Michael Kopech is one of four Boston Red Sox prospects the team traded to the Chicago White Sox on December 6 in a blockbuster deal for starting pitcher Chris Sale. Ken Rosenthal of Ken Rosenthal reports that star prospect Yoan Moncada was also sent to the White Sox.
Kopech has been playing in the Red Sox farm system since 2014 and is just 20 years old. The Texas native is a right-handed pitcher and is also dating Brielle Zolciak-Biermann, the daughter of former Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kim Zolciak-Biermann.
Kopech confirmed that he was part of the Sale deal in a pair of Tweets:
Here’s a look at Kopech’s career and his relationship with Zolciak-Biermann.
1. Brielle Zolciak-Biermann Thinks They are a ‘Better Version of Barbie and Ken’
The 19-year-old Zolciak-Biermann confirmed their relationship on Instagram in June, when she posted a photo of Kopech pitching with a heart emoji. A few days later, she posted another image of the two, writing, “So this is what it’s really like.” More recent photos on Instagram show the couple in the Bahamas together.
In September, she posted a photo with Kopech, writing, “We’re a better version of Barbie and Ken.”
Zolciak-Biermann is the daughter of Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who starred on Real Housewives of Atlanta and had her own spin-off, Don’t Be Tardy for the Wedding. She is currently married to Kroy Biermann.
Zolciak-Biermann has five siblings, Arianna, Kroy Jagger, Kash, and twins Kane and Kaia. Zolciak-Biermann and Arianna’s father is Dan Toce, who Kim was married to from 2001 to 2003.
2. Kopech Fractured His Hand During a Fight With a Teammate in Spring Training 2016
Kopech’s 2016 season did not start off well. During Spring Training in Fort Myers, Kopech fractured his hand during an altercation with a teammate. The details of the fight were not made public, but Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen told WEEI that the situation was handled internally.
“It was stupid,” Hazen told the media in March 2016. “He’s going to have to grow up, obviously, with the things that have happened so far. He’s got a long road to go to get to the big leagues. He obviously has a ton of potential. He’s got a long way to go. These types of things, you don’t want to put more barriers in front of you than playing professional baseball already presents you.”
Kopech did not make the Red Sox roster and spent the entire 2016 season in the minors. He split time between A- Lowell and A+ Salem, starting 12 games and earning a 4-1 record. He had an ERA of 2.08.
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3. Kopech Was Suspended for Using Oxilofrine in 2015, but Denied Taking it
Kopech’s 2015 season was rough as well. He missed 50 games because he tested positive for Oxilofrine, a stimulant banned by the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. In a statement to MILB.com, Kopech denied taking the substance and said he’d never even heard of it.
Here’s Kopech’s complete statement:
“I would like to start by apologizing to all of baseball, baseball fans, and specifically the Red Sox and Red Sox fan base. I respect the game as much, if not more than, anyone else. With that being said, I never have and never will intentionally cheat the game that has been so great to me. I haven’t bought any supplements that aren’t NSF certified for sport. Therefore, I know I have not bought a supplement containing this drug. I have never heard of Oxilofrine, honestly. Apparently, it is a drug that many people use for weight loss. I have been trying to gain weight since I signed with the Red Sox. I do understand this is also a stimulant. This drug would have no positive outcome for me and that’s why I chose to appeal. I realized I didn’t have much evidence to prove that I’m innocent, but I didn’t have any understanding of how I could have failed a test. I respect the system and understand why they have to be so careful with the testing. I also understand why that means my suspension couldn’t have been overturned without proper evidence. I have 50 games to get to work and better myself and as a ball player. Next season I’ll be better than ever. Drug free.”
Kopech started 15 of the 16 games he appeared in for A Greenville in 2015, going 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA.
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4. Kopech Can Throw Over 100 MPH & Threw 105 in a 2014 Game
Kopech can throw 100 mph. During a game in July 2014, Kopech threw a 105 mph pitch, Baseball America reports. Two radar guns picked up the pitch at 105 mph, but since the Salem ballpack doesn’t show pitch speeds, few people at the park knew how fast the pitch was.
“Your eye is not trained to see 105. You’ve never seen it before unless it’s off some sort of machine,” Salem manager Joe Oliver told Baseball America. “I couldn’t say that one pitch was harder than any other he threw. A couple you could tell were quicker. (Was it) 101 or 103? You couldn’t pick out which one was 105.”
MassLive reports that Kopech also threw a 105 mph pitch during a July 13 start. During the 2016 season, he struck out 86 batters.
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5. During a July Start, Kopech Tossed an ‘Immaculate Inning’ in Salem
Kopech had Red Sox fans, especially those who keep track of the farm system players, really excited during the 2016 season. In July, Kopech threw an “immaculate inning,” striking out three batters on nine pitches. Amazingly, it was in the fourth inning, the last inning he pitched.
After the 2016 Arizona Fall League wrapped in late November, Baseball America ranked Kopech as the second-best prospect, behind only Gleyber Torres of the Yankees.
Kopech has been in the Red Sox farm system since he was drafted 33rd overall in the 2014 MLB Junior Amateur Draft. He graduated from Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, Texas.