Honeywell, Kopech dominating in returns

April 11th, 2021

Two of baseball’s most electrifying young pitchers spent considerable time away from the mound due in part to Tommy John surgeries. On Sunday, Rays starter Brent Honeywell Jr. and White Sox reliever Michael Kopech took turns in the spotlight.

Honeywell hadn’t stepped onto a mound in a regular-season baseball game since Sept. 3, 2017 with Triple-A Durham and had never done so in a Major League game before Sunday. In his brief Tampa Bay debut, the right-hander dazzled. Over two perfect innings, Honeywell fired 14 of 21 pitches for strikes, struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres back-to-back and most importantly announced his healthy return to the game.

Honeywell was baseball’s No. 12 overall prospect entering the 2018 season but underwent Tommy John surgery that February, wiping out his entire campaign and part of the next. While on his rehab track in 2019, Honeywell suffered a bone fracture in his right elbow, prompting another surgery and another missed season. In May of 2020, he again went under the knife for a nerve decompression procedure and seven months later a minor arthroscopic cleanup.

Even after three seasons away from the game -- 1,300 days total since he pitched for Durham in the Triple-A National Championship Game on Sept. 19, 2017 -- Tampa Bay’s No. 19 prospect looked much as the baseball world remembered him. Honeywell touched 95.4 mph with his fastball while mixing in his changeup, cutter and signature screwball.

Honeywell was added to Tampa Bay’s roster from the alternate training site where he was scheduled to start on Sunday as a corresponding move for Chris Archer’s trip to the 10-day injured list with right lateral forearm tightness. More »

In Chicago, Kopech continued his dominant return to competition. Like Honeywell, Kopech was perfect on his day, retiring all seven batters he faced. The No. 35 overall prospect struck out three including Salvador Perez on a 97.4 mph fastball and both Jorge Soler and Michael A. Taylor on sliders.

Like Honeywell, Kopech had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and then missed all of the 2019 season. The following year, he opted out of the 2020 campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic. His return has been worth the wait. Through three appearances so far this season, Kopech has now thrown 6 1/3 innings, allowing one hit, no runs and two walks while striking out 11. His WHIP sits at 0.47 while opponents are batting just .050 against him. More »

More notable performances from top prospects on Sunday:

Cristian Pache, OF, ATL (MLB No. 11)

The top Braves prospect notched his second extra-base hit in the bigs with a double to right field to lead off the fourth inning. Pache’s 70-grade speed tool was on display as he made it from home plate to second in 8.62 seconds. The 22-year-old, who snapped a four-game hitless skid, also scored his third run of the season later in the inning. Gameday »

Taylor Trammell, CF, SEA (MLB No. 93)
After batting just .105/.320/.158 through his first six games this season, Trammell is starting to find the barrel with his bat. Seattle’s No. 6 prospect homered for the second straight day on an impressive three-run blast to right field in the top of the sixth. Trammell turned around an 80.9 mph slider from Minnesota’s Matt Shoemaker and belted it with a 109.1 mph exit velocity, sending it 421 feet and putting Trammell adjacent to some elite power company. Gameday »

Johan Oviedo, RHP, STL
After Cardinals starter Daniel Ponce de Leon was roughed up for seven runs on six hits over 1 1/3 innings, Oviedo came on from the bullpen for his season debut and stabilized Sunday’s action for St. Louis. The ninth-ranked Cards prospect pitched scoreless ball for the next 4 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and two walks but striking out four. The performance was Oviedo’s first in a relief capacity since April 9, 2019 with Class A Advanced Palm Beach and just the fourth of his career. More »

Ryan McKenna, OF, BAL

The 15th-ranked Orioles prospect didn’t even get the start on Sunday and still managed to put together a multi-hit effort. McKenna entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Anthony Santander to lead off the sixth and notched his first career big league hit by hammering a triple off the wall in center. He followed that up by winning a seven-pitch at-bat against Phillips Valdez with a line drive single back up the middle. The 24-year-old hit .250/.389/.286 with seven walks across 24 Grapefruit League games this spring. More »

Zach McKinstry, INF/OF, LAD

McKinstry was the offense for the Dodgers on Sunday. The club’s 15th-ranked prospect accounted for all three of L.A.’s runs with a two-run jack to right-center in the seventh inning and an RBI two-bagger to center in the second. The 25-year-old now has six extra-base hits and 10 RBIs through his first nine big league games. Gameday »

Kyle Isbel, OF, KC

The fifth-ranked Royals prospect turned in his third multi-hit effort of the year. Isbel singled to left in the fifth and then came around to score on a Whit Merrifield RBI knock. The 24-year-old added another single in the ninth – that one went into center. Isbel has seven hits and five runs scored through his first seven Major League games. Gameday »

Albert Abreu, RHP, NYY

Called up from New York’s Alternate Training Site on Sunday morning, Abreu was perfect in his season debut. The 18th-ranked Yankees prospect whiffed Brett Phillips and Randy Arozarena swinging before getting Austin Meadows to lift a lazy fly ball into center to seal an 8-4 victory on the road in 10 innings. Abreu made five appearances this spring and fanned four over 4 2/3 frames. Gameday »

Jordan Sheffield, RHP, COL

Sheffield continued his stellar start to his big league career with another hitless outing. The 29th-ranked Rockies prospect recorded two outs on the first five pitches he threw on Sunday before plunking Wilmer Flores. It was only blemish of the afternoon for the righty as he got Donovan Solano to line out to center to end the frame. Sheffield has yielded just one hit over four scoreless appearances this season and is sporting a .083 average against and 0.27 WHIP. Gameday »

Connor Brogdon, RHP, PHI

Brogdon extended his scoreless streak to 4 1/3 innings with a perfect frame of relief against the Braves. The 22nd-ranked Phillies prospect entered the game in the sixth and blew a 96.7 mph fastball past Austin Riley for strike three. He then got Cristian Pache to ground out to third and pinch-hitter Ehire Adrianza to line out to center to end the inning. Brogdon is holding opponents to a .250 average and sports a 1.09 WHIP over four appearances this season. Gameday »