Tyler Kolek lit up radar guns outside his hometown in Texas with a triple-digit fastball. The Marlins are hoping the big right-hander, who grew up on a cattle ranch, delivers some of that same Texas heat for them in the not-so-distant future.
The Marlins on Thursday made Kolek, a Houston-area high school flame-thrower who has been compared to some of the state’s pitching legends, the No. 2 overall pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
“You hate to put a tag on these guys, but you kind of see some Roger Clemens in his delivery,” said Stan Meek, the Marlins’ vice president of scouting. “We’ve seen the fastball up to 102 miles per hour. It’s a power body, a power arm, and a power package.”
The Marlins selected Kolek after the Houston Astros took another high school hurler, Brady Aiken, with the top pick.
“With Houston picking first and him being in that state, you obviously feel kind of nervous,” said Meek, adding the Marlins had settled on Kolek with the past few days.
It’s not the first time the Marlins have held the No. 2 pick and used it on a Texas high school pitcher. They also did it in 1999 when they drafted Josh Beckett, who became a World Series hero for them.
But Kolek is not only bigger than Beckett, he also throws harder.
Kolek is a 6-5, 255-pound bear who worked the family’s 10,000-acre ranch and spurned football for baseball. Kolek struck out 126 in 60 1/3 innings while walking just eight this past spring, and finished with an ERA of 0.35.
“I think growing up on a ranch had a little bit to do with it,” Kolek said of his blazing fastball. “I wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning, feed cattle and fix fences. I think it makes you a little tougher than the average high school kid.”
The Marlins sent so many scouts to the small town of Shepherd over the past several months to watch Kolek that Meek joked “we helped the economy” there.
But Kolek said the last time he spoke with anyone from the Marlins was several weeks ago when members of the organization visited his family’s ranch.
Asked what it was about Kolek that made him appealing to the Marlins, Meek replied: “About everything. He’s a big, strong, physical right-hander with three pitches. We think for a big guy he has real solid control of his fastball.”
Kolek threw his fastball in the mid-90s as a sophomore, then missed his junior season after breaking his left arm. When he got back on a mound again, the increased zip on his fastball surprised even him, with the ball popping the mitt at 102 mph.
“I was just blown away,” Kolek said of the gun reading.
The choice of Kolek surprised many experts, who figured the Marlins would likely go for either Carlos Rodon, a Miami-born southpaw out of North Carolina State, or catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, a San Diego-area prep star. But Kolek was among the top five or six names on most draft boards.
Wrote Baseball America of Kolek: “The biggest worry scouts have with Kolek is his size, as he’s bigger than most pitchers at his age. If he maintains his fitness, he has a chance to be a true No. 1 starter.”
Kolek is expected to cash in on his high selection with a hefty bonus. The slot value for the No. 2 pick is $6.8 million. Although Kolek has signed a letter of intent with TCU, it would be a surprise if he didn’t take the money and turn pro.
How long it takes him to reach the majors and play in Miami is anyone’s guess.
“It sounds like a wonderful place to be,” Kolek said of Miami, “and I should be there pretty soon.”