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Kopech headlines Pitchers of the Week

Red Sox prospect fanned 10 over seven one-hit innings for Salem
Michael Kopech has averaged 14.2 strikeouts per nine innings with Salem this season. Chris Robertson
August 29, 2016

The 2016 season didn't begin the way Michael Kopech would have hoped. He's doing everything in his power to make sure that's not the narrative for the end of his season as well.

The No. 5 Red Sox prospect headlines this week's Minor League Pitcher of the Week honorees as the Carolina League representative after he struck out 10 and allowed one hit over a career-high seven scoreless innings last Wednesday for Class A Advanced Salem. This is Kopech's second career Pitcher of the Week award. He also won the South Atlantic League honor while with Class A Greenville for his performance from April 20-26, 2015.

Kopech's latest gem, which came in a 9-1 Salem win at Potomac, took only 89 pitches to complete as 55 of those went for strikes. Lasting seven innings for the first time in his career also should not be disregarded, according to his coach.

"Getting through seven is big," Salem pitching coach Paul Abbott told MiLB.com last week. "I feel like the seventh inning is what the standard is for starters everywhere to get to, and when you're knocking on that door you start putting pressure on yourself to get there. Him getting through that and finishing it the way he did, feeling that fresh and looking that sharp, that will ease his mind going forward."

What's more, Wednesday represented the fourth time in his last five starts that the 20-year-old right-hander has reached double-digit K's. Since he joined Salem on July 7, Kopech leads all Minor Leaguers with 81 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings. No one else has more than 73 in that time. His 1.23 ERA in 10 Carolina League starts is also tops among all Class A Advanced hurlers since July 7. MLB.com's No. 75 overall prospect, Kopech has reportedly hit 105 mph with his fastball, and his pitching coach knows he has the stuff to put up sterling numbers.

"He can dominate with his fastball. It's got exceptional late life through the zone, but his slider has really picked up with his feel and conviction," Abbott told MiLB.com. "He's starting to learn how to use his slider as a wipeout pitch, and it's really coming along fast. It's just a true weapon, to give him something else to go to besides his fastball. He's got two devastating weapons."

It didn't always look like 2016 would be remembered as such a great season for the 2014 first-rounder. Kopech began the year on the disabled list after breaking his hand in a fight with a teammate during Spring Training and didn't make his first rehab appearance until June 17. With only 55 2/3 innings under his belt this season, there's plenty left in the tank, and Salem, which already has a Carolina League playoff spot locked down with a first-half division title, is prepared to take advantage. Kopech is next scheduled to take the mound Wednesday at home against Winston-Salem.

"He's reaching midseason form now," Abbott said last week. "There was a sense of urgency in his own mind to make up for lost time, and he's put everything behind him and is really commanding his presence on the mound. He's really evolving at a pretty rapid pace.

"He's missed some time this year and he's needed to log some innings and as he's doing that, he's learning what it takes to be a complete pitcher. And being a complete pitcher isn't just about pitchability -- it's about keeping your composure and staying consistent."

Here is the complete list of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for Aug. 22-28: 

International -- Jonathan Holder, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (NYY): 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 G, 0 GS, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 16 K

Pacific Coast -- Jose De Leon, Oklahoma City (LAD): 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 14 2/3 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 23 K

Eastern -- Ricky Knapp, Binghamton (NYM): 1-1, 2.25 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 1 CG, 16 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 HBP, 4 BB, 17 K

Southern -- Taylor Jungmann, Biloxi (MIL): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 8 K

Texas -- Francis Martes, Corpus Christi (HOU): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 4 K

California -- Chris Huffman, Lake Elsinore (SD): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 8 K

Carolina -- Michael Kopech, Salem (BOS): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 2 BB, 10 K

Florida State -- Yefrey Ramirez, Tampa (NYY): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 8 K

Midwest -- Wendolyn Bautista, Dayton (CIN): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 SHO, 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 7 K

South Atlantic -- Taylor Guilbeau, Hagerstown (WAS): (2-0, 0.75 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HBP, 6 BB, 17 K)

New York-Penn -- Daniel Zandona, Lowell (BOS): 2-0, 0.82 ERA, 2 G, 0 GS, 11 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 3 BB, 10 K

Northwest -- Brandon Miller, Everett (SEA): 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 0 BB, 5 K

Appalachian -- Tyler Wells, Elizabethton (MIN): 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 1 SHO, 13 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 4 BB, 17 K

Pioneer -- Chris Comito, Great Falls (CWS): 2-0, 1.29 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 14 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 HR, 0 HBP, 5 BB, 17 K

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.