While Carlos Rodon is (generally) considered the top talent in the 2014 MLB draft class, Tyler Kolek is considered the top prep prospect with one of the best, if not THE best, fastball around. And for a prep guy, fastballs like that are going to vault you to the top of a lot of boards. Let's get to the guy that multiple reports have labeled "country strong."
School & Player History
Kolek played his senior season with Shepherd High School in Shephard, Texas. As far as I can tell, he made eight starts, throwing 46.1 innings and tallying an incredible 100 strikeouts. He didn't allow a hit...A HIT...through his first three games of the season. High school hitters simply couldn't deal with a fastball approaching Warp 3, and it shows: opponents hit just 0.95 off Kolek this season. He did play basketball and football, but gave them both up for his senior campaign to focus on baseball - which was probably useful since he missed his junior season due to a broken arm. Fun fact: Tyler has a younger brother who could be an impact draftee in 2015.
Fastball: Mid-90s (100+ clocked)
Scouting reports on Kolek's fastball are fairly uniform: he sits 92-97 with an ability to dial it up even further. His delivery means the fastball comes in "heavy", which means that when he hits his spots there's very little batters can do with it other than drive the ball into the ground. Especially when they're teenagers who have never seen anything like it before. I imagine they'd have just as good of a chance to make contact by employing the Nick Punto method of closing one's eyes and taking a hack. In summary, the fastball is sick with velocity and generates a bit of movement. The only drawback was that he perhaps relied on it too heavily, which hasn't allowed his secondary pitches to develop.
Both the slider and the curve are works in progress, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The slider has sharper movement than the curve, but the curve allows for greater speed differential (not that it matters too much when your fastball can sit upper-90s). Command is an issue for both, as the slider can straighten out and the curve can spike, but different reports will say that both pitches can, at times, "flash plus."
There's also a changeup, but it's way behind the other three pitches. Whether it's a confidence issue or simply because it's not a game-ready offering, Kolek's changeup doesn't factor into game situations. It's a warm-up pitch more than anything else, and probably can't even be categorized as a "show me" pitch at this stage.
For the sake of transparency and full disclosure, here is the one report that brags up Kolek's secondary pitches more than any other I've read.
Kolek throws from a three-quarter arm slot, which helps the fastball sink, but there's a lot going on. He doesn't repeat well, and can drift to the first base side which of course messes with his control. The good news is that there's nothing herky-jerky and it doesn't sound like there's anything there that can't be fixed by good coaching and lots and lots of repetition. Some of this is normal and expected for a teenage pitcher.
Where Rodon's lower half saw scouts giving varying reports on what they thought it meant for him as a pitcher, most of the reports on Kolek just go on about how big of a guy he is. He's 6' 5" and 250 pounds; he's not in shape in terms of a guy who is toned and goes to the gym, but he's still in good condition. There are stories of how his dad would make him toss bales to earn rides to tournaments. The body size also helps him draw numerous comparisons: Roger Clemens, Josh Beckett, Stephen Strasburg, Joba Chamberlain, and third overall pick from last year's draft, Jonathan Gray. There are no concerns here, and many scouts believe that once he's on a professional training regime he'll actually be able to add velocity. That's scary.
There's a chance that Kolek could fall to the Twins at number five, but only insofar as there's more of a chance compared to Rodon falling to Minnesota. Most likely, he'll be gone. But if two teams decide they like Brady Aiken and Alex Jackson more, then something crazy could happen.
I'll leave you with a quoted chunk from Crawfish Boxes, who was able to see Kolek in person. It's of particular note, because it references last year's first-round pick by the Twins. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
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