WATCH: Luis Robert blasts home run in Dominican Summer League debut

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WATCH: Luis Robert blasts home run in Dominican Summer League debut

There's a reason the White Sox were so ecstatic when they signed 19-year-old Luis Robert.

The organization's No. 3 prospect homered in his first game (and second at-bat) playing in the Dominican Summer League. Robert, who spoke after the game, said he hit the homer on a 3-1 changeup to deep left field.

"I was very happy running around the bases," he said in quotes released by the White Sox. "It was a very special moment for me. I got the baseball and I'm going to save it in a special place."

The outfielder Robert added that he's been working on throws to bases, hitting cutoff men, and trying to hit the ball to the opposite field. He hasn't played in a game setting since last July, but he appears to be shaking off rust rather quickly.

Robert signed a $26 million deal with the White Sox in late May. He joins Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech as the main pieces of the White Sox rebuild.

How smooth transition to White Sox played role in Michael Kopech earning All-Star nod

How smooth transition to White Sox played role in Michael Kopech earning All-Star nod

Michael Kopech earned a starting assignment in the upcoming Southern League All-Star Game.

The White Sox prospect learned Thursday he’d get the nod as the starting pitcher for the North Division squad in the June 20 contest in Pensacola, Fla.

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The No. 12 prospect in baseball, Kopech is 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings at Double-A Birmingham. Thursday’s news is just another highlight in what Kopech has described as a smooth transition to Double-A and to a new organization. Kopech is one of four players acquired by the White Sox from the Boston Red Sox in the trade for Chris Sale.

“It has been pretty easy, honestly,” Kopech said via phone last week. “I’ve had great camaraderie in every clubhouse I’ve been in so far, big league spring training, minor league spring and now in Birmingham. I’ve worked well with Jose Bautista so far this year. He’s helped me with key adjustments, not necessarily anything big mechanically, but he’s worked well with me on a lot of keys to tweak something every now and then. I’ve had a lot of fun working with him so far. It really has been about as smooth of a transition as you can ask for. I’ve been excited about that.”

Already one of MLB's most dominant pitching prospects, Michael Kopech is still 'learning how to pitch'

Already one of MLB's most dominant pitching prospects, Michael Kopech is still 'learning how to pitch'

He’s still blowing hitters away and walking more than he’d like. But White Sox prospect Michael Kopech has also begun to incorporate some of the many nuances of being a pitcher into his approach and is improving.

In order to keep hitters off balance, the Double-A Birmingham pitcher has added a two-seam fastball to his repertoire and is also working to better utilize his changeup. Kopech was named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the month in May on Thursday after he struck out 47 batters and posted a 2.31 ERA in 35 innings. White Sox minor league pitching coordinator Richard Dotson said he likes what he has seen from Kopech, who has just 210 professional innings pitched to his credit.

“It’s the process,” Dotson said. “He can still throw the crap out of it, but he’s learning to pitch.

“He’s doing really well and making strides.”

There’s no doubt Kopech has the tools for success at the major league level. He throws a 100-mph-plus fastball and has a wicked slider to accompany it. Those two pitches alone could almost certainly have him working out of a major league bullpen right now.

But the 11th ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com, wants to be a starting pitcher. And it sounds as if he realizes that he’s going to need some softer pitches in his arsenal to become that pitcher.

The White Sox would like Kopech to rely more often on his changeup, which has above-average potential and grades out to 50 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He threw it 4-5 times on Wednesday when he allowed an unearned run and struck out 10 batters in 5 2/3 innings. Kopech said he’s comfortable with the changeup, but still needs to improve how he implements it.

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“I’ve given up a couple home runs on changeups this year just because I’m speeding guys bats up,” Kopech said. “It has become a better pitch, but I have to be smart about when I’m using it and to whom I’m using it.”

That’s where the two-seamer has been helpful. Whereas the fastball reportedly touched 105 mph last July, the two-seamer provides variance in velocity. With the sinker utilized, Kopech’s fastball velocities now have a range between 94-102 mph.

Unlike it’s rapid, straighter four-seam brethren, Kopech’s sinker has “tail and run -- it has movement with angle,” Dotson said.

“It’s not necessarily a fourth pitch,” Kopech said. “Pretty much another fastball, but at the same time it’s disruption of timing, too.”

Disruption is the key word here. Kopech should always be confident in his 102 mph fastball. But some hitters will be able catch up to that pitch at the major league level and he’ll need offspeed pitches to keep them from looking for the four-seamer.

Also, by trying not to blow every hitter away, Kopech should see a natural reduction in his walk-rate. Kopech said he has strived to pitch to contact more often when he can in games, though he isn’t afraid to pitch for a strikeout with runners on base.

While he has improved his command some, Kopech would like to be even better. After walking 10 batters in his first 12 innings pitched, Kopech has walked 21 in the last 41, including 17 in 35 May innings. That’s a six-percent reduction in walk rate from 18.2 percent in April to 12.2 percent in May.

Still, that translates to 97 walks in 200 innings, a figure he’d like to see decrease. But given his 2.38 ERA and the fact that opposing hitters have only a .539 OPS against him, Kopech knows he’s not too far from where he needs to be.

“My walks are close misses,” Kopech said. “I have an approach to each and every hitter. I have a plan where I go into the game and if I tally up a couple walks it’s not as big a deal as if I’m trying to go after a guy and I’m just missing. It’s getting there, but it’s not exactly where I want it. But I’m a little more comfortable than I was at the beginning of the year.”