The 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is a little over a week away and the Marlins will be faced with the pressure of landing a talent worthy of becoming a future star.
Ever since 2002, when new ownership took over and the nucleus of the current front office was assembled, the Marlins have had 15 picks (between the 1st and sandwich rounds) and the results have been less than satisfactory.
Their picks from 2002 to 2005 are not even at the major league level as of this current moment and that includes outfielder Jeremy Hermida (2002) and pitchers Jeff Allison (2003), Taylor Tankersley (2004), Aaron Thompson (2005), Jacob Marceaux (2005), Ryan Tucker (2005) and Sean West (2005).
Since 2006, the Marlins have changed their pitcher-heavy strategy but that has come back to bite them. In 2006, they took pitcher Brett Sinkbeil with their 1st round pick but selected infielder Chris Coghlan who won National League Rookie of the Year in 2009. However Sinkbeil ended up being another bust and Coghlan has not been the same since an infamous pie throwing celebration in July 2010.
Currently, their 1st round draft picks from 2007 to 2008 have to be considered busts because none have made it to the major leagues or have performed well enough to stay. Slick fielding third baseman Matt Dominguez (2007) has not hit well in AAA New Orleans this year (.225 BA in 160 at-bats) and catcher Kyle Skipworth (2008) hasn't fared better either (.182 BA in 132 at-bats) at AA Jacksonville.
Their 2009 pick Chad James hasn't excelled well (career record of 12-27 and WHIP of 1.53) but it might be early to call him a bust; the Marlins might just convert him into a reliever and see where that takes them.
But their last two first round picks, outfielder Christian Yelich (2010) and pitcher Jose Fernandez (2011) are bright spots and are having superb beginnings to their pro career.
The strength of the Marlins minor league system lies at the single A level between Jupiter (high class A) and Greensboro (low class A). The likes of outfielder Brent Keys and pitchers Adam Conley and Jose Fernandez lead the way in Greensboro while outfielders Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and catcher Jacob Realmuto are in Jupiter.
The farm system might not be the best but it is certainly not the worst in the major leagues like it was close to becoming last year. This year the Marlins are poised to continue swimming in the prep pool for future talent. The college pool isn't as strong this year and the Marlins have rarely gone in that direction and been successful in the last decade in the 1st round.
Here are five prep prospects who are on the Marlins radar as the MLB Draft approaches:
High School: Carroll (Corpus Christi, TX)
College Commitment: University of Texas
Statistics: .424 batting average, 10 home runs, 37 RBIs, 17 stolen bases, .569 on-base percentage
The word is the Marlins have been scouting prep prospect Courtney Hawkins from Texas. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has Miami taking him with the 9th pick.
Why the fascination? Hawkins has the potential to be a five-tool player but it hasn't come together yet. Hawkins has raw power but he could be an anchor to the Marlins outfield with Yelich and Stanton for years to come, that would not be a bad mix.
He could be an alternative for the Marlins if other routes are blocked off come the 9th pick.
High School: Harvard-Westlake (Encino, CA)
College Commitment: University of Central Los Angeles (UCLA)
Statistics: 8-3, 2.41 ERA,111 strikeouts in 69.2 innings
Fried hails from the same high school as fellow Marlin prospect Christian Yelich so you have to think the Marlins have had their look on Fried as a potential Marlins pick as well.
Fried mans the Harvard-Westlake rotation alongside another prep prospect Lucas Giolito who was pegged by many as the top pick in the 2012 draft before an injury dashed those hopes. But it would be interesting to see if he gets picked ahead of Giolito, who might go to college with the hopes of rising his draft stock back up to top pick form.
Fried did not make a lasting impression in Harvard-Westlake, struggling in his last regular-season start, allowing six runs in 3.2 innings in a loss to Loyola High. Like Hawkins, he might not be at the top of Marlins draft board but is an option if others should be taken.
High School: Bishop Gorman (Nevada)
College Commitment: Louisiana State University
Statistics: .509 batting average, .628 on-base percentage, 1.167 slugging percentage, 21 home runs, 80 RBIs, and 66 runs (156 plate appearances).
As his statistics suggest, Gallo packs serious power and his left handed bat would be the perfect compliment for the home run porch at Marlins Park which has yet to be touched in the regular season by any batter.
Gallo would be an interesting pick for the Marlins because currently Hanley Ramirez mans the hot corner. Gallo would be 3-4 years away from the major leagues considering he is in high school but he could find himself at a different position, perhaps the outfield considering his arm strength.
Nevertheless, power would not be a bad thing to draft and for the Marlins I think this could be their choice if they don't get their hands on their preferred players coming up.
High School: Jesuit (Tampa)
College Commitment: University of Florida
Statistics: 13-0, 0.18 ERA,140 strikeouts in 77.1 innings, .106 opponents batting average
If selected by the Marlins, Lance McCullers would follow along the lines of Jose Fernandez, Miami's 2011 first round pick, also from drafted from the Tampa area and both are actually friends.
McCullers has a strong arm, according to Perfect Game, his fastball has been measured as high as 100 MPH. He has been in stellar form his senior year at Jesuit, in fact, it has been flawless.
Here is McCuller's game log (courtesy of TTF Baseball) through early April:
- 5 IP 0 ER 3 H 9 K 1 BB
- 5 IP 0 ER 0 H 8 K 3 BB
- 6 IP 0 ER 2 H 11 K 0 BB
- 3 IP 0 ER 2 H 4 K 2 BB
- 6 IP 0 ER 1 H 13 K 2 BB
- 5 IP 0 ER 0 H 12 K 1 BB
- 7 IP 0 ER 1 H 12 K 1 BB
- 5 IP 0 ER 1 H 10 K 0 BB
That's a vast improvement from his junior year which consisted of a 5-3 record, 2.02 ERA, 52 innings, 79 strikeouts, 32 walks. Along with his flamethrower status, McCullers throws a modest curve ball and change up. Currently, Keith Law has McCullers going No. 11 overall in his latest mock draft, so it definitely is in the Marlins' range.
High School: Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, FL)
College Commitment: University of Miami
Statistics: .603 batting average, six homers, 34 RBIs, 42 runs and 27 stolen bases
Albert Almora is a local prospect who packs a lean frame and has high upside. He projects as a gap hitter (which fits perfectly at Marlins Park) with raw power, as evidenced by his six home runs.
Almora's strengths lie in his defensive ability and combination of speed and agility. He has good arm strength and is a plus defender and can cover space well in the outfield which again projects well for the spacious Marlins Park. The Miami Herald chronicled a story on this very ability for Albert Almora.
Almora's stock has risen as of late and the Marlins have taken notice. Marlin beat writer Joe Frisaro tweeted that the front office, among others, was hosting a pair of local kids at Marlins Park, Almora figures to be one of them as he is slated to be in the Marlins' range come the June 4th MLB Draft.
There is a risk with Almora because there is a load of projection required with since he has raw power and hasn't matured physically.
I think he is at the top of the Marlins' draft board as a hitter alongside pitcher Lance McCullers.