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White Sox invite top pitching prospect Michael Kopech to spring training

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White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech was among the non-roster players given an invitation to spring training, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports. Though unlikely, Kopech does have a chance to make the starting rotation out of camp.

Kopech, 21, is the best pitching prospect, No. 2 overall in the White Sox system, and No. 10 overall in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. He spent most of last season with Double-A Birmingham, posting a 2.87 ERA with a 155/60 K/BB ratio in 119 1/3 innings. He made three successful starts with Triple-A Charlotte, yielding five runs in 15 innings.

Kopech throws hard, wielding a fastball that reaches into the triple digits with regularity. He also throws a hard slider regarded as an above-average weapon. The right-hander has a change-up that is still believed to be a work in progress.

Most likely, Kopech starts the year at Triple-A and stays down there until the White Sox can be sure they get an extra year of control, not unlike the way the Cubs handled Kris Bryant in his rookie season. Following that, Kopech will get a call up to the big leagues where he’ll presumably stay for good. He should be one of the more interesting prospects to watch during the 2018 season.

Kopech pitched in the Futures Game last year, providing a brief glimpse of his skills:

Major League Baseball to launch an elite league for high schoolers

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This morning Major League Baseball announced a new elite league for high school baseball players who are likely to be drafted. It’s called the Prospect Development Pipeline League. It’ll start next summer and it’ll invite 80 of the best current high school juniors to play in a league in Florida from June through early July, culminating in an All-Star Game during MLB’s All-Star week.

The idea behind the league: to combat the current system in which a couple of pay-to-play, for-profit showcase leagues dominate the pre-draft season. Major League Baseball, schools and a lot of players’ parents have criticized this system because it favors rich kids who can afford to play in them. Major League Baseball is also likely quite keen on having greater control over the training, health and physical monitoring of prospects.

As Jeff Passan notes in his report about this, there will be a component of the program which involves live data-tracking of players during games and drills. Major League Baseball has become increasingly interested in such things but is limited in how much it can do in this regard due to labor agreements. There is no such impediment with high schoolers. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how you feel about that, I presume.