Michael Kopech, one of baseball’s premier pitching prospects, underwent Tommy John surgery late in 2018, shortly after making his big-league debut. Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox have optioned right-hander Michael Kopech to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced. Whenever the season gets underway, he’ll open on the minor-league side of things.

That has long seemed like a formality. Kopech, 23, one of baseball’s premier pitching prospects, underwent Tommy John surgery late in 2018, shortly after making his big-league debut. He returned to game activity during Cactus League play before MLB’s shutdown but worked just one inning. It was an impressive frame, as Kopech topped 100 mph regularly with his heater and set down all three hitters he faced — one via strikeout.

The White Sox will surely want to proceed slowly with Kopech as they build him back up to a starter’s workload. The rebuilt South Siders are aiming for a return to competitiveness in the AL Central beginning in 2020 — as evidenced by their winter additions of Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Gonzalez — but Kopech’s health is of greater importance on a long-term scale.

The 2020 rotation will be comprised primarily of Keuchel, Gonzalez, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and a combination of Carlos Rodon (also rehabbing from Tommy John) and Reynaldo Lopez. But it’s hard for Sox fans not to dream on an eventual rotation that includes healthy versions of Giolito, Kopech and Cease leading what could be one of the game’s more talented collections of arms. Of course, that presumes both Cease and Kopech make good on their lofty prospect rankings, and as highlighted by Lopez’s own struggles to date, there are no such guarantees. Still, it’s only logical to see Kopech head to Charlotte for a bit as he ramps back up in a more controlled setting.

This article first appeared on MLB Trade Rumors and was syndicated with permission.



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