Michael Kopech has dealt with high expectations for most of his baseball life. He was a first-round pick in 2014 out of high school and was traded from Boston to Chicago as a part of a deal for Chris Sale in December 2016.
Sale had finished in the top-six in Cy Young voting in the five seasons leading up to the trade. He continued that in Boston while Kopech and the rest of the prospects in the deal were working their way through the minor-league ranks.
Kopech joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the Audacy Original Podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” and talked about what he felt after being traded for someone of Sale’s caliber.
“I think then I was trying to live up to other people’s expectations so much that I wasn’t figuring out who I was as a player,” Kopech said (17:20 in player above). “Obviously, being involved in a trade for someone like Chris Sale, I was like ‘OK, they knew who they were getting rid of and I need to come in and be Chris Sale.’”
It would’ve been hard for anyone to come in and be Sale for the White Sox. During his seven years in Chicago, he went 74-50 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. The perennial Cy Young candidate had a strikeouts-per-nine of over 10 with the White Sox.
“I may never be able to do the things that Chris Sale does in the way that Chris Sale does them, but I could’ve focused more on becoming the best version of myself as a pitcher and the best version of myself as a person and as a professional” Kopech continued. “The things I was trying to do was come in and strike out the world and throw 100. I kind of got away from all the little things that really mattered instead of being a big flash as soon as I got there.”
The youngster made his major-league debut in August of 2018 and underwent Tommy John surgery less than a month later. After opting out of the shortened season in 2020, he returned to the mound in 2021 and is finding his way as a four-pitch starter rather than relying on his blazing fastball.