Kolek earned Nolan Ryan’s endorsement

CHICAGO — When you have the endorsement of Nolan Ryan, you don’t need much more validation.

Ryan made no bones about how big a fan he is of Tyler Kolek.

The Marlins were equally impressed, and they selected the hard-throwing Texan with the second overall pick in Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft.

By his own estimates, Kolek stands 6-foot-5 1/2 to 6-6. He’s country strong at 255-pounds. Raised on a 10,000-acre ranch in Shepherd, Texas, Kolek isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

Daily chores begin at 6 a.m., when he is up doing his part. To prepare for baseball, he drove 1 1/2 hours each way three days a week to work out with his trainer.

The prep phenom also can throw a baseball harder than any prep player on the planet. Taking it a step further, he just may have thrown the hardest fastball ever by a high school talent. He’s been clocked at 102 mph. By comparison, in 2011, Jose Fernandez maxed at 98 mph.

Ryan, the legendary Texan who works for the Astros, is a huge fan of Kolek.

“The thing I like about him is when you watch him pitch he’s around the plate,” Ryan told Phil Rogers of MLB.com. “He’s not bouncing balls, throwing stuff up on the backstop and things of that nature. I predict he’s going to come quicker than people think.”

Kolek will be easy to point out once he arrives in camp with the organization. He’s the pitcher built like a defensive end.

Actually, Kolek played some football in high school, but he stopped his senior season to prepare for baseball.

The Marlins have had their eye on Kolek for a long time. His name became linked to Miami at the Winter Meetings in December, and team officials met with him in January, getting a tour of the ranch.

The raw power is obvious. So is the upside.

Kolek was so overpowering, a National League scout said when his club watched him pitch, the catcher had trouble holding onto pitches. Not just a few, a lot. So those who had to face Kolek at the plate in high school won’t be the only ones happy to see Kolek go. So will be throws he threw to.

Along with pitching, the Marlins are adding more catching depth. With the 36th overall pick they took Blake Anderson, a prep standout from Mississippi, who has advanced defensive skills already.

While Kolek became the choice for Miami, the club did weigh other candidates.

A name that has surfaced now that didn’t draw much attention before the first round is Max Pentecost. The Marlins had great interest in Pentecost, the catcher from Kennesaw State, who went No. 11 to Toronto. Miami gave serious consideration for Pentecost with the second pick.

In so many ways, Carlos Rodon made perfect sense for Miami. But it appears the team may have passed the North Carolina State lefty, even if Kolek had gone No. 1 to the Astros, who selected Brady Aiken.

Rodon is considered close to being big league ready right now. But the Marlins had some red flags. Evaluators were a little concerned with Rodon’s shoulder, and the arm angle on his delivery. The fear is he could become an injury risk.

The White Sox didn’t have those concerns, and they took Rodon at No. 3 overall.

Signability always is an issue. There is a thought that Rodon, who has Scott Boras as an adviser, could be seeking dollars higher than the slot value.

I haven’t heard definitively that signing Rodon was an issue. But everything factors into a selection of a first-rounder, especially when the dollar figures are that high. In the case of the No. 2 pick, it’s $6.8 million. The Astros, keep in mind, also passed on the college star.

* The Marlins have a former No. 1 pick knocking on the door to get his first big league call-up. Andrew Heaney, taken ninth overall in 2012, is making a start at Triple-A New Orleans on Saturday.

Heaney, who turned 23 on Thursday, is now lined up in the same rotation spot as Randy Wolf. Before his last outing, he was lined up with Nathan Eovaldi, who threw Friday at the Cubs.

Perhaps this will be Heaney’s final start for New Orleans. If it is, the lefty could be ready to arrive in Miami for the homestand against the Pirates, which begins on June 13.

Eovaldi should pitch in the opener against the Pirates, and Wolf is in line to pitch the middle game. Could Heaney change those plans?

* Miguel Tejada, looking to make a comeback on a Minor League contract with Miami, is missing a few days because of a sore right shoulder. The veteran infielder experienced some discomfort throwing. He’s resting a few days.

Joe Frisaro

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