Michael Kopech has been on a roll with High-A Salem. (John Wacher/Salem Red Sox)

Red Sox minor league notebook: What pitching prospect Michael Kopech still needs to work on

Ryan Hannable
August 25, 2016 - 6:37 am
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1. Top pitching prospect Michael Kopech is dominating High-A Salem. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 10 starts with the club and over the 51 1/3 innings pitched, he's totaled 81 strikeouts. In his last start Wednesday night he went a career-high seven shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out 10, while walking two. Over his last five starts, in four of them he's had 10 or more strikeouts. While he's dominating at this level, the Red Sox still want him to work on pitches other than his fastball, as while he can succeed in High-A with his high 90s fastball, it won't work in Double-A, Triple-A and especially the majors. "At that level you're going to get by with velocity," Red Sox minor league pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel said. "We've seen at the major league level you have to have that second and third pitch. Velocity is not enough and a lot of guys in the big leagues who are throwing in the mid-90s, they have to have something to complement the fastball. Otherwise, they aren't going to get through the lineup more than one time." Given he missed the first two months of the season after breaking his hand during an altercation with a teammate during spring training, he hasn't thrown as many innings as most other Red Sox starters. With this in mind, there's a good chance he pitches in the Arizona Fall League. It will give him an opportunity to work on his stuff, while going against perhaps better competition than he's facing now. "It continues to be the mix. Don't just fire fastballs. Work on your secondary pitches. Keep working on the slider, which has really become a good pitch for him," Treuel said. "The big thing for me is to use a changeup more often. Major league starters have changeups. He has to realize that and he does realize that and he has picked up the usage I think the last couple outings." Kopech has one of the best fastballs in minor league baseball, but as has been seen first-hand at the big league level with Joe Kelly, Kopech needs to develop another pitch/pitches to be successful. 2. Jason Groome made his professional debut on Monday with the Red Sox in the Florida Gulf Coast League. The tall left-hander started the game and tossed two shutout innings against the GCL Rays. Groome allowed just one hit -- a two-out double -- while not walking a batter and striking out three. He was on roughly a 35-pitch, 1-2 innings limit and came out of it as expected. He will start again Saturday in the GCL and is expected to be on the same pitch limit. The big picture plan remains for him to get to a point where he pitches in a game with short-season, Single-A Lowell this summer to get a taste of pitching in front of a crowd and in a stadium. 3. Michael Chavis, the Red Sox' 2014 first-round pick, was promoted from Single-A Greenville to High-A Salem earlier this week. The third baseman was in his second full season in Single-A and even though he wasn't putting up the greatest of numbers, it was time for him to get promoted and see what he can do at the next level. In 74 games with Greenville this season, he batted .244 with eight home runs and 35 RBIs. 4. With Chavis' promotion, some expected Salem third baseman Rafael Devers, who has been on a tear the past two months, to get promoted to Double-A Portland, but that will not be the case, per source. First of all, the Sea Dogs have Yoan Moncada now manning third base and also, Salem is in the postseason and it's important to the organization for players to get a feel for what it is like to play in the postseason. Devers will continue to get consistent playing time at third base and it appears Chavis will get his at-bats in the DH spot. Devers has been on fire in the second half, hitting .322/.364/.557. 5. Another thought with Chavis going to Salem, is the possibility of short-season, Single-A Lowell third baseman Bobby Dalbec getting promoted to Single-A Greenville. The fourth-round pick in this June's draft is currently on an eight-game hit streak and is batting .450 over his last 10 games with four home runs. Overall, in 24 games with Lowell he is batting .385 with six home runs and 25 RBIs. It doesn't seem like a promotion is imminent, but it certainly hasn't been ruled out over the last few weeks of the season. 6. Starter-turned-relief Jake Cosart has made a very nice transition to his new role this season. With Single-A Greenville he was 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA over 29 outings spanning 52 2/3 innings, while striking out 76 batters. The 2014 third rounder was recently promoted to High-A Salem and has continued his success as the 22-year-old hasn't allowed a run in 9 2/3 innings with Salem, while striking out 16. "He's got stuff," Treuel said. "For him, he's 95-100 mph. We'd like to see the breaking ball get a little better. He does throw a split that is serviceable -- he has to refine a secondary pitch to be effective at the highest level." 7. With Anderson Espinoza now a member of the Padres organization, the best pitcher in Greenville is likely Roniel Raudes. The 18-year-old, and youngest player in the South Atlantic League, is 11-5 with a 3.73 ERA while striking out 101 in 108 2/3 innings. Being so young and throwing over 100 innings, it would appear the organization is keeping an eye on his innings, as he was skipped this time through the rotation, but the team maintains it was just a skipped turn like they do with every starter during the season. In his last time out, he delivered one of his best starts of the season, going seven shutout innings, while walking one and striking out four. 8. Shaun Anderson, who was selected in the third round of this past June's draft, didn't get off to the best start in his pro career as he started two games and allowed nine earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings with short-season, Single-A Lowell. The University of Florida product has been back in the GCL for a few weeks working to get back to 100 percent, which is fairly normal for a college player going from relieving in college to now being a starter as a professional. 9. One player completely flying under the radar this season is right-hander reliever Victor Diaz with Single-A Greenville. Overall, he's 2-5 with a 4.08 ERA over 34 appearances, but he's been dominant of late. Diaz hasn't allowed a run in his last 13 appearances, dating all the way back to July 8. In that time he's thrown 20 innings and struck out 28 batters. He's certainly a name to keep an eye on, as this has been a very impressive stretch. 10. Aside from a stinker of an outing his last time out, right-hander Justin Haley has been impressive in Triple-A Pawtucket. In his three starts prior to that, he tossed three straight shutouts -- a six-inning shutout July 31, a seven-inning shutout Aug. 7 and an eight-inning shutout Aug. 12. Between Portland and Pawtucket this season, the 25-year-old is 12-8 with a 3.09 ERA. Haley is Rule 5 draft eligible after this season, so if he isn't added to the 40-man roster he could be picked by any other team in the draft during the Winter Meetings. It doesn't seem likely the Red Sox will add him to their 40-man at this point in time.