FAYETTEVILLE — Kevin Kopps is capturing awards for his play in 2021 about as quickly as he accumulated wins and saves.
Kopps finished 12-1 on the mound with an ERA of 0.90 and also 11 saves. He appeared in 33 games with one start. He worked 89.2 innings, allowed 50 hits, 18 walks, struck out 131, gave up five home runs and limited opposing hitters to .162 batting average against him.
Dave Van Horn projected when he thinks Kopps could get drafted and what level he might start out at in minors.
“I think Kevin will go pretty good in the draft,” Van Horn said. “First off, he deserves it. Then on the negative part for him, he’s 24 years old. But I think what we’re getting out of it is that instead of starting a guy in low-A, they’re going to start him in high-A or maybe just send him to double-A and see if he can get hitters out. And if he can, great.
“If I was guessing, I think he might go before the fifth round. But are they going to pay him what they should? Probably not because of his age.”
Van Horn pointed out that Kopps has some leverage in the sense his eligibility at Arkansas isn’t completed yet.
“You know, Kevin could come back another year if he wanted,” Van Horn said. “I don’t see that. He’s taken so much schooling. He’s where he needs to be academically. But the draft is so tricky. They have X amount of money, each organization. They always try to save a little here, a little there, so they can pay a guy more than their slot. So you might see that come into play.
“I would think before the draft that Kevin will be…and he is talking to these teams. Maybe they’ll get something worked out if that team happens to pick him. He can just go do his thing.”
If you were running a professional team, would you send him to double-A?
“Well, it’s hard for me to speak for those guys, because it’s a different thing,” Van Horn said. “But I’d say because of his age and his maturity, you could send him to a double-A clubhouse right out of college and he would be accepted by the players because of who he is and the way he acts, and the way he works. They’re going to like him. So I would send him to double-A and say, ‘Hey, here you go. Let’s see what you can do.’ If it didn’t go well, you could always send him back to high-A.
“That might be the way that I’d handle it. But it depends on the personnel and who drafts him. There are a lot of factors there, and it’s easy for me to sit here and say that.”
Kopps is known for having a professional approach to the team and season. Van Horns feels that contributed to his success.
“I think it was a big part of it,” Van Horn said. “And then he found himself, man, on the mound. He just got comfortable, and he could command the baseball like no other pitcher I’ve really ever had with just by working at it and repeating everything. His delivery. It was amazing.
“We’ll be able to talk about Kevin many years down the road and how he got in shape, how he changed his body and got his mind right. The way he ate, nutrition. I think it’s going to help a player or two in the future future here, if they’ll listen and look at the success he had. Maybe not to the extreme of Kevin, the success that he had, but it’s going to help make some of these players down the road better.”
The 2021 MLB Draft will be held July 11-13 in conjunction with the all-star game.