I was wrong. Imagine that. I predicted a 3-K series in which Kershaw, Kenley and Kemp would play significant roles in the Dodgers play-off push. Perhaps their roles were significant in the final outcome but not in the manner I had envisioned.
Clayton demonstrated to us that he is not the Clayton of days gone by for whatever reason. One does question his health as at age-30 he should not be on a downhill spiral yet. At least one would think not. As suggested, perhaps he has to reinvent himself since his velocity has dropped. He does not seem to have that fire in his belly anymore.
Kenley seems to suffer from the Tom Niedenfuer syndrome once again giving up the devastating home run on two occasions.
Matt got only 10 plate appearances in the series and may have played his last games as a Dodger.
My period of mourning is relatively brief stretching for a few hours, not for days. This one was easy. The Red Sox were definitely the better team and earned full marks for their efforts on a number of fronts.
In the interim until spring training my options are limited. I follow hockey a bit but the Detroit Red Wings are on the bottom of the scrap heap right now and for the foreseeable future. Although I coached junior high basketball for 40 years I really do not watch the NBA. Giants slamming a ball down through a hoop twice as big as the ball is not very exciting for me. I do follow the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League which wraps up in a month or so. I watch the NFL only at play-off time and only if the Patriots are playing. What to do?
I figured I would get back to looking at the real world of baseball where the game is still a game. That is, minor league baseball.
During the 2018 season three Dodger minor league affiliates won championships – the Arizona League Dodgers, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the Tulsa Drillers. As always there were players of interest within the minor league system and many that I followed from afar.
Among others, Stephen Kolek of the the Great Lakes Loons really caught my attention. The 6’3”/220-pound right-hander was selected by the Dodgers in the 11th round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas A&M. He was born in Houston, Texas and raised on a 10,000 acre ranch in Shepherd, Texas . Shepherd is about 58 miles northeast of Houston.
If the name Kolek sounds familiar, that is because Stephen’s older brother Tyler was selected by the Miami Marlins with the second overall pick in the 2014 June draft out of Shepherd High School. Tyler had Tommy John surgery in April 2016 and has yet to pitch above A-ball.
Both boys, only one year apart in age, benefited from a family devoted to them. Their story was highlighted in the Houston Chronicle on June 16, 2017. The boys were kept busy and expected to do their part on the family ranch. Their parents, James and Brenda Kolek, also made sure they had ample time to throw a baseball even when daylight hours were short.
“After we’d get done with working or whatever we needed to do, we’d go inside the barn, turn on the lights and just play catch,” said Stephen, a starting pitcher for Texas A&M in 2017.
As the boys grew older and stronger their father grew the farm pitching facility with them. He constructed an outdoor mound in an alleyway near the horse barn where the brothers would spend hours pitching to each other.
“There was a big rubber mat on it,” Tyler said of the large target behind home plate. “It didn’t really matter what we were doing, our dad always made time for us. It wasn’t a strict, written-down schedule, it was just something that we did so much, it helped us get to where we are.”
The Dodgers selected Stephen Kolek following his junior year at Texas A&M. At that time Baseball America ranked him No. 372 and had him sliding down the charts a bit. As a junior he posted a less than stellar ERA of 4.58 along with a WHIP of 1.40 due to issuing 38 free passes in 78 innings. He struck out 59.
Baseball America scouting report:
“The brother of Marlins 2015 first-round pick Tyler Kolek, Stephen’s fastball has never matched Tyler’s triple digit radar gun readings, but he’d shown the potential to have three average or better pitches and average control coming into the 2018 season. But his 91-94 mph fastball has backed up this season. There have been outings where he’s dipped to pitching in the high 80s. Kolek’s slider gives him a chance to survive even with less arm speed. The pitch has less bite at lower velocities and has been more fringe-average than above-average this year. His changeup also has taken a step back this year and he mixes in a get-me-over curveball early in counts. Kolek has shown the ability to be a No. 4 starter at his best, but scouts have only seen that in glimpses this year. His 5-6, 4.58 season isn’t making a strong draft case, but there’s still something there.”
Stephen Kolek made his professional debut with the Ogden Raptors on the last day in June of 2018 pitching a scoreless inning against the Idaho Falls Chukars in the rookie level Pioneer League.
On July 11 he debuted with the Great Lakes Loons of the Class-A Midwest League pitching two scoreless innings against the Clinton LumberKings. Pitching strictly in relief with the Loons over 17 games and 31.2 innings, he allowed only 22 hits while striking out 30 and walking seven. He posted a 1.42 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He was the backbone of the Loons relief corps as they made their stretch run to the play-offs. He pitched two or more innings on nine occasions, so it is quite conceivable that he will return to a starting role in 2019 most likely with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
Arizona Fall League Update
Catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Jordan Sheffield will represent the Dodgers in the Arizona Fall Stars Game Saturday at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Rangers and Royals. MLB Network will broadcast the 13th annual Fall Stars Game live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. MST, and MLB.com will stream the contest live.
Ruiz is hitting .316 with an OBP of .386. Sheffield has pitched five scoreless innings allowing only two hits along with five strikeouts and no walks. Ben Holmes has posted a 3.07 ERA over 14.2 innings. Andre Scrubb has lowered his ERA to 3.38 while allowing only one hit and no runs in his last two appearances. His strikeout pitch seems to be missing. The other Dodger players on the Glendale Desert Dogs have had a less than stellar fall season to date.
Liga de Beisbol Dominicano
Further south the Dodgers have seven players playing winter ball. Infielder Angelo Mora and outfielder Henry Ramos have yet to hit their stride. Catcher Hamlet Marte is hitting .333 after six games while infielder Christian Santana has four hits in six at bats. Marte is a person of interest. A bit more on him later.
On the mound both right-hander Joe Broussard and left-hander Victor Gonzalez are off to a slow start. Personal favorite, 20-year-old right-hander Elio Serrano, has pitched 1.2 innings giving up two hits, no runs and no walks while striking out two.