Michael Kopech

Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports

Baffoe: Waiting On Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech Is OK

There's no reason for the White Sox to rush a prospect in a season like this.

Tim Baffoe
June 12, 2018 - 1:43 pm
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By Tim Baffoe--

(670 The Score) I selfishly want to see Eloy Jimenez swinging a bat at Guaranteed Rate Field on tonight. For my own curiosity, I want to see Michael Kopech throwing smoke on the South Side come tomorrow.

I also know that those two developments aren’t going to happen at this time -- and that they don’t have to.

Jimenez and Kopech, the jewels of the White Sox's farm system, are the No. 3 and No. 8 prospects in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Both have shown the ability so far in the minors to dominate opponents. Jimenez has 10 home runs, 41 RBIs and a .939 OPS in 48 games at Double-A Birmingham. Kopech has an eye-popping 12.1 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate.

Combine those sexy stats with their famous names in White Sox fan circles and the creeping boredom that comes with June in a rebuilding year, and the drum beat calling for call-ups starts getting louder. It’s understandable, but it’s not wise. General manager Rick Hahn knows this.

"We don't have answers for that right now," Hahn said Monday about when the two will don the black pinstripes. "There continues to be different developmental matters they are working on. All I can say is we are trying to put them in the best position to have long-term success. As we have said before, they will eventually force the issue."

Jimenez and Kopech are both too good to not force it themselves, and they're clearly big league talents, just not necessarily at this exact moment. But let them force it. They're fruits still on a vine, close to being ripe but not perfect for it yet. Despite the absolute tear he was on most of this season, Jimenez hasn’t homered in June and is hitting .264 so far on the month. Nothing dire there, but if he were doing that after a call-up, there would certainly be rash whispers of whether he was really ready for MLB pitching. And Jimenez hasn’t even seen Triple-A pitching yet.

"I have said it before and I will say it again: Eloy will be stopping in (Triple-A) Charlotte," Hahn said regarding those who believe he could jump from Double-A to the big leagues. "If someone thinks he is coming straight to Chicago and is not going to play (there), they have not been paying attention to what the developmental plan is for him."

Yes, there’s a plan -- an individual plan and a broader organizational one. Neither can be rushed at this point, particularly when the White Sox aren’t winning anything of significance right now. Sure, “Eloy Jimenez Day” would draw a lot of fanfare a la the call-up of Yoan Moncada last year and bust up some of the monotony of a 22-42 season that was designed as such. But selfishness shouldn’t trump practicality.

Such would be the case with Kopech especially. Despite those strikeout numbers, he’s been inconsistent at Triple-A Charlotte. He’s walked at least four batters in five of his last seven starts, an issue that has followed him throughout his minor league career. He has a 4.70 ERA, which is largely a product of a separate eight-earned run and seven-earned run efforts.

"Kopech has put together a few really good starts," Hahn said. "He has had others that show you he still has to improve in certain areas. He is certainly getting closer."

And why rush that? Why put a player on a big league mound this early in a season that doesn’t mean anything besides angling for another high draft pick in 2019? The White Sox do have young starters on the roster now who are working through individual issues -- Lucas Giolito, Dylan Covey and Reynaldo Lopez -- so that seems fair game to cite in the Kopech-to-majors argument. The reviews with those current White Sox have been mixed, particularly regarding Giolito, who threw more balls than strikes in a loss to the Cleveland Indians on Monday night, continuing his struggles.

"(Kopech and Jimenez) are both equipped to come here and survive," Hahn said. "There is no doubt they could come up here and survive right now. Especially if you want to drop him (Kopech) in the pen and use him for one or two innings at a time. That is not what we are trying to do. We are trying to develop a front-end starter. 

"The difference between the ones who are up here is they may have answered some of those questions at the minor league level. They checked the boxes we wanted them to check there. Now they are going through some struggles at the big league level. How anyone is doing in Chicago has zero impact on when Michael Kopech gets here."

Again, individual plans. The desire for something fun in the immediate comes with the territory in this process that can get arduous with all the waiting. It’s like knowing the Christmas presents are under your parents' bed, but you can’t touch them. It’s like when I unwrapped an outdoor basketball hoop one Christmas morning and immediately wanted it mounted on the garage in the snowy cold of December just because it was new and exciting.

"As thrilling as it would be to have one or both up here tonight, perhaps to show some level of advancement in this rebuild, what happens here will have nothing to do with when these players arrive," Hahn said. "It’s going to be based strictly upon their own development and when they are ready for the challenges presented by the big-league level."

Hahn and his staff have built one of the league’s best farm systems quickly and almost from scratch. They need to be given enough slack to pluck their players from the vine when their assessments conclude those youngsters are ready. To them, that’s not the case with Jimenez and Kopech in June, and that’s OK.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.​​​​​​