,” he said.

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Kopech is also making adjustments on the field in his first week of big league camp.

The right-hander, who reportedly touched 105 mph on the radar gun last July, is very excited to be in big league camp for the first time. Some of that energy has resulted in Kopech “trying to throw the s*** out of it” with every pitch, pitching coach Don Cooper said. Cooper loves Kopech’s arm but said he wants his young charge to focus on fastball command, not trying to blow it by everyone.

Kopech said he’s started to heed the message and knows how important command of all his pitches will be.

“He was basically putting my mind at ease saying, ‘Hey, you're not going to win anything right away, just get settled in, get comfortable,’” Kopech said. “That's something I'm going to have to grasp the concept of.”

“Coop's preached fastballs away, gloveside. That's something I'm hit or miss on. I've been working on it quite a bit. I can go inside to a right-handed batter all I want, but going away, really hitting that location is big for me. Locating my changeup, being consistent with that is also going to be helpful. Because that's the next best pitch in baseball, other than a well-located fastball.”

'Explosive arms' of Zack Burdi, Michael Kopech on display on Day 2 of White Sox camp

'Explosive arms' of Zack Burdi, Michael Kopech on display on Day 2 of White Sox camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Oh, those poor, poor gloves.

In what can only be described as a crime against leather, the White Sox have sadistically paired two of the hardest-throwing pitchers in baseball as warmup partners.

Prior to each taking the mound Wednesday morning for their first bullpen sessions of the spring, Zack Burdi and Michael Kopech, who have each been clocked above 100 mph on the radar gun, warmed each other up with a throwing session full of popped gloves.

The two prospects, the third and eighth-ranked prospects in the organization, according to MLB.com, naturally drew a pretty big crowd whether it was media, coaches or front office personnel.

“They have explosive arms,” manager Rick Renteria said. “They were throwing together. They paired up and everything is — they throw hard. They throw hard to each other. They throw it hard in the pen.

“They are pretty impressive.”

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Burdi’s 75-grade fastball (out of 80) usually sits between 95-98 mph and has touched 101 on the gun. Kopech reportedly hit 105 mph last July with his 80-graded fastball and threw a 110-mph pitch in a workout session last month using a weighted ball with a running start.

Burdi joked that his glove hand was a little sore after Wednesday’s session, but that rather than air it out, the two focus on hitting spots.

“He was wailing them at me and he had the wind at his back,” Burdi said. “I've played catch with him before and there's a good jump to it, but there was a jump with a second gust to it. He blew me up pretty good today, but he's good to throw with.”

“He’s a pretty relaxed guy. We’re both out there pretty much just working on the stuff that Coop and other pitching coaches have just reiterated to us. It’s not a lot of competition of who can throw, it’s a lot more ‘Who can spot it, who can put their pitches where they want?’”

White Sox well represented on Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 list

White Sox well represented on Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 list

The White Sox have gotten plenty of credit on their revamped farm system this winter and that continued with Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 prospects list Monday.

The Sox planted six guys on BP's list with Yoan Moncada coming in highest at No. 5 overall behind pitcher Alex Reyes (St. Louis Cardinals), shortstop Dansby Swanson (Atlanta Braves), outfielder Andrew Benintendi (Boston Red Sox) and shortstop J.P. Crawford (Philadelphia Phillies).

Here are the rest of the White Sox representatives on BP's list:

10. Lucas Giolito, RHP
30. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
36. Michael Kopech, RHP
89. Zack Collins, C
97. Alec Hansen, RHP

[RELATED - Collins, Burdi excited for first White Sox camp]

Pitchers Carson Fulmer, Zack Burdi and Dane Dunning and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe round out BP's Top 10 White Sox prospects, but none of them cracked the Top 101 list.

Baseball America unveiled their Top 100 prospect list Friday and featured five of the six White Sox youngsters, though Moncada was ranked No. 2, behind only Benintendi.

Giolito, however, came in at 25th on BA's list with Lopez (31), Kopech (32) and Collins (56). Hansen did not crack BA's list.