The Owls’ coach saw upside in Frank – a strong arm, high baseball intellect, overall athleticism – but a potential first-day draft choice? Frank didn’t profile that way.
“People ask, Did you know he was going to be this good?” McCormack said. “No we didn’t know he was going to be this good.”
Overshadowed on his high school team at Delray Beach-American Heritage, Conference USA’s Defensive Player of the Year had to adapt to a utility role for much of his high school career to stay in the starting lineup.
With current University of Florida third baseman Jonathan India occupying shortstop and Lucious Fox, currently a member of Tampa Bay’s minor league system, at second base Frank played third base and the outfield – heck, he was even the Stallions’ closer at one point – for most of his career.
“That’s the thing about Tyler, he was so flexible in high school that we told him it was going to benefit him in college,” American Heritage coach Carm Mazza said.
It wasn’t until Fox returned to his native Bahamas – eventually signing a multi-million dollar international free agent deal with San Francisco – that Frank finally received extended playing time at second base.
Frank played well at second during his senior season, but Major League baseball didn’t pay much attention. Frank went undrafted as a high school senior,
“Totally under the radar,” Mazza said. “FAU, those guys did a great job forecasting him and verbaling him so early.”
Upon arriving at FAU, Frank experienced a similar back log. C. J. Chatham, a future second-round draft choice of the Boston Red Sox, was firmly entrenched at shortstop. Stephen Kerr, who signed with the Los Angeles Angels as an undrafted free agent and represented the kind of player McCormack figured he was getting in Frank, held down second.
Like Mazza, McCormack couldn’t let Frank’s talent waste away on the bench, so when starting catcher Kevin Abraham was diagnosed with cancer, McCormack asked Frank is he’d be willing to give catching a try.
By the end of that freshman season Frank had the look of a future All-Conference USA catcher, but with Chatham joining the professional ranks Frank ditched the gear and finally received his shot at short.
An All-Conference USA selection in 2017 and 18, Frank also played with the US National team during the summer of 2018. A career .310 hitter in three seasons as an Owl, Frank belted 25 homers and drove in 105 runs during his career.
In three years Frank has gone from a player disregarded by Major League Baseball clubs to one likely to be selected on Monday when the MLB conducts the first two rounds, including supplemental picks, of its 2018 first-year player draft.
“I think that he’ll get called on that first day,” McCormack said.
All season FAU’s stands and berms have been filled with scouts wondering how they missed on their assessment of Frank three years prior.
“First day is amazing, but it doesn’t surprise me because, again, his work ethic and his inner strength to be great is something you don’t see a lot,” Mazza said. “Tyler wants to be great.”
If Frank is selected in the first 50 picks, he’ll become the highest drafted FAU player ever, surpassing Chatham. If Frank isn’t selected on Monday, he’ll likely go early on Tuesday when rounds three-through 10 are conducted. The draft concludes on Wednesday with rounds 11-40.
“Excited,” Frank said, describing his emotional state. “It’s definitely, hopefully, a dream come true. Coach Mac and all my teammates really helped through the process.”
Frank won’t be the only Owl who will see his dream of playing professional baseball come true.
Draft days last year turned into a major disappointment for right fielder David Miranda. He returned to FAU for a senior season in which he leads the Owls with a .323 average, hit nine homers and has driven in 47 runs.
Miranda could be a second day selection.
“It’s definitely looking a lot better this year, I’ll tell you that,” Miranda said.
Pitcher Jake Miednik and center fielder Cody Wilson could also be late Tuesday selections. An efficient lefty who can touch the low 90s with a good curve ball, Miednik posted a 7-1 record with a 3.05 ERA for FAU as a senior, though a late season shoulder injury for the Owls’ ace could scare away some teams.
Wilson’s athleticism and power drew the interest of MLB scouts, but his high swing-and-miss rate along with an advanced age of nearly 22 are likely to scare some away.
MLB teams could also decide they’ve seen enough of pitcher Mark Nowatnick to want him in their organization, though a history of frequent injuries could give others pause.
And then there is pitcher Kyle Marman, who dominated this season with a 1.45 ERA and 46 strikeouts against four walks in five starts. Elbow surgery prematurely ended Marman’s season, but he didn’t need ligament replacement surgery (Tommy John surgery) but rather elbow reattachment surgery. Rehabilitation following Marman’s surgery is about half the time of Tommy John surgery, and some MLB front office may believe his pre-injury performance warrants a selection.