When lefthander Chris Kohler takes the mound, he doesn't light up the radar guns. He comfortably sits in the high 80s, but when you combine his projection, easy delivery and relative freshness, it's easy to dream on his future.
Kohler was mostly a position player until taking the mound as the ace of his freshman team, but during his sophomore year at Damien High (La Verne, Calif.) he didn't pitch in hopes of keeping his arm fresh.
"My dad always wanted to save my arm for high school so I never really pitched in travel ball and middle school," Kohler said. "After sophomore year, going into my junior year, that's when I really started feeling like I was more of a pitcher than a hitter. My arm was getting stronger."
Damien High is a private, all boy Catholic school and Kohler was supposed to have a scholarship to attend. However, he says things didn't work out and his parents couldn't afford for him to go there so he switched to Los Osos High (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.). But the proper paperwork for his transfer didn't get filed so the California Interscholastic Federation denied him from playing his junior season.
Being part of the ABD Academy travel program, Kohler immediately joined the Amateur Baseball Club League, a spring league organized by ABD. Several players have recently shifted from playing for their high schools to the spring league and there are very mixed reviews about the culture, but Kohler's situation was quite different. He wasn't eligible to play for his high school team so he took advantage of an opportunity and now that he is eligible, he's right where he wants to be.
"I really wanted to go back to high school for my senior year to play with my friends and get that team bonding experience," Kohler said. "It's definitely a lot different. It's not as intense. You're just playing rather than playing to win and get that rivalry. What I've noticed in high school is you're pushing for each other more. It's that much more intense. You practice every day together and you want to fight. You're like brothers. It's a lot more intense."
Once committed to Southern California, Kohler is now signed to play for Oklahoma after high school if he doesn't sign out of the draft.
Kohler's fastball sits in the high 80s and can touch 90, but it comes out easy and his delivery is effortless. He also has shown a sharp curveball in the low 70s and a developing changeup.
"I'm really trying to command the fastball and work on my offspeed," Kohler said. "I've been working on my changeup and that's gotten a lot better."
Kohler credits long toss for helping his arm strength, something he has been doing since his freshman year. He throws every day and especially loves airing it out on his pitching days.
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