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Irrevocably linked, Kopech seeks Sale's old role

Flame-throwing prospect talks admiration for former White Sox ace
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Although Michael Kopech has yet to throw a pitch above the Double-A level, the right-hander with the 100-mph fastball already has surpassed Chris Sale in one particular honor.

Kopech, whom MLBPipeline.com ranks as the No. 11 prospect overall and No. 2 in the White Sox system, will take part in the SiriusXM Futures Game today at 3 p.m. CT at Marlins Park in Miami, which can be viewed live on MLB Network and MLB.com. Second baseman Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect overall per MLBPipeline, and catcher Zack Collins (No. 68 overall, No. 7 White Sox) also represent the White Sox in the contest.

CHICAGO -- Although Michael Kopech has yet to throw a pitch above the Double-A level, the right-hander with the 100-mph fastball already has surpassed Chris Sale in one particular honor.

Kopech, whom MLBPipeline.com ranks as the No. 11 prospect overall and No. 2 in the White Sox system, will take part in the SiriusXM Futures Game today at 3 p.m. CT at Marlins Park in Miami, which can be viewed live on MLB Network and MLB.com. Second baseman Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect overall per MLBPipeline, and catcher Zack Collins (No. 68 overall, No. 7 White Sox) also represent the White Sox in the contest.

:: 2017 Futures Game coverage ::

Sale actually reached the Majors two months after he was drafted by the White Sox in 2010 and never looked back, so he had no chance to participate in this special game. But for the short term, as the White Sox rebuild around high-end prospects such as Kopech, he will be loosely tied to the American League's top starting pitcher as part of the same impactful five-player trade with Boston from this past December.

"It's hard not to keep up with him of late considering he's striking out everyone he faces," Kopech told MLB.com about Sale during a recent phone interview. "That's pretty cool, because my goal last year was to be in the position he is now with the Red Sox.

"My goal this year is to be in the position he used to be with the White Sox. It's a guy that's fun for me to watch because I can imagine myself in his shoes."

Video: Top Prospects: Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox

Through 16 starts and 78 1/3 innings with Double-A Birmingham, the 21-year-old Kopech has fanned 101 and given up 56 hits. He also has walked 53 with an ERA of 4.02, including 21 earned runs allowed over his last 25 1/3 innings.

But this 2017 campaign for Kopech centers more upon becoming a well-rounded pitcher, a lesson the uber-talented Sale learned at the big league level. It's about not throwing so many fastballs in hitter's counts for Kopech or not throwing so many fastballs with runners in scoring position. It's about mixing in the changeup when necessary.

"With the fastball that I have, I don't always need a changeup. But there are times where I get carried away," Kopech said. "I've got to the point where I'm forcing myself to throw it now. It's making me a more glorified pitcher and a complete pitcher."

"He's at a level now where the pitchability factor is going to become more important," White Sox director of player development Chris Getz said. "But still going into the year, our plan was more, 'OK, let's get the innings under the belt,' and obviously the natural development of his understanding how important it is to pitch with the weapons he has versus more [throwing] was, we felt, the natural part of being exposed to Double-A."

Getz took part in the Futures game as a player, as did current White Sox such as Yolmer Sanchez and Matt Davidson. Now it's Kopech's chance to represent the White Sox in his first All-Star environment.

"I'm excited about the way the year is going so far, but I'm not satisfied, if that makes sense," Kopech said. "I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity I've had, but every day is an opportunity to get better and that's what I'm trying to do."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Michael Kopech