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Marlin on the Rise: Kenny Koplove

Kenny Koplove

Kenneth Scott Koplove, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a 6’1”, 155 lb. pitcher from Duke University. Born on August 2nd, 1993, the righty was named the PA Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012. He only pitched 27 innings at the collegiate level, slashing .249/.301/.297 as a shortstop in 144 contests through three seasons. In 2015, his final Blue Devil season, he went 1-2 with a 2.13 ERA and a Duke record 11 saves in 21 games, with 37 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

Koplove has major league pedigree, brother Mike racked up a 15-7 record with a 3.82 ERA in seven major league seasons between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Cleveland Indians. Koplove’s explosive strikeout numbers in his final college season and his major league pedigree prompted his hometown Phillies to select him in the 17th round of the 2015 draft, with the 504th overall pick. They sent him to play with the Williamsport Crosscutters in the New York-Penn League soon after the draft, where he went 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP, and 27 whiffs in 34 innings as a middle-inning relief pitcher.

In 2016, Koplove started the season one level up from the Crosscutters, with the Lakewood Blueclaws in the South Atlantic League. At that echelon, Koplove didn’t fare as well as was expected, with an 0-1 record, a 15.43 ERA, a 2.914 WHIP, and 14 walks to just nine strikeouts in 11.2 innings. He landed back with the Cutters again soon afterward, where he went 0-1 with a 3.76 ERA, a 1.595 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. He had allowed opponents a combined slashline of .304/.413/.506

Koplove began 2017 back with Lakewood, where he allowed 10 earned runs in 3.1 innings over two appearances, and the Phillies decided they had seen enough. They cut ties with him on May 3rd.

On June 25th, the Marlins signed Koplove to a minor league deal and sent him to the Batavia Muckdogs, a familiar venue back in the NYPL for Kenny. He played in 16 games, striking out 23 in just 17.1 innings, putting up a 3-2 record, a 4.15 ERA, and a 1.615 WHIP. Between August 6th and August 26th, Koplove struck out 11 batters in 5 23 shutout innings.

Koplove has a repeatable and hard-to-read delivery, throws from two different arm angles, and touches 94 on the radar gun. He has a fastball, a breaking pitch, and a curveball, and possibly a slider too. He’s a strong candidate to start the 2018 campaign with the Greensboro Grasshoppers. I got a chance to speak one-on-one with Kenny on Sunday night:

Fish Stripes: You were a shortstop for most of your development into your second year of college before setting a Duke record with 11 saves in 2015. Do you like pitching more than you like playing the field?

Koplove: I came to Duke as a shortstop and a pitcher but as a freshman I had won the job at SS and my coach told me to primarily focus on SS so that’s what I did. It was my junior year that I asked my coach to pitch again and that’s when my pitching career took off. My brother played parts of seven years in the big leagues so he kind of tutored me and molded me into the pitcher I am today. I loved both pitching and playing the field. I kind of knew on draft day however that I was going to have to put down the bat for good. I absolutely love pitching and the one-on-one competition but I definitely miss playing in the field.

Fish Stripes: I read somewhere that you could be the next Marcus Stroman (although he’s a starter). Which major league player do you most try to emulate?

Koplove: Well, I have a long way to go to compare to Marcus Stroman. I believe that was more because we both were recruited to Duke as SS/P’s. I grew up watching Pedro Martinez and I loved watching him pitch. I love the way he competed and how fierce he was on the mound. I try and take that mentality on the mound every time I pitch. As for the physical aspect it is hard for me to choose a specific pitcher because I throw from two arm angles. I like to think I am a unique pitcher and offer an alternative look to the hitters, which hopefully will help me along in my career.

Fish Stripes: As a Philadelphia native, did you grow up wanting to play for the Phillies - and how awesome was it to get picked by Philadelphia in the draft?

Koplove: It was an incredible moment. I grew up about two blocks from Citizen Bank Park and can hear the cheering from my driveway. It was a pretty surreal moment for my family and I. But that being said, I am incredibly excited for my opportunity with the Miami Marlins.

Fish Stripes: With the obvious inclusion of your brother, who else has been most influential in your path to the pros, and hopefully later, the majors?

Koplove: My father, Steve, was by far the most influential person in my career. From the moment I could walk he had a bat and ball in my hand. He actually built a baseball field in the Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia so my team had a place to practice and play every weekend. He has give me every opportunity to succeed in not only baseball but all aspects of life. He gave me my love for the game.

Fish Stripes: Wow. Your very own field of dreams, that’s awesome!

Ok last question then I’ll let you get back to football (?) What is it you like to spend your time on during the offseason?

Koplove: Yes my Eagles are 10-1!

I help my dad with baseball lessons during the offseason at my father’s indoor facility. Besides baseball related activities, I catch up on various TV series. I am a big movie guy so I go see a lot of movies. Basically it’s a time to decompress for a few months before the grind of the season starts back up.

Thanks to Kenny for talking with me for this offseason series. Check back tomorrow for more Marlins on the Rise!