October 30, 2014 at 7:30 AM
Past entries in our Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#14: Michael Kopech, SP
2014 Team: GCL Red Sox
Final Stats: 13.2 IP, 0-1, 4.61 ERA, 11 H, 7 R/7 ER, 9 BB, 16 K, 1.46 WHIP
Season in Review: The second of Boston's two first-round selections in the 2014 draft, Kopech impressed in an abbreviated professional debut. After signing on June 17, the 18-year-old right-hander was assigned to the Gulf Coast League. He made his first pro appearance on July 12, striking out a pair in a scoreless inning. His strongest outing came when he struck out two over three hitless frames on August 12 against the Orioles. Across those eight appearances, Kopech held opposing batters to a .216 batting average and struck out 16 batters in 13 2/3 innings. Perhaps most impressively, the Texan surrendered only two extra base hits, both doubles, limiting GCL batters to a punchless .255 slugging percentage. - James Dunne
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Kopech is a classic high-upside high school pitcher. If things come together, he could quickly establish himself as one of the top arms in the system. Kopech has a prototypical pitcher's frame, listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, with long limbs and with room to fill out as he matures without losing athleticism. Kopech’s mechanics are a work in progress, but have already improved since he was in high school. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a high leg lift and turn at the waist before coming to the plate. Between being drafted and a viewing at the Fall Instructional League, he had already made that turn less pronounced, shortened his arm behind him, and stopped sliding across the mound as he turned to go to the plate.
What stands out most with Kopech is how electric his arm is. The ball really jumps out of his hand with plus life; his fastball sat 93-96 mph, touching 98, when I saw him at Instructs and has plus-plus potential. His command and control are works in progress—during the regular season, he battled bouts of wildness where he really struggled to throw strikes. Kopech’s secondary offerings include a hard slider, changeup and curveball. All are inconsistent, with his hard slider (which I admittedly have yet to see him throw) and changeup showing potential. He threw his curveball 78-80 mph during Instructs, but struggled with his release point on the pitch, getting on the side of it. Kopech's development will take time, and it would not be out of the question for him to start in extended spring training before an assignment to Lowell or Greenville, depending on how he progresses. That said, with Kopech’s raw stuff, if he can show the ability to throw strikes during Spring Training, an initial assignment to Greenville is not out of the question. - Ian Cundall
#13: Sean Coyle, 2B/3B
2014 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Final Stats: 384 PA, .295/.371/.512, 23 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 38 BB, 95 SO, 13 SB
Season in Review: 2014 was a return to form of sorts for Coyle, who slugged his way to being named SoxProspects.com's Comeback Player of the Year after an injury-riddled 2013 campaign, although the specter of injuries lingered. The diminutive infielder, originally taken in the third round of the 2010 draft, got off to a hot start with Salem in 2013 before elbow and knee problems limited both his effectiveness and his time on the field. Assigned to Portland to start 2014, Coyle's Sea Dogs career got off to a similar hot start. He had an impressive .316/.381/.474 batting line on April 28, but a hamstring injury shut him down for the next four weeks, time off that also allowed a nagging bruised finger to heal. Upon his return, Coyle picked up where he left off, winning Player of the Month honors from both SoxProspects.com and the Eastern League in June for a .348/.450/.652 performance that included eight doubles and six home runs. His excellent first half earned him a spot in the Futures Game as part of the All-Star festivities in Minnesota.
While he did not maintain June's torrid pace, Coyle finished with a very strong .295/.371/.512 line that is made even more remarkable when considering that he was a 22-year-old in his first exposure to Double-A. Coyle began the year seeing significant playing time at third base in deference to fellow prospect Mookie Betts. However, he returned almost exclusively to his natural position at the keystone after Betts' promotion, seeing only two starts at third after the All-Star break. Of note, the one negative in Coyle's 2014 stat line was a continuing problem with the strikeout, fanning 95 times in 384 plate appearances. That problem has followed him to the Arizona Fall League, where he has fanned in 17 of 43 at-bats so far, or just under 40 percent. - James Dunne
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Finally healthy this year—for the most part anyway—Coyle showed why he was so highly thought of when he entered the system. Coyle is undersized, listed at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, but is well developed in his lower half with visibly strong forearms. As his teammate Henry Owens put it at one point this year, he is short, but by no means "small." His skillset does not fit the norm for someone of his stature as his power tool is ahead of his hit tool. Coyle’s swing is on the long side, leading to a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, and he still struggles with breaking balls. When he squares the ball up, however, he usually hits it hard and can drive it with backspin. His hit tool projects as below-average-to-fringe-average in the big leagues, but he also could have solid-average-to-plus power. Defensively, Coyle played both second and third base this year. He is not a plus defender at either spot, but projects as a viable option in the big leagues at either, with a solid-average arm that can handle third base. With his offensive profile, Coyle might be best suited for third base long-term, but being able to handle both increases his versatility and could make him a more valuable player, especially if he develops into more of a bench player. Coyle will likely head to Pawtucket to start 2015. A shoo-in to be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, a strong first half next year could position him for a late-season call-up. - Ian Cundall
Additional editorial support provided by Norm Cimon.