It’s growing obvious that Michael Kopech has turned the corner and is ready for a promotion to the major leagues.
Kopech, the former Vanderbilt pitcher who is one of the key pieces in the promising Chicago White Sox reconstruction project, is coming off another strong performance with the Charlotte Knights – his sixth in a row.
The fastball has been there all along, but Kopech battled off-and-on control problems through a chunk of the 2018 season. Some analysts surmised the White Sox were waiting for the walks to disappear. Now they have.
Kopech has walked two or fewer batters in six straight starts. Most of his strikeouts are with the fastball, but Kopech has made effective use of the curve in his recent performances.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
His most recent outing was Saturday night, when he fired seven innings of five-hit ball in the Knights’ 8-0 victory at Rochester. Kopech didn’t allow a walk and struck out nine. He is – far and away – the International League strikeout leader, with 161. Next-best is 135 by Robert Stevenson of Louisville.
In his previous outing, last Sunday, Kopech had zero walks and nine strikeouts in Charlotte’s 4-2 victory over Durham.
Along with outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who continues to destroy International League pitching (he has 10 homers in six weeks with the Knights), Kopech is likely to get a call-up to Chicago – if not before Labor Day, then afterward, when major league teams can expand their rosters.
Here’s a wrapup of Knights’ activity:
Last Sunday: Kopech’s pitching lifted the Knights past Durham 4-2 in the finale of a home stand.
Tuesday: Starting pitcher Spencer Adams had a good outing, allowing only two runs in 6.1 innings, but Charlotte fell 2-0 to Syracuse.
Thursday: In a completion of a Wednesday game suspended by rain, the Knights edged Syracuse 2-1. Jimenez and Jose Rondon each slammed home runs for Charlotte. In the regularly scheduled game, the Chiefs edged the Knights 3-2. Patrick Leonard and Ryan Cordell each had an RBI for Charlotte.
Friday: Seby Zavala, another promising White Sox prospect, went 3-for-5 and scored two runs as Charlotte trounced Rochester 8-2. Rondon hit his 16th home run of the season for the Knights. Starter Jordan Guerrero went six innings, allowing one earned run and striking out seven.
Saturday: Kopech’s strong pitching and Jimenez’s 10th homer with Charlotte helped the Knights past Rochester 8-0.
Sunday: Rondon slammed his 17th home run of the season, but Charlotte ended its road trip with a 3-2 loss to Rochester.
Week ahead: The Knights have their next-to-last homestand of the 2018 season. They host Buffalo at 7:04 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; and they’re home against Louisville on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Game times are 7:04 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, 12:05 p.m. Friday, and 5:05 p.m. Sunday. The early starting time Friday is because the Carolina Panthers have a preseason home game that night.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle