The Miami Marlins entered the 2014 draft with quite a stock of young pitching talent. They have the brilliant Jose Fernandez, drafted out of high school in 2011. Although undergoing Tommy John surgery this season, Fernandez future remains very bright after winning NL Rookie of the Year honors last season and putting together one of the best performances by a rookie pitcher of all time. There remains a lot of organizational depth at pitcher with Andrew Heaney, Adam Conley, Anthony DeSclafani, Brian Flynn, and Justin Nicolino – to spot a few.
So you could expect the Marlins would continue this trend. Their philosophy is to develop as much young pitching as possible so they can always replenish the arms at the big league level if necessary or trade from their stockpile. In the case of Jose Fernandez, this remains an excellent strategy as not only did the Marlins see an amazing prospect blossom very quickly, but with his injury, the Marlins also have potential replacements available. There is a lot of mumbling about when, not if, Andrew Heaney will be called up.
When the Fish had the #2 pick the in draft, many pundits were saying it came down to either NC State college star lefty Carlos Rodon and a high school bat like Alex Jackson. Rodon was believed to be the perfect fit being of Cuban descent himself and as a lefty, could offer an interesting 1-2 punch with Fernandez down the road. Even Joe Frisaro was calling for the selection of Rodon. A polished college pitcher could also supply a quicker turnaround.
The Fish are never predictable when it comes to anything, so the selection of Tyler Kolek was a bit of a surprise, but not so much when you actually follow what the kid can do.
Kolek has a plus fastball and with his power arm comes a power frame. He’s 6’5″ and could possibly grow some more. He certainly will put on weight as he gets older and many are comparing him to another high school Texas power arm taken by the Marlins, Josh Beckett. Some are even comparing him to the long line of Texas hurlers like Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan.
Kolek’s 100 MPH fastball have been well-recorded. Stan Meek downplayed it a little, “I think 98 is about the best I’d ever seen,” Meek said. “I think I saw Jose pitch that in high school. I saw a couple of other kids up that high. I think [Kolek’s] is kind of a unique fastball.”
One of the things that attracted the Marlins about Kolek was not only his exceptional fastball, but his arm strength and delivery. His mechanics are very fluid and he has a lot of arm strength meaning his fastball is not forced. “I really think when guys try to get to the top-end velocity, that’s when they get hurt,” Meek said. “He’s got plenty of arm strength without trying to force anything. That’s what we really like, a good fastball that’s not being forced.”
And at 6’5″, 240lbs the kid has the size to really wear that kind of a power arm well. In light of recent speculation over the impact of Fernandez’s injury, the chatter before the draft showed that the Marlins were not going to shy away from any big arms they could possibly get. Meek was interviewed and basically stated that pitcher arm injuries are unpredictable. The Marlins liked Fernandez’s arm motion and delivery and he, too, had physical comfort delivery a plus fastball.
As for his development, the sky is the limit with Kolek. Possibly even higher. He projects to be a front line pitcher, a true number one that can go out and light fires with his fastballs, using the bats like matchsticks. The Fish warn that they want to develop his other pitches and his overall approach though as just having a plus fastball is not going to get you much success at the big-league level, in particular his changeup and his curveball. “The one thing he’s got to be careful of is he doesn’t get enamored with the counts the [radar] guns read, just go pitch,” Meek said. It could be damaging to Kolek’s development to base his success on his radar readings. (Read about the Legend of Colt Griffin) That said, control does not seem to be an issue at all as he averaged over 2Ks per inning pitched (120 Ks in 60.1 IP) while also only walking 8 batters that he faced in his senior year at high school.
In Kolek, the Marlins get a guy whose name, like his approach, starts and ends with a K. He has a terrific work ethic, growing up on a ranch, and it even has been reported he would drive 3 hours round trip three times per week to workout with a trainer. Kolek’s country-strong demeanor would be an interesting fit in the splash of color and energy of downtown Miami someday. He might even create a formidable competitor for current staff ace Jose Fernandez.