JUPITER, Fla. - As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities x-this month, we sat down with prospects to get to know them a little better. At Marlins camp, it was No. 1 prospect Tyler Kolek. Kolek was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 Draft,
JUPITER, Fla. - As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities x-this month, we sat down with prospects to get to know them a little better. At Marlins camp, it was No. 1 prospect Tyler Kolek.
Kolek was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 Draft, taken just after the Astros selected Brady Aiken. The big, hard-throwing right hander struggled at times during his first full season and then experienced discomfort in his pitching elbow during Spring Training last week. This interview was done before it was learned that he would have his elbow examined today.
MLBPipeline.com: It's your second Spring Training now. Last year, I'd imagine you came in a little wide-eyed, not knowing what to expect. There's new personnel -- player-development-wise -- this year, but how much more comfortable do you feel this year compared to last year?
Kolek: I think the biggest thing is, this year, I kind of knew what I was getting into arm-strength-wise. Last year, I came in a little too ready. I had been throwing a lot. This year, I built up more. We also have new personnel, and they wanted different things. I was more ready for the day, PFPs, everything you do. I kind of knew what to expect, which makes it easier.
MLBPipeline.com: Is it hard for a young guy to buy into all of that, especially since you've been able to throw so hard for so long? Was there a part of you that thought, "I can just blow the ball by people?" When did you realize it would take more than that to have success at higher levels?
Kolek: I think last year, after the All-Star break, I was throwing, and I think I sat 95-98 mph. I threw a ball 96, and it gets tanked. I thought, "I've thrown that 100 times and no one's ever touched it. I have to start working on stuff." From that pitch forward, I decided I was going to change my plan. After that, I started developing my changeup, and it's been a lot better.
MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports
MLBPipeline.com: With the new personnel in player development, there's sure to be a new system. Has this new group helped you, especially having a pitching guru like Jim Benedict here?
Kolek: They have helped me 100 percent. Right now, I feel way better this time than last year. My leg lift was kicking out a lot. I was wondering why my stride length was so long. I was having to push too hard. I was working against myself. Once I calm that down, it's just nice, easy and relaxed throwing. I can throw longer and harder. At first, it was a little difficult, not knowing how hard you're throwing. I'm throwing it easy, and it feels good, but I don't know what it's going to be. I know the big thing is velocity doesn't matter, but I want to know how hard I'm throwing. After my first outing, I realized it really is easier to do this. I'm all bought in now.
MLBPipeline.com: What does your ideal 2016 look like?
Kolek: I'd say that I want to work on walks. I walked a lot of guys last year. There were a lot of easy outs I could've gotten that didn't happen. I want to clean it up in terms of ball-strike ratio. This year, I'm going to have a slider, so I have more to work with. The fastball, I'm getting better command. I won't really know until it starts.
MLBPipeline.com: What is it with kids from Texas and throwing hard? It seems there are always young fireballers from Texas.
Kolek: Nolan Ryan. People look up to him. It's just Texas, the greatest state in America. I don't know, it's just kind of a thing, I guess.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow @JonathanMayo on Twitter.