Miami Marlins Monday Week 15: Things Are Lookin’ Up

Miami MarlinsFor a time this season, it looked like the Miami Marlins would be epically, historically bad. Now? They’re just bad, but things are looking up. The team started a putrid 14-42, and were solidly in the discussion of worst team of all-time, but after a few key pieces returned from injury, and a few young arms made it up to the Majors, the team has turned it around. Well, in so far as having just the second worst record in the majors can be considered “turning it around.”

Despite the early failures, the Marlins seem to have built a solid young foundation on which to scaffold their way up the standings in the years to come. The cornerstone of that foundation might not be the player everyone assumed it would be, Giancarlo Stanton, but actually the 20-year old rookie phenom, Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez, a right-handed starter who was not initially part of the team’s roster coming out of spring training, joined the staff after injuries ravaged Marlins pitchers. The young Cuban defector has been unflappable in his short time in the Majors, as evidenced by his 2.75 ERA (11th best in the MLB) through 18 starts. In fact, because of his steady performance and stellar play, Fernandez was selected as the All-Star representative for the Miami Marlins.

“It’s just incredible,” Fernandez said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “When they told me, I just started sweating and my hands started getting cold. They still are right now. I was just sitting around and thinking this is just incredible. I’m going to do the best I can.”

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect to Fernandez’s game is the clear joy with which he plays. Despite his young age, Fernandez gets it. He survived four escape attempts from Cuba, jail time in his native country for trying to flee and the near drowning of his mother, and yet, the unabashed happiness exuded by the young star still shines through.
Marlins manager Mike Redmond called Fernandez the “face of the franchise” earlier this season. If the ownership group has any foresight, they’ll make sure that Fernandez, and many of the other budding young players performing right alongside him, will be part of the franchise for years to come.
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An Interview with my former student, Tampa Bay Rays draft-pick Anthony Tzamtzis

Anthony Tzamtzis, Conrad GregorThe First-Year Player Draft is Major League Baseball’s primary mechanism for assigning amateur baseball players, from high schools, colleges, and other amateur baseball clubs, to its teams. The MLB draft lasts 40 rounds, plus compensatory picks, and this year’s draft, held in early June, featured a player I know personally.

Anthony Tzamtzis hails from Miami, FL, where he attended La Salle High School and starred as a player there under coach Oscar Benitez. As a senior at La Salle in 2009, Tzamtzis was named to the first-team 4A-1A All-Dade County team by The Miami Herald after hitting .473 with seven home runs, 32 RBI and 10 steals. He ranked as the No. 36 high school prospect in the state of Florida by Perfect Game USA, and was selected as an alternate for the 2008 USA Junior National Team. Tzamtzis became the fourth player ever drafted from La Salle high school when the Houston Astros selected him in the 43rd round in 2009. Tzamtzis, though, elected to attend North Carolina State University.

As a member of the Wolfpack, Tzamtzis enjoyed quite a bit of success. It had been 45 years since NC State had been to the College World Series, and they made it there by winning the longest super regional game in history, 5-4, in 17 innings over Rice University. It was perhaps the best season in school history, and Tzamtzis was a major part of that success. At NC State, he finished the 2013 season with a 5-5 record and a 4.38 ERA, recording 63 strikeouts over 63.2 innings. He was named ACC Pitcher of the Week on April 27 after setting career-highs with nine strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings, holding the Duke scoreless on two hits. He finished the season ranked fifth in the ACC in opponent’s batting average (.215).

The Tampa Bay Rays selected Tzamtzis in the 32nd round of the 2013 MLB draft. Several late round picks have enjoyed quite a bit of success in the Majors, including Mike Piazza (drafted in the 62nd round in 1988), Keith Hernandez (42nd rd in 1971), and Roy Oswalt (23rd round in 1996). Here’s a scouting report on Tzamtzis from the draft:

Round 32, #968 overall: Anthony Tzamtzis: RHP from North Carolina State, North Carolina (22 Y.O., 6’0, 190 lbs.)

A native of Miami, Anthony Tzamtzis bounced in and out of an N.C. State rotation that features Carlos Rodon, a heavy favorite to be the top pick next year. In his 28.1 innings, he pitched to a 5.40 ERA with a 25/30 K/BB rate. As an undersized right hander, Tzamtzis profiles best in relief. His fastball sits in the 92-94 range, and he flashes a plus slider.

I caught up with Anthony Tzamtzis recently to ask him a few questions about his career and to get a little insight on Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft.

Anthony Tzamtzis: The Interview

Sports Fans News: What was it like hearing your name called in the MLB draft?
Anthony Tzamtzis: Honestly, it was more of a relief than anything, especially for my parents. I was actually in a game during the draft so I didn’t find out until my teammate told me. I was getting nervous as the draft was going and I kept seeing rounds go by without seeing my name called. It’s definitely a humbling experience knowing how many good players didn’t get drafted throughout the country.

SFN: How was it different from being drafted out of high school?
AT: Being drafted out of high school was different in the sense that I had no intention of signing because I wanted to go to school, get my degree and experience college. It was more of a courtesy pick for me just showing my potential.

SFN: What was the draft process like? Did you interact with any pro coaches or scouts?

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