In 2021, Kevin Kopps was named the best player in college baseball for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Less than a year later, he was taken by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the MLB Draft. While the last few months have been full of change, the Texas native has excelled everywhere he has pitched. With 2022 full of uncertainty, the Padres have a unique talent in Kopps for years to come.
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College Accolades and The Draft
Before joining the Padres, Kopps posted a 2.59 ERA in four years for the Razorbacks. During that span, he struck out 232 batters in 191.1 innings of work. His best season came in 2021, when he finished with a 0.90 ERA en route to winning the Golden Spikes Award. He became the first reliever to win the award, while beating out impressive company.
— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) December 8, 2021
“It was surreal,” said Kopps. “I hadn’t really thought about it because relievers usually don’t win that award. It didn’t become a thought until the awards started coming in. It was a huge honor and blessing to even be in the same group as Rocker and Leiter.”
Following the end of his run at Arkansas, Kopps turned his attention to his pro career. While draft day was full of anticipation, it was also something the former 99th-overall pick will never forget.
“It was super stressful. Everyone I talked to seemed to feel the same way even if they went into it with high expectations. There were twelve teams that showed serious interest in me, but I didn’t hear too much from the Padres. I am super excited to be here, though, and I think they are a good fit for me.”
The best player in college baseball.
Kevin Kopps. pic.twitter.com/akQ0X0vcmE
— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) July 15, 2021
A Good First Impression
In his first season in the minors, the 24-year-old did not disappoint. Across three levels, Kopps allowed one earned run and walked just six batters. The Padres 25th-best prospect posted a high strikeout rate while allowing only five hits. In Double-A, he continued to show why the Padres hold him in high regard. While he was constantly on the move, it was one aspect that Kopps enjoyed.
“It was fun, and I like traveling a lot. I kind of enjoy the chaos of everything, and it was fun bouncing around and not having a permanent place. I had never been to Indiana before, so Fort Wayne stood out. The ballpark and city were super nice, and it was a very relaxing environment.”
While Kopps’ pro career is just beginning, he could move quickly through the system. When the lockout ends, he will likely start next season in Double-A. In 2021, he did not allow a hit and struck out two in his first two appearances. As he moves closer to the majors, Kopps will be looking to build on that success as he faces more advanced hitters.
“I want to focus on developing my fastball,” said Kopps. “The biggest adjustment I had to make was throwing my fastball more and trying to read hitters because professional hitters have slightly different approaches. I have my cutter and slider mix but developing my fastball and changeup would complement my other pitches. I’m excited to get a full minor league season under my belt.”
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