Category: MLB Draft

Recapping the 2021 MLB Draft

The MLB Draft is always full of twists, turns and excitement unpredicted by any mock draft or pregame analysis. For two straight years, the Miami Marlins have been a part of such happenings frequently. After selecting Max Meyer over Asa Lacy in the first round of the 2020 Draft and used the savings to select Daxton Fulton. That pair accounted for 1/3 of the six pitchers Marlins selected in the abbreviated five round event. On Sunday night, Miami made a huge splash with both of their first round picks, selecting standout prep athletes before drafting established collegiate players with 16 of their last 17 picks.

According to Marlins scouting director DJ Svihlik, this was exactly how he and his team saw the event going.

“We anticipated this; we knew how this was going to happen or we felt like we knew how this was going to go down,” Svihlik said. “The whole front of the board from Rounds 5 and above is heavy, heavy high school this year.”

Although the draft went the way Svihlik expected overall, there were a few surprising moments for the Marlins draft team, namely surrounding their first acquisition of the event. Here is a look at that pick and the rest of the Marlins’ 20 picks in the 2021 MLB Draft.

Kahlil Watson (Photo by HighSchoolOT.com)

Round 1, Pick 16 – SS Kahlil Watson, Wake Forest (N.C.) HS

Running better than ever as a senior, Watson consistently displays well-above-average speed and is a basestealing threat. The North Carolina State recruit has the actions and instincts to play a solid shortstop.”

Coming into the Draft, the newly turned 18-year-old Kahlil Watson was ranked the fourth best shortstop in the country by Perfect Game and was tabbed to go no later than seventh by most major mock drafts, including MLB Pipeline’s final version posted by Jim Callis (link) just moments before the event began. The Draft began and rolled on: the top five picks were made, 10 names were posted to the board, and finally the top 15 names were spoken into the microphone by Rob Manfred. Watson was somehow not one of them. After spending the last hour “sweating” in his conference room, Marlins scouting director DJ Svihlik perspiration ceased and he was filled with elation as he delivered the pick to the draft war room down the hall.

“To have him fall down to us, that’s extremely exciting,” Svihlik said. “We were very surprised that he was available. He was one of the most dynamic players on the board.”

How unlikely did Svihlik think it was heading into Sunday night that the Marlins would have the opportunity to select Watson?

“I would say, ‘You’re crazy, no way, not going to happen,” he said.

Scouting the 5’”, 178 pound lefty hitting shortstop, Svihlik stated that Watson is well beyond his years in terms of overall polish on all five of his tools.

“You’re talking about a guy that has a plus arm, plus run, electric bat speed combined with a great swing and athleticism,” Svihlik said. “He plays right up the middle of the field which is everything which is everything we stress in the organization. So he checked all the boxes.”

With 55+ grade tools throughout his profile and a 60 grade overall future value, Watson has an explosive swing, supreme bat speed (which Svihlik pointed out as arguably his best tool), and lightning quick wrists and hands which give him above average raw power with plenty of time to grow into more. The hands follow Watson into the field where scouts and evaluators agree he can make easy transfers. There seems to be some disconnect between reports when it comes to his readability and consistency going to both sides of the ball at short. Some say he may move to second base as he fills out in order to take some pressure off his bat but that he should maintain 55-60 grade speed, giving him the potential to be an annual 20/20 threat at a premium offensive position. 

With the bat, seemingly the only barrier that will stand in Watson’s way is the ability to get his raw power to match his game power at the next level but with an infinitesimal amount of time to clear that hurdle and with already so much shine on his hit, run and field tools, Watson’s future looks very bright. He should enter the Marlins’ stacked system as a top five prospect immediately.

When scouts compare his big league ceiling, several names are coming up including Francisco Lindor but the name that will stand out to Marlins fans is Jazz Chisholm Jr. Asked about the prospect of sharing an infield with Jazz long term, Watson, who also shares an interest with Chisholm in the same video game, could not stop smiling.

“I’ll be playing (MLB) The Show 24/7. I’ll be using Miami. Him on The Show is unbelievable,” Watson said. “I’d love to play right across from each other.”

Looking at the future of the Marlins infield with names like Chisholm, Lewin Diaz, Jose Salas and now with the massive addition of Watson who is being called the steal of the draft, it is easy to see why Svihlik and company are so please with this pick.

Joe Mack (Photo by PerfectGame.com)

Round CB-A, Pick 31 – C Joe Mack, Williamsville East High (NY)

On the financial side of things, Watson said he received the call from his agent describing the offer from the Marlins as “a great deal”. He is projected to make up to $1 million over his slot value of $3.7 million. So with this pick, the Marlins, who have a total bonus pool around $10 million, had a decision to make: spend now on another over slot player or go under slot value and save for later on in the draft. But when Joe Mack, the third best prep prospect at the thinnest position in the Marlins’ organization, fell to Svihlik at 31, the path was clear.

Before we even get to the baseball tools, what stands out about this 6’1” 210 pound backstop who will be 18 for the rest of the 2021 season is his infinite athleticism and compete level. When not in class, Mack’s time was spent either on the baseball field or on one of two courts: basketball or volleyball. During his visit to see Mack leading up to the draft, Svihlik saw this up close and personally and was very impressed.

“To watch him play basketball all winter, and for me to fly up there, watch him play volleyball and the next morning, be on the field, hitting (batting practice) at 8:00 in the morning, that’s very impressive when young players do that,” Svihlik said. “You can’t understate how important it is that they are playing multiple sports.”

Ultimately, Mack settled on playing baseball at the next level and he has all the tools to do. Each of his four plus tools are well ahead of his  current level of development.

We will start with a 55 grade hit tool made possible by great bat speed, good posture and an approach which he modified midway through his senior year and after getting a late start to the season due to his volleyball team’s season going long. From a more closed stance and with a much less pronounced front leg kick during game action, Mack is a much more simplistic hitter and looks very smooth. The vertical power transfer is present: he starts with his elbows high and drops the barrel to the ball with his aforementioned fantastic bat speed. With an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and good vision, he prolongs at bats and can hit in all counts, including two strike counts. The swing is short without much uppercut. All in all, Mack shows the blueprint to hit for a plus average.

Mack’s power is rated at a 50 grade by multiple evaluators. Scouts say that he hits to all fields and, while at present he is more of a gap to gap guy, he should be able to unlock more power as his body matures and he is developed at the pro level. The bat speed and explosive finish is definitely there; he just needs to create more loft on the baseball and get his mostly stationary legs a bit more involved in his swing.

The tools don’t stop on the offensive side. His highest graded tool overall is a 60+ throwing arm coupled with pop times in the 1.9 range and hand to hand transfers that are instantaneous. He even shows the absurd ability to start to get out of his crouch on pitches down even before the ball reaches the glove. The athleticism and fluid motions are a thing of beauty and his awareness and attention to runners will keep guys close to the pillows. Coupled with great receiving and lateral movements to block pitches out of the zone, the high schooler looks close to being big league ready defensively.

Though the Marlins spent most of their bonus pool on the first two of their 20 picks, they did so for very good reason. Mack will enter the system as the highest rated catcher within the organization’s top 15 overall.

Cody Morissette (Photo by BCEagles.com)

Round 2, Pick 52 – SS Cody Morissette, Boston College

After going over slot and spending an approximated $7 million of their $10 million pool on their first two picks, the Marlins go collegiate for the first of seven times in their first ten picks.

Morissette is a 21-year-old lefty hitter from Exeter, New Hampshire. After the 218th nationally ranked shortstop went undrafted out of high school in 2018, the 59th ranked prospect in the 2021 draft went 52nd overall to Miami.

So what happened?

As Prospects Live notes, Morissette first garnered attention by making an immediate impact in his NCAA career. In his freshman year in 2019, he started every game at second base over upperclassmen and hit .320/.371/.476. That paved the way for a .336/.400/.507 NCAA career with three solid summer league showings mixed in. Included was a .340/.480/.511 28 game tenure in the Futures League in 2020 after the COVID shortened NCAA season.

His future power production is dependent on his ability to see pitching (particularly good breaking stuff) at the next level as well as showing added impact with the wood bat. At the very least, he is a picky hitter who will also settle for singles, average, walks and OBP. He can also disrupt the game on the bases with good acceleration and above average top foot speed.

Defensively, Morissette has spent most of his time at shortstop but evaluators believe his long term home may be at second base if not in center field.

A floor utility man at the next level with room to be more if he comes by more power, Morissette and his plus plus hit tool was a strategically great selection in this spot. The Marlins should be able to sign him under slot value.

Jordan McCants (Photo by 247 Sports)

Round 3, Pick 88 – SS Jordan McCants – Pensacola Catholic High School

The Marlins went back to the high school ranks in a slot worth just under $700K. The pick was McCants, a Mississippi State commit, the 33rd ranked prep shortstop in the nation and the 133rd ranked draftee overall. In his senior year consisting of 27 games, the McCants slashed .450/.451/.670.

This was a bit of a surprising selection by the Marlins but they clearly saw something in McCants to once again commit what will very likely be over slot money to take this 6’1”, 165 pound lefty away from his college commitment.

There are some good tools, namely a quick, slashy and mature for-average approach, 60-grade speed, great hands in the field and impressive athleticism. What McCants lacks is power and the physical projection to come by it. He comps closely to (a lefty only hitting) Nasim Nunez as a guy who approaches from the back of the box, recognizes pitches well, swings at strikes with a hack and slash cut, settles for singles or walks then lets his speed do damage on the base paths. Due to an average arm, scouts project his long term future to be at either second base or perhaps in center field where he can further utilize his best tool, the speed.

Tanner Allen (Photo by Mississippi State Athletics)

Round 4, Pick 118: OF Tanner Allen, Mississippi State

Svihlik’s plan to take from the deep prep crop early then sign established collegiate hitters late fully came to fruition starting with this pick. It began a run on six straight three and four year NCAA picks. The pick at 118 was Tanner Allen who the Marlins had their eye on last year but due to the abbreviated Draft and a hamate joke injury limiting him to just eight games, he went unselected. Allen comes to Miami after a .336/.411/.522 collegiate career in the SEC at Mississippi State.

Allen who just turned 23, was a force in the SEC for three years and a handful of games, hitting .336/.411/.522. His exports in a .383/.456/.621 senior season earned him the SEC Player of the Year Award and helped lead the Bulldogs to a national title. 

Svihlik said before the draft that this draft is full of Peyton Burdick type selections. This pick screams Peyton Burdick. Per MLB.com’s Jim Callis, Allen is a “top discount hitter”. Looking at Allen at the plate, he looks a bit like Peyton, who signed for well under slot in 2018, from the opposite side. They even wear similar war paint.

5’11, 190 to Burdick’s 6’, 205, Allen exhibits a quick, short swing with good bat speed and a feel for the gaps. Where Allen differs from Burdick is in the raw strength department (not a lot of guys can match Peyton here), making Allen a hit over power guy at present but if he puts on some muscle at pro facilities and begins to create loft more consistently, he will garner the ability to find more fences. Per MLBPipeline, Allen did a lot of work with his run tool this past season and is showing a better ability to cover more advantageous ground. Due to the fact his arm has just average strength but good accuracy, he could move to left field long term if he sticks as an outfielder. He’s also done work at both third base and first base.

Allen, with good college pedigree, a plus hit tool from the left side with the ability to polish into a bit more, this is a value pick that has the ability to become a bit more and arrive pretty quickly.

Brady Allen (Photo by South Carolina Athletics)

Round 5, Pick 179: OF Brady Allen, South Carolina

Back-to-back outfielders, back-to-back Allens. This time it’s Brady Allen, the 193rd ranked drafted per MLB Pipeline that comes to the Marlins at pick 149.

Per MLBPipeline, Brady is a player who does “a little bit of everything”. After a power surge in his senior year, that tool rose a bit higher over his hit tool. To improve the hit tool, the 6’1”, 218 pounder will need to create more consistent contact against quality offspeed pitches. At just 21, there’s time for Allen to become a quality all-around lefty bat. Scouts have his big league future stamped as either a platoon player or fourth outfielder.

Sam Praytor (Photo by University Of Alabama Athletics)

Round 6, Pick 179 – C Sam Praytor, Alabama

Praytor is a fourth year guy out of the SEC where he hit .285/.392/.500 over 126 games. He suffered an arm injury in 2019 which required Tommy John surgery which then parlayed into the missed 2020 season. Per reports, he is still considered one of the best receivers in the nation and he was able to build his arm strength back well enough to catch 24% of his runners in 2021.

At the plate, Praytor, 5’10”, 205, hits for good power but has also stayed away from the strikeout, posting a 38/29 K/BB in 59 games this past season. A guy who missed a lot of tile in 2019 and of course 2020, the Marlins hope they caught Praytor at an advantageous time.

Still just 22, there’s some more room to grow as he transitions to the professional ranks. A good find for the Marlins in this spot.

Gabe Bierman (Photo by Indiana Athletics)

Round 7, Pick 209: RHP Gabe Bierman, RHP Indiana

A pitcher and the start of a run on pitchers for Miami.

A 6’2”, 200 pounder, Bierman began his career at Indiana as a reliever in 2018 before transitioning to a starting role this season. The numbers pop: 74 IP, 2.68 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 80/30 K/BB against Big 10 competition. That K total ranked 11th in the league.

Bierman won’t overpower with velocity, sitting in the low 90s but he has four pitches and a good feel for the strike zone and ability to attack it with confidence. It’s a professional approach to hitters and a guy with a simple delivery. Ranked 24th in the nation in hits per nine innings at 5.72, Bierman recently spoke to the ability to get outs in multiple ways.

“I don’t mind pitching to contact, to soft contact, and trusting in my defense to make plays. My change-up will always be a weapon for me, but I need my fastball to set that up,” Bierman said. “When they’re both going well, and I can beat guys with my fastball when they’re sitting on my change, too. It’s all about keeping them guessing. keeping them off-balance.”

With a multitude of weapons including a sinker which induces ground balls and his best pitch, a plus changeup, a mature pitcher’s IQ and a good feel for his delivery and repetition, Bierman is a seventh rounder who is satisfied with getting outs however possible. He could play above his selection slot in the future as a back end rotational piece or at the very least, a multiple inning reliever out of the pen. 

Pat Monteverde (Photo by Texas Tech Atlethics)

Round 8, Pick 239: RHP Pat Monteverde, Texas Tech

From D-III Marlins to MLB Marlins.

Monteverde is a 6’2”, 190 pound lefty who attended three different colleges over a five year collegiate career. After starting his career at Virginia Wesleyan (a team whose mascot is ironically the Marlins), Monteverde went back to his home state to attend Seton Hill in 2018. After a solid year in which he limited damage as a sophomore that year (71 IP, 3.04 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 78/27 K/BB), Monteverde suffered an elbow injury early in 2019. He underwent Tommy John surgery that wiped out the rest of 2019 then COVID-19 wiped out all of 2020.

But Monteverde and his rep Ben Simon didn’t let the pandemic hold them back. After graduating from D-II Seton Hill, he joined the transfer portal. Per reports, he did so with enhanced velo and another weapon in his arsenal, earning him a ton of attention and a multitude of D-I offers. According to the same report, Monteverde nearly became a Florida resident before today.

“Monteverde’s stock was heating up, as his velocity was up to 95 mph and a slider was added to a repertoire that already included his fastball, curveball and changeup. Simon would have Monteverde pitch simulated games and then send the video to college coaches. Monteverde was bombarded with 43 total offers, including 24 from Power Five programs. He ultimately picked Texas Tech over Miami.”

In a single season for the Red Raiders, Monteverde, with his ticked up velo and arsenal widened posted good starter numbers in his first D-I showing and in the most single season innings he had thrown (again, after a very long lay off): 86.1 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a fantastic 101/21 K/BB.

Showing a wide variety of pitches, good command, and plus velo, Monteverde is a great find for the Marlins and a feel-good story of constant progression no matter what obstacles have been placed in his path. Born one month and one day before the Marlins won their first World Series in 1997, this soon-to-be 24-year-old is a great find whose newly enhanced stuff plays up to a back end rotation spot.

Jake Schrand (Photo by Wright State University Athetlics)

Round 9, Pick 269: RHP Jake Schrand, Wright State University

The Wright State Factor rolls on.

Hailing from the same alma mater as Peyton Burdick and JD Orr, Schrand is a 6’, 180 pound righty who pitched out of the pen most of his collegiate career before starting in 2021.

The standout tool here: fiery velo. Schrand is up to 97 with movement. He needs to polish off the secondaries whether it be his curveball or newly added changeup but per what we hear from his coaches, he certainly has the work ethic and drive to do so.

“He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen.  He’s an animal. I personally think he’s a back end guy. He would run it up 95-97 when closing games and in the first inning of starts and then settle in 92-95. He has some jump to his fastball and his curveball is 12/6.  He learned a split change this year that was effective as the year went on. He’s got the closer/bulldog mindset so I think he’ll have success as a reliever as some guys don’t have that.” — WSU head coach Alex Sogard

“He is definition of a bulldog. He competes and really works; one of hardest workers I’ve ever coached. He is quiet and just goes about his business. Obsessed with success. Likely a back-end bullpen guy as stuff will play up in shorter stints.” — WSU assistant coach Nate Metzger

Schrand could go a long way as an MLB pen piece because of his velo, mentality and compete level. The soon-to-be 22-year-old has the ceiling of a future high leverage arm.

Hunter Perdue (Photo by 247 Sports)

Round 10, Pick 229: Hunter Perdue, Florida State

Perdue is a 6’3”, 208 pound righty who began his collegiate career as a starter in JuCo where he threw to a 3.97 ERA via a 74/32 K/BB in 90.2 IP to become a top recruit. In 2019, Perdue was recruited to FSU only to undergo Tommy John surgery, wiping out his entire season.

Perdue redshirted as a freshman in 2021 and transitioned to bullpen work. In 22 IP, he posted a 3.27 ERA by way of a 1.32 ERA and 28/10 K/BB.

Perdue’s arsenal consists of three pitches. The anchor is a 93-95 mph fastball with good sinking action that he can throw all over the zone for swings and misses and weak contact. His best secondary is a snappy breaking pitch with 11/5 action and some solid vertical drop. Fifteen MPH slower than the heat, Perdue has good velo separation that keeps hitters off balance. He will also throw an affective changeup with fade away from opposite side hitters that shows room for growth.

Despite missing a ton of time, Perdue was good in limited showings out of the FSU pen. The 22-year-old holds a solid mid-relief ceiling. 

Round 11, Pick 329 – RHP Jesse Bergin, UCLA

An attendee of Harvard-Westlake High School, the same program that produced the likes of Pete Crow-Armstrong, Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito and Max Fried, Bergin held down a 3.91 ERA via a 1.25 WHIP and 168/55 K/BB in 168 IP in his career with the Bruins.

Bergin stands 6’4”, 205 and has three pitches: a 90-93 mph sinking fastball, a best pitch sweeping slider with good vertical drop at 80-82 and an average changeup that shows flashes. Per reports, Bergin’s crux is the ability to repeat his delivery and throw everything from a consistent arm slot. The amount of effort and tendency to get hit later in starts might make him a bullpen candidate but if he can iron out his mechanics and build up his changeup, he has a chance to stick as a back end starter. He’s in no better place to develop those two facets of his game.

Round 12, Pick 359: RHP Brandon White, Washington State

The arm train rolled on with White, a junior from Washington State. White, a co-area MVP in his senior year of high school (0.34 ERA and 92 Ks in 55 IP), posted a 4.98 ERA via a 61/39 K/BB and 1.6 WHIP in 13 starts and 68.2 IP in his junior season. He made it into the sixth inning in all but two of them.

What stands out immediately: size. White is 6’8”, 220. The next thing is his wide array of pitches.

With natural downward plane on the fastball which he can pump up to 97, good movement on a tunneling cutter, both horizontal and vertical action on his slider which he can place on both sides of the plate, and a changeup (which is probably his best weapon) that has great two plane fade to his arm side and is virtually unhittable when he’s dotting it against opposite side hitters as seen above, this is four usable pitches. He doesn’t have too much in the way of velo separation and he will get In trouble when he misses his spots but he has shown the ability to work all over the zone.

The mechanics look pretty smooth and free and the short arm actions are consistent from a very high slot. Despite the gaudy ERA and WHIP, there’s plenty of potential here for White gain more consistent command within the Marlins organization. At the very least, he’s a multiple innings reliever.

Round 13, Pick 389: LHP Chandler Jozwiak, Texas A&M

Jozwiak is a 6’, 180 pound lefty who comes off of a great senior year in the SEC after he was transitioned full time to the bullpen. In 2021, he was as reliable as they come for the Aggies, appearing in 28 games and staking himself to a 3.48 ERA in 62 IP by way of a 1.16 WHIP and 79/18 K/BB.

Up to 95 with the fastball coupled with a high 80s slider all from a low 3/4 slot and a quick and explosive stretch delivery with which he hides the ball well, Jozwiak lines up as a potential high leverage arm. If he is to reach that ceiling, work will need to be done with his finish and hitting release points to enhance his control which wavers at times. The Marlins pitching development team will get to work on that shortly.

Round 14, Pick 419: RHP Holt Jones Jr., Kentucky

He’s not to be confused with Indiana Jones (aka Henry Jones Jr.) but Holt can definitely whip it and whip it good. During his collegiate career, he pitched for two highly heralded programs including the ACC’s Clemson Tigers and the SEC’s Kentucky Wildcats. According to the Wildcats’ Twitter account, Jones Jr. certainly brings the compete level up on the mound.

Holt is another massive 6’8” specimen with good fastball velo in the upper 90s. His size allows him to shorten distance to the plate giving the fastball the ability to jump all over hitters but what he lacks is the ability to keep his long limbs under control. These issues compound when he throws his breaking ball, a high 70s curveball. The pitch shows good shape but the feel for the pitch is just okay, leading to the tendency to get wild.

Holt Jr comes to the Marlins with a projectable mid-late relief future due to the size, velo and velo mix but he will need to work a few things out as he progresses through the system.

Round 15, Pick 449: LHP Caleb Wurster, UConn

Wurster is a 6’, 180 pound lefty out of UConn who has enjoyed a lot of success out of the back end of the Huskies’ bullpen. In three years, he compiled a 2.64 ERA via a 100/32 K/BB and 1.05 WHIP in 95.1 IP.

Wurster’s best tool is his deception. Tossing from the first base side, he comes home with a quick delivery from a low sidearm slot, giving him the ability to throw his low 90s fastball with movement and both rise and sink. He has two breaking pitches, the best being a low 80s slider that sweeps away from same side hitters. It has a natural downward arc because of his release point. When commanding, he can place it at will. His changeup is a mid-80s offering with some tumble. All three of Wurster’s pitches are thrown with similar velo and the stuff though good isn’t overwhelmingX However, his ability to hit release points and mask pitches with the same arm speed frustrates hitters and gives him an edge.

At the collegiate level, Wurster was affective as a closer. At the next level, the softer tossing lefty is more likely a floor middle reliever or ceiling 7th/8th inning guy.

Round 16, Pick 479: 3B Ivan Melendez, Texas

Melendez is a 6’3”, 220 pound third baseman who was recruited to Texas after the 2019 season. He had a fantastic first season in D-I ball at one point hitting seven homers in six games and finished strong, helping Texas  through the College World Series with some clutch performances. He provided one of the most exciting moments of the CWS with a go-ahead three run homer against Mississippi State. Overall, Melendez hit .319/.438/.603 with 13 homers and a 65/34 K/BB.

Known as the Hispanic Titanic, Melendez is an athletically built specimen with a plus hit tool and power. His quick hands and feel for the barrel allow him to get to any pitch, impact the baseball consistently and go to all fields. Melendez recently described his approach at the plate, saying it changes depending on the situation and that he doesn’t force power but just lets it come naturally. Melendez’s hit and power tools each project to grade highly on the 20-80 scale.

On the other side of the ball, there’s not much to say because there hasn’t been much to be seen. A pitcher in high school, Melendez underwent labrum surgery on his non-throwing arm before making the move to the field. After the College World Series this year, he suffered an injury to his left wrist which also required surgery. Because of the health concerns and inexperience in the field, he could be a regular DH at the next level.

The Marlins took the lottery ticket on Melendez late in the draft but the likelihood of the Marlins, who wouldn’t be able to offer much over slot value, signing him isn’t great. After a special sophomore year, safe money is on Melendez to return to Texas and improve his draft stock for next season. With similar success, he could make himself a mid-late first round pick, earning himself a much bigger signing bonus.

Round 17, Pick 509: LHP Justin Fall, Arizona State

Another massive human being, Fall is a 6’6”, 240 pound southpaw who redshirted in his senior year at ASU. After starting the season in the bullpen, multiple injuries to starters moved Fall into the rotation. He ended the year with a 4.08 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 77 IP.

While those numbers weren’t bad for a guy who expected to transition to the pen only to be asked to rejoin the rotation early on, Fall didn’t create much in the way of whiffs. He struck out just 47 on the season, a concerning sign for MLBPipeline’s Will Boor.

This is another value pick for the Marlins and their top-tier pitching development team. Fall is said to have improved his command greatly in 2021 with a sinking fastball that hits 95 with natural downward plane and a slider in the mid-high 80s with good tilt. After missing a lot of time in his collegiate career due to injury and the canceled 2020 season, the recently turned 22 year old will need to be developed swiftly and advantageously but if there’s one system that can bring out his full potential, it’s Miami.

Round 18, Pick 539: SS Bennett Hostetler, North Dakota State

Hostetler is a 23-year-old righty hitting shortstop and left fielder who played five years at NDSU. In an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 wiping out most of his senior year in 2020, Hostetler had a big year in 2021, hitting .394/.513/.606. He won the Summit League’s Player of the Year award and helped the Bison win their first ever NCAA tournament game. He caught the eye of the Marlins who held a private workout with him at the Missoula Paddleheads’ facility this offseason. 

6’, 195, Hostetler, a two-sport collegiate athlete, drew little to no interest the first three years of his baseball career before lighting the world on fire in a lesser-heralded conference, a conference you need to do that in if you’re going to play pro ball out of the draft. It is a testament to Hostetler’s drive and ability to make the most of the opportunity to do so in an extra year of eligibility.

As an out-of-nowhere guy, not much is printed or published on Hostetler’s tools. What is clear from his stat lines is that he’s always been a patient hitter that limits strikeouts. He’s fourth all time in NDSU history in OBP via a 170/108 K/BB across five collegiate seasons. What he greatly improved upon this season was his bat to ball skills and ability to make loud contact, moving his batting average from .250 in 2019 to .394. He also clubbed 10 homers, up from six. In a recent interview, Hostetler attributed the rise in average and power to being even more selective not only swinging at strikes but swinging at pitches he knows he can do something with.

“Just because I have the ability to hit certain pitches pretty much anywhere in the strike zone doesn’t mean I should swing at them,” Hostetler said.

At 24, Hostetler should be challenged and pushed pretty quickly.

Round 19, Pick 569: OF Noah Williamson, Everett Community College

The Marlins go to the JuCo ranks with their second-to-last selection and grab Williamson, a sophomore who only competed in four games with his community college in 2021 but really turned heads this summer in the wood bat West Coast League. In 24 games with Yakima Valley, Williamson hit .280/.348/.620 with six homers. He posted those numbers after he agreed to a 10-day contract with the summer ball club. After he went 2-5 in his first game, he received a full season offer.

Along with the offer from the Marlins, Williamson also reportedly has an offer from D-I Oregon. He’s expected to decide whether to sign or not within the next two weeks.

Scouting reports are few and far between on this player but what we do know from what has been said by Svihlik and from his coach this summer Kyle Krustangel, Williamson is a dynamic outfielder with plus power, plus speed and a good arm, checking the boxes for three of five potential tools.

If Williamson signs, he will be an interesting story to follow as a purely out of nowhere discovery who has barely played much affiliated baseball.

Round 20, Pick 599: 1B Zach Zubia, Texas

Miami rounded out the draft by selecting Zubia who played all four years with Texas and helped them to the College World Series on the same team as a previous pick, Ivan Melendez last season. In 201 NCAA games, Zubia hit .274/.399/.476 with 30 homers and a 190/140 K/BB including .286/.412/.502, 11 HR, 67/49 K/BB this past spring.

A quarterback and pitcher as well as first baseman in high school, there’s some real athleticism here especially for a larger built guy. Zubia is a thick framed 6’4”, 230 pounder who packs on muscle. The best tool is the raw power which Zubia comes by naturally. The swing looks pretty smooth; Zubia doesn’t overdo it or try to force power at the plate and he will settle for base hits and take walks. In his sophomore year, he walked more than he struck out, uncanny for a power-first bat.

What you’d like to see more of from Zubia is more consistent bat to ball contact because they go far when he barrels up. If he can be taught to get extended more consistently and keep his bat in the zone longer which he definitely has the size to do, Zubia is a guy who could hit for both a good average and 20+ homer power while playing a solid first base and/or DHing at the next level. He will need to do so quickly and while getting facing a tall challenge though. At nearly 26, he will be pushed aggressively.

Recapping the 2020 MLB Draft

Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via AP

The MLB Draft. Usually a 40-round marathon in which countless hours of scouting, interviewing and program research done simultaneously by each team all over the country come to fruition when 1200+ young men have their baseball dreams come true. This year, circumstances beyond control turned that marathon into a short sprint: five rounds and 160 picks, six of which belonged to the Marlins. So who are the lucky few? Who are they, how did they get to this point and why Miami? Herein, we examine.

Max Meyer (Photo by Christopher Mitchell, Sport Shot Photo)

1/3: RHP Max Meyer, Minnesota

With what was one of of not the most crucial draft picks of the Marlins’ rebuild, Michael Hill took the vow that the club would not gamble.

After the Orioles surprised by selecting Heston Kjerstad second overall and opened up the board, it appeared as though the Marlins had a decision to make between two guys: righty Asa Lacy and third baseman Austin Martin? But before the Orioles picked and likely even before the draft began, DJ Svihlik, Michael Hill and the Marlins had already agreed with their guy: Minnesota righty Max Meyer.

Meyer is a 6’, 200 pound righty who had the consensus best pitch in the entire draft: his high 80s power wipe out slider that is just absolutely deadly. He can plane it anywhere inside the strike zone, place it on the back foot or bury it in the dirt for whiffs. But that’s far from all there is to the kid. Despite the limited size, Meyer throws absolutely blistering heat which sits at 97 and he can ramp it all the way up to triple digits. Both of Meyer’s primaries are already 70 grade offerings. But wait, there’s even more. He also mixes in a changeup that holds a current 55-grade value and with a bit more feel, has the ability to become another plus plus pitch in the future. He pounds the entire strike zone with all three pitches, comes right after hitters with a bulldog mentality, works ahead in the count regularly and can get swings and misses both in and out of the zone with 55-grade command.

Meyer has unquestioned ace potential. The only caveats to him reaching that potential lay in his unfavorable size for a starting pitcher and the fact that he only started 15 games in college. 2020 was going to be a tell-tale junior season for him, but he was only able to get four games under his belt before the entire world, including the sports world, shut down due to COVID-19. A physically limited high stress, max effort hurler, the biggest question surrounding Max will be can his arm hold up through the toil of a full slate of rotational innings? If it can, he is drawing favorable comparisons to Tim Lincecum and Sonny Gray with stuff resembling Noah Syndergaard’s.

Daxton Fulton (Photo by PerfectGame.com)

2/40 – LHP Daxton Fulton, Mustang High School (OK

Where Lacy would’ve made and probably will still make over slot value, the Marlins will ink Meyer for well under the $7,221,200 price tag assigned to the third overall pick. Michael Hill and Co. will use the money saved to sign this pick away from his college commitment. Clearly, Svihlik and the scouting department had a target on Daxton and a plan to get him signed, conceding Lacy. They really wanted this kid and it’s easy to see why.

At age 18, Fulton, the consensus best lefty prep in the draft, is 6’6”, 225. He already shows good knowledge for his body, featuring a smooth wind and release and a very pronounced downhill stride. But the size isn’t the only thing that’s way beyond his teenage years. His arsenal features four useable pitches and two plus offerings, low 90s heat with slight arm side run and his best pitch, a high 70s 12-6 curve with tight arc late bend to his spot. The pitch moves on both axes and he can fool with the grip and release a bit to shape it in different ways, giving him a few different looks with the same pitch. Fulton will show a bit more effort in his delivery when throwing the fastball which is something he will need to rectify against pro hitters to keep from tipping it, but that should be a fairly quick fix under the tutelage of pro coaches. The curve, which has an MLB-grade spin rate of 2,600, already ranks as 60-plus offering and the fastball is grading at 55-plus. Those two pitches create a future lights out combo at the next level. He also has a changeup that sits 82-84. Fulton lacks a consistent release point and overall feel for the pitch, but at its best, it has good late fading action and two-plane break. Scouts say it plays up to a future 50-grade ceiling.

Just 19 with already two plus pitches with a third in the making and a plus command tool and a great  starter’s build with the ability to even more velo, there is a very high ceiling here. The next time he takes the mound will likely be in 2021 (COVID aside), so this is a slow-pace project who, as a second round pick coming off the surgery, the Marlins will take it extremely easy with as he builds back his arm strength. He enters the system as a top 20 prospect (no easy task considering all the Marlins have starting pitching wise) who will be a guy to follow closely leading up to his projected MLB debut in 2023. Jumping Evan Fitterer from last season’s draft, he is the new head of the Marlins’ high school class.

Kyle Nicolas (Photo by BallStateSports.com)

CBB2/61 – Kyle Nicolas, Ball State

Nicolas is a 6’4”, 225 righty out of Ball State University. A two-time letterman as a high schooler, he had a decorated senior season. 8-0 with a 0.50 ERA and 78 Ks in 46 IP, he won his league’s player of the year award and was a first team all-state selection. His tenure at Ball State was a lot less statistically impressive: serving in a swing man capacity, he has a 5.12 ERA, a 1.53 WHIP and a 174/102 K/BB. So how did he earn this draft slot? After showing improved stuff in the Cape Cod League including added velo on the fastball (sitting 94-96 and up to triple digits), according to scouts, Nicolas did a ton of work in the offseason. He worked tirelessly with coaches to simplify his delivery, leading to much more fluidity, much easier repetition and added deception. That was on display during Kyle’s first four starts of 2020 during which he held down a 2.74 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 23 IP. The most paramount and encouraging product of Nicolas’ offseason work was his huge improvement in command. His 8.3% walk rate fell to just under 3%. One of Kyle’s final starts at the collegiate level was a 17 strikeout performance in which he only allowed two hits.

Nicolas’ crutch pitch is his aforementioned 70-grade fastball which has natural downward plane and good run. When at his best, he will pound the zone with it and outmatched collegiate hitters. Nicolas’ best secondary is an 86-88 power slide piece which he has really begun to tunnel, again due to the improvement in his mechanics and command. The pitch holds good late bite and from his higher release point and much shorter stride, is masked well against the heat. Because of his recent adjustments, the pitch takes the jump from 50-grade to 60-grade.

Kyle’s work ethic and his ability to vastly improve over the course of just one offseason is very impressive. However, if he is to reach his ceiling as a back-end rotational piece he will need to continue to grow into his newly refined delivery while further developing his distant third pitch, the changeup. Currently, the Nicolas changeup is just average and he’s in the nascent stages when it comes to the release and overall feel for it but at its best, it shows good shape and flashes of becoming a plus pitch.

If he continues to put polish on his newly refined mechanics and continues to advantageously develop the changeup. Not set to turn 22 until a month before next spring training, there is a lot to like about a guy with extremely projectable size and two plus-plus pitches who shows the ability and willingness to make positive adjustments joining a developmental system like the Marlins’.

Zach McCambley (Photo by Josh Bell/The Sun News)

3/76 – RHP Zach McCambley, Coastal Carolina

McCambley is a 6’1”, 215 pound righty who was recruited to Costal Carolina after being named his high school conference’s MVP and an All-American honorable mention and being rated the 108th best RHP in that year’s Draft. As a Chanticleer, McCambley had a 3.89 ERA and 1.40 WHIP with a 158/59 K/BB in 141 IP. He was primed for a tell-tale junior year and began it advantageously holding down a 1.80 ERA by way of a 1.08 WHIP and 32/7 K/BB in four starts and 25 IP before the COVID shutdown. Had the season played out and had those brand of results stagnated, McCambley could’ve gone much higher. Instead, he entered the Draft as the 80th ranked RHP. The Marlins pulled the trigger on him at number 75. Clearly, Svihlik and Co. had their chips in on McCambley’s last season rather than his subpar 2019 regular season campaign. It’s easy to see why the Marlins bought in and took him over his predraft ranking: on top

of being a great student, Zach had a a very impressive showing against wood bats in the Cape Cod League last summer, holding down a 1.74 ERA with a 1.06 WHIP and 24/7 K/BB in 20.2 IP. Based off his overall collegiate numbers, McCambley wasn’t a sure thing. However, he’s another guy exactly like Nicolas: despite a limited showing of just 40 IP, he showed a ton of improvement from his 2019 regular season up to the present, especially in showing more consistent command. That’s what the Marlins are buying in to.

McCambley owns two plus pitches, a 92-95 MPH fastball with good riding action and sink to the lower half and his best pitch, a curveball which he developed as a child and which usually sits 79-81 (making it more of a slurve). However, he can take more off of it by slowing down his arm speed, creating a higher arcing 12-6 offering.

A plus to-contact fastball and wipe-out primary breaker thrown multiple ways are a great start, but if he is to succeed as a rotational piece, McCambley will need to develop his changeup (again, like Nicolas). Presently, the McCambley change sits 86-88. He lacks a current overall feel for the pitch causing it to blend into the fastball, but he does show flashes of it becoming a plus pitch with good fade. Along with the improved command he showed this canceled season, that’s the potential that will need to pronounce itself for Zach to succeed as a starter. Currently a two-pitch guy with limited size, we place McCambley as a higher-floor, lower-ceiling guy at the next level.

Jake Eder (Photo by Vanderbilt University)

4/104 LHP Jake Eder, Vanderbilt

Eder is a local guy, born October 9th, 1998 in Fort Lauderdale and an attendee of both Delray Beach Atlantic and Calvary Christian Academy. A letterman in all four of of high school seasons, Eder was the earner of a an All-American selection in his junior year and he was a key cog in his team earning a state semi-finals berth as a senior. He was drafted by the Mets in round 34 of the 2017 Draft but chose to continue his education both mentally and athletically at Vanderbilt. As a Commodore who played on two of the same teams as JJ Bleday, Eder served in a swing-man capacity and held down an overall 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 105/57 K/BB in 92.1 IP. He did much better in limited showings as an exclusive pen piece in 2018-19. Eder began 2020 in the Vandy rotation posting a 3.60 ERA via a 1.45 WHIP prior to the shutdown.

6’4”, 210, Eder has a solid pitcher’s frame but he is consistently inconsistent. His windup is quirky and has a lot of moving parts which he struggles to control. Eder’s initial motion is a front foot step back to the third base side leading into a cross-body leg kick without much weight on the back leg before a whip-through half arm circle delivery from a mid-3/4 slot. The length of his stride will differ and, considering the effort he puts into his release, it will lead to an-off balance finish in which he winds up on his front heel. He is much, much better from the stretch, leading to the belief that he will be a future pen piece. Stuff wise, he Hs the same issue: inconsistency. he is capable of a plus two pitch mix including a 94-96 MPH fastball and a shapely curveball but it doesn’t always show up. Even on a start to start basis, both Eder’s velo and control can  completely disappear. He is also yet another guy who lacks a third pitch. He’s another step down the ladder from McCambley because of the dodgy mechanics and unreliability, further limiting the ceiling. The Marlins believe they can iron him out, make the raw stuff come out advantageously and turn him into a back end starter, but he currently profiles much better as a future bullpen piece.

Kyle Hurt (Photo by Shotgun Spratling)

5/134 Kyle Hurt, USC

Hurt is a 22-year old junior out of USC where he had a very unstable career. After a knee injury lowered his draft stock in 2017, he chose to go back to school rather than signing with the Phillies who selected him in the 34th round. His numbers as a Trojan read 172.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 170/107 K/BB. He has two plus pitches and two more behind it. The former combination includes a fastball that has good action and sits 94-95 topping at 97 and a depthy changeup at 85-88. Both pitches grade at 55+. Hurt backs those offerings up with a maturing slide piece grades at 50 and a less advanced curve. The two pitches can blend into one another at times. He may drop the curve at the next level.

The reason for the inflated stats in college could be attributed to one big thing: incredibly spotty command. What convinced Svihlik and the Marlins was the lineage of athleticism JM his family (his father played football at Ole Miss and his grandfather played football at the University of Tampa and one season for the Miami Dolphins), his high school pedigree, his extremely projectable size — already 6’3”, 215 — and his fantastic limited showing under a new regime at USC this canceled season. According to Svihlik, Hurt is a low-risk, high-reward type signing who he is counting on the Marlins’ fantastic development team to help continue recent positive progression.

“He was a multi-million dollar player out of high school that had an up-and-down career at USC,” Svihlik said. “We really thought that we had an opportunity to take a player that has under-performed expectations, put him with a great group of player development guys and really extract the most out of his talent. Kyle Hurt was outstanding this year. He really turned the corner with a new pitching style, with a new coaching staff at USC.”

Hurt, who turned 22 on May 30th, projects to start his big league career in low A.

Mocking The 2019 Draft: Vaughn or Bleday?

In their first season behind the draft table labeled Miami Marlins, Gary Denbo and the new Jeter regime brought a bevy or talent to South Beach, three of which have already proven to be top 30 prospects. Behind that trio is another group of draftees (Tristan Pompey, Nick Fortes, Chris Vallimont) which stands a very good chance of joining the top tier of organizational talent very soon. This season, although the draft table may look a little bit different, Denbo and Co. are in a fantastic position to match if not better that success.

Owners of the fourth overall draft pick, the Marlins are in prime position to have their pick of the litter of many future faces of any franchise. From there, the Fish will pick at #35, a spot which has produced the current 19th overall prospect in baseball Taylor Trammell (2016) as well as All-Star Aaron Rowand (1998) and Johnny Damon (1992). The Marlins will then pick again for a third time within the top 50 picks at #45 overall. That spot is responsible for berthing the likes of Trevor Story (2011) and Jed Lowrie (2005).

Whom should the Marlins, at a crucial point in the rebuild, target with each of their first three picks? Herein, we examine.

Round 1, #4 – 1B Andrew Vaughn, Cal
NCAA – 586 AB, .377/.495/.695, 50 HR, 162 RBI, 0.62 K/BB%

With Adley Rutschman, Bobby Witt, Jr and CJ Abrams projected as the first three off the board at this point in time, things get a bit more uncertain when the Marlins hit the clock. Both Vaughn and Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday have the potential to be franchise-altering talents and both have offensive capabilities and tools to hit for both average and power. Given their similarities at the plate, the tipping point for us is where is the franchise thinner: corner outfield or corner infield? And the answer is simple.

Vaughn, who is slightly younger than Bleday, was born on April 3, 1998. The soon-to-be 21-year-old attended Maria Carrillo High in Santa Rosa. The accolades started coming early for Vaughn as, in 2013, he was a member of the All-15-and-Under USA National Team. After being named both Freshman and Sophomore of the Year in his district in 2013 and 2014 respectively, Vaughn was named North Bay Junior of the year in 2015 via a .440/.551/.533 line. Those exports allotted Vaughn to be named a preseason All-American prior to his senior year in 2016. Andrew ended his high school tenure by hitting .326/.440/.483, rounding out a .380/.474/.493 tenure. The multi-talented Vaughn also went 13-4 with a 2.05 ERA via a 1.17 WHIP and 166/60 K/BB.

As much potential as Vaughn showed to hit for average at the next level in high school via quick hands and wrists, scouts limited his ability to hit for power due to his straight-through swing plane and short stride through contact. An offseason later, Vaughn was doing this:

By tapping into natural raw power very few — including the Cal coaching staff — thought the sub-6-foot, sub-215 pounder was capable of and by adding loft to his swing, Vaughn added another facet to his game. In his freshman year, Vaughn’s 12 homers tied him with teammate and Marlins’ 10th round draft pick Denis Karas for the PAC-12 league lead.

“Andrew Vaughn is obviously one of the best players in the country. Really proud of what he did a year ago and after being with him for a year, not surprising,” Vaughn’s recruiter turned Stanford head coach David Esquer said after Vaughn’s breakout year. “He’s just a class act on and off the field. He makes people better because he kind of pulls people with him with his work ethic.”

Vaughn continued to answer questions about his size in his sophomore year when he more than proved the power outbreak wasn’t a fluke. In 2018, Vaughn entered University of California history books. He set a Cal single-season program record by slugging .819 and his .402 BA ranked third all-time by a Bear. Attending the same Alma matter as Chase Utley, Eric Karros, former Marlin Todd Ziele and Mr Marlin, Jeff Conine, Vaughn was named the first-ever Golden Spikes Award recipient in Cal program history and the first to do so in a draft-ineligible year since 1987 (Jim Abbott). He won the award over 2018 first-overall pick Casey Mize, 18th-overall Brady Singer and third-rounder Kasey Clemens.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the way in which Andrew represents our team and the University of California,” Vaughn’s Head Coach Michael Neu said at the time. “To see him recognized as the best amateur player in America speaks volumes about who he is, both on and off the field, and speaks to the incredible support he gets from a family that has been behind him every step of the way. It’s an incredibly exciting day for Cal and Cal Baseball.”

After proving his power isn’t restricted to metal bats by slashing .308/.368/.654 with five homers in just 52 ABs in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer, Vaughn hit 385/.539/.728 line in his junior year this past season. In a single-season low in ABs, Vaughn tallied a career high 53 walks contrasted by just 30 Ks, bringing his collegiate career K/BB% to a ridiculous 0.62%.

What the 5’11”, 210 pound Vaughn lacks in size he makes up for by way of freakishly raw power, especially for a guy of that stature and a very advanced feel for making the most of it. By understanding situations, minimizing the strike zone and very rarely chasing too far outside of it, Vaughn, who doesn’t have to discount contact for power, owns one of the most complete offensive skill sets in the entire draft. Though he strictly played first base in college, Vaughn owns an explosive defensive arm that regularly reached the mid-90s from the mound in high school. During recruiting, scouts saw a future for him at third base. Though it would require attentive coaching and a lot of patience Vaughn is open to the possibility.

With modestly graded 60 grade power and contact, a 50-grade arm and defense, Vaughn is considered by some scouts to be the best prospect in the draft and, should he fall to the Marlins at fourth overall, an absolute steal.

Due to the fact that Vaughn’s approach, mechanics, swing path, patience and baseball IQ are already so advanced and effortless, we place the multi-faceted talent’s ceiling extremely high: SoFla product Ryan Braun, a career .297/.360/.534 1B/3B figure despite fairly limited 6’2”, 205 lb size.

Round 1 (CBA), #35 – RHP Josh Wolf, St. Thomas Catholic HS (Houston, TX)

Wolf is a well-built pound prep righty out of St Thomas High in Houston, Texas, the same Alma matter as recent MLB promotee, Blue Jays’ number nine prospect, Cavan Biggio.

Thought for certain to become an honoree of his commitment to Texas A&M before the beginning of his senior season, Wolf turned scouts’ heads toward him once again when he reached 97 in his first start of the year. After parlaying his newly recognized velo into a lights-out season, Wolf has vaulted himself into late first round/early second round selection merits.

Standing 6’2”, 165, over ten pounds heavier than he was in his junior season, Wolf coupled his added size with a lower arm slot in order to gain over seven MPH worth of velo on his fastball this past season. Along with a four-seamer that ranges from 90-97, Wolf also owns a knee-buckling, low-80s 12-6 curve. The 19-year-old’s distant third pitch, yet one that is already flashing plus, is a mid-80s change. When at its best, the work-in-progress pitch shows good fade and sink.

A guy who already adds and subtracts from his wide velo range effectively and a guy who has shown the ability to quickly grow in to added size by making positive adjustments, Wolf has shown poise and maturity well beyond his years, giving scouts a lot to rave about.

After quickly taking draft boards by storm this past season, Wolf is a guy who has done everything right. Should that continue, with room to add at least 20 more pounds of muscle mass, Wolf is a teenager with big things written all over him. Given Michael Hill’s recent past with taking a liking to prep hurlers, we wouldn’t doubt if the Marlins’ sights have been fixed on Wolf for some time.

With two plus pitches via great spin rates on his shapely change which ducks and dives and curve which has a nice 11/5 arc in addition to his huge fastball, Wolf already shows the makings of a future ace, reminiscent of Stephen Strasburg. While he also shows the effort in his delivery a la Strasburg and the need to gain the ability to repeat it in order to remain healthy and be effective at the next level, an outlook that would make some Marlins fans wary of selecting him this high, Wolf’s ability to match Strasburg’s velo as well as his advanced blueprint for two plus breaking pitches is well worthy of this selection by a franchise in the nascent stages of a rebuild that will give him no reason to rush. Given time, we place Wolf’s modest ceiling high: Gerritt Cole, a current 3.14 FIP hurler by way of a 1.17 WHIP and 3.94 K/BB% with room for more.

Round 2, #45 – SS Greg Jones, UNC Wilimington
NCAA – 443 AB, .309/.452/.458, 37 XBH, 1.29 K/BB, 56/14 SB/CS

In Vaughn, the Marlins will acquire arguably the best all-around hitting talent in the draft. In Jones, they’ll reign in not-so-arguably the fastest player available this June.

Gregory Jones Jr. was born on March 7, 1998 in Cary, North Carolina where he attended the high school carrying his township’s name from 2013-2017. A varsity participant in each of his four high school years, Jones hit .355/.493/.496. Very early on in his baseball career, Jones’ calling card became his speed and voracity on the basepaths. In 79 high school games, the infielder terrorized opposing batteries, stealing 45 bags in 75 attempts (60% success rate). Ranked 75th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft by Baseball America, the two-time All-Conference, one-time All-Regional and All-American honorable mention was drafted by the Orioles in the 17th round. Jones forwent that selection in favor of honoring his collegiate commitment to UNC Wilmington.

Breaking in to the collegiate ranks, Jones started 60/62 of the Seahawks’ games in 2018 and hit a very respectable .278/.412/.370. His elite jets allowed him to steal 16/20 potential bases.

“As a freshman, I played a pretty big role,” Jones said. “It was either step up or get left behind. I chose to step up. That just shows what I can be this year.”

What could Jones be this past year? How does a .343/.491/.551 hitter and 40 base stealer sound? By leading the Colonial Athletic Association in OBP, steals, runs scored (69), triples (9), hits (74) and walks (53) as well as ranking second in BA and fourth in SLG all while seeing the second most plate appearances in the league, Jones was named the CAA Player Of The Year. Jones also appeared on national leaderboards with the third most triples and sixth most SB. All of this has pushed Jones up into the conversation to become a late-first round choice and, at the very latest, an early second round selection.

Watching Jones hit, his approach screams future lead-off hitter. Approaching from deep in the box, Jones views the strike zone extremely well, forcing his opposition to come to him. The weak point in Jones’ game at present is his swing. Although he flashes the bat speed necessary to succeed as a top-of-the-order contact/speed-first threat, the hack shows the susceptibility to get long, limiting him to weak contact, easy outs and, in the past, swings and misses. Via this hole, Jones’ hit tool has been limited to a sub-50 grade and kept him out of the conversation involving early first round selections. That said, Jones made huge strides last year in the area of whiffs while continuing to grow into his body. Given proper time to fill out — which the rebuilding Marlins should have no problem giving him — Jones is a future catalytic threat capable of a Dee Gordon-esque ceiling.

Like Gordon, Jones is a natural middle infielder who could make the move to center field at the next level. While his natural raw speed allowed him to field the shortstop position decently at the collegiate level, scouts say Jones profiles better as a center fielder at the next level due to limited immediately readability of trajectory off the bat. Given that, Jones’ unquestionable ability to cover advantageous ground and then some would make him an immediate shoe-in to become Juan Pierre v. 2.0 in center, with the capability to grow into more.

Stay tuned to Fish On The Farm both here and on social media (@marlinsminors) on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for continuing coverage of the MLB Draft all June long.

Recapping The Draft: Rounds 21-40

Brandon Rawe

The Marlins’ scouting department flexed its muscle on the second day of the draft, finding some great talent at low priced picks as well as getting in on the ground floor of some very projectable high schoolers. Let’s take a look.

21 – #626 – SS Giovanny Alfonzo – University of Tampa
Grade: B+

Alfonzo is a stout 5’11”, 185 middle infielder Florida native from Palm Beach County. Proven by the fact that he ran a 7.01 60 in his senior year, Alfonzo has plus speed, attributing itself to his good arm, good footwork and quick hands, making him a well-equipped defensive player with the small build to match. His quick reaction time and solid physical tools are maintained at the plate. He times his swings well, staying back well on breaking stuff and swinging through the ball with solid line drive power. This season with the Spartans, Alfonzo held down the fourth best BA and SLG on the team (.344, .570) all while showing his physical durability, starting every game and getting the most ABs. He made his power potential and ability to find the gaps apparent to scouts as 29 of his 76 hits were of the extra base variety. All of this happened in his junior year. What Alfonzo needs to work on in order to round out his game are his mechanics on the field. Although he exhibited good range, he committed a team high 20 errors this season between not getting low enough to field balls hit his way and making inaccurate throws. If Alfonzo can clean that up, he is a very intriguing prospect with power potential at a usually weak offensive position. Keep an eye on this one.

22 – #656 – RHP LJ Brewster – Hawaii
Grade: C+

Brewster is a 6’2″ 205 righty out of Hawaii. This year, the converted infielder showed good velocity in the 89-95 MPH range along with solid secondary stuff for a guy seeing his first work on the mound. He flashed a three pitch repertoire, including a well tipped curve and a nice fading change with plus potential. In his 94 2/3 innings, he struck out 63 and held down a 2.95 ERA. He pitched into the 5th inning in all of his starts, pitched into the 7th in five of them, and held the opposition to two runs or less in six. Brewster uses his long limbs to his advantage, throwing from a 3/4 overhand arm slot and getting out in front well. Where Brewster understandably needs work is in the command and control departments. While he did record 63 strikeouts, he also walked 41 and threw 11 wild pitches. Despite his struggles in those areas, his abiltiy to hold runs and hits to a minimum prove he has the head and wherewithal to succeed as a pitcher. If he can improve upon his command and control and continue to improve his stuff, he could become a serviceable back of the roty arm or reliever.

23 – #686 – LHP Trevor Lacosse – Bryant University (RI)
Grade: B-

Lacosse is a 5’11” 185 pounder who isn’t going to light up radar guns but, thanks to the deceptiveness of his stuff, will keep the opposition from lighting up the scoreboard. While his heat barely touches 90, he can move it at will, running it, cutting it or sinking it, which keeps hitters guessing. He also has a changeup that flashes plus. In his freshman year of college, Lacosse was one of his team’s most reliable arms out of the pen, holding down a 2.51 ERA and compiling 20 Ks to 15 walks in 32 1/2 IP. If he continues at his current pace, Lacosse will be a valuable change-of-pace arm that can be affective in short spurts.

24 – #716 – RHP Octavio Arroyo – San Ysidro HS (CA)
Grade: C

Arroyo is a 6’0″ 175 pound righty who has quite the backstory. A native of Mexico, Arroyo came to the United States by way of a visitor’s visa and pitched three seasons in San Ysidro, a town just inside the border of the United States in California. He pitched parts of two seasons with at San Ysidro High School, posting an ERA under 2 and an 2.00 K/BB ratio by way of a low 90s fastball, a diving sinker, and a good running changeup, putting himself in prime position to be drafted as early as round 15. However, just before draft day, Arroyo was deported to Mexico after being deemed inadmissable at a border entry station. Arroyo shows tons of promise talent wise and the fact that he was taught by the brother of former major leaguer Esteban Loiaza in his days at San Ysidro High make him even a more encouraging piece but at the moment, his future is unclear. Because he was once deemed inadmissable, it is questionable whether the US government will reward him with a work visa. While Arroyo waits, he tosses the ball as much as he can with family members but it is far from anything formal and a very far cry from being tutored by professional baseball minds. Life is also tough in Tijuanna and family matters don’t permit Arroyo anywhere near the practice time needed to make it as a pro. Thus, the longer he waits on the US government to make a decision, the more detrimental it is to his future. If Arroyo is admitted the right to play for the Marlins, he’s a very attractive prospect but that is still very much in the air. Unfortunately for Arroyo, it’s nothing but a waiting game right now.

25 – #746 – OF Alexander Fernandez – Nova Southeastern University
Grade: B+

At pick 746, the Marlins drafted the first of two recognizable surnames with former Marlins’ ties. Alexander Fernandez, the son of former Marlins hurler and 1997 World Champion Alex Fernandez is a college senior out of NSU in Davie. He began his college career there after attending baseball powerhouse high school Archbishop McCarthy. Fernandez was drafted as a left fielder but he has the athletic ability to play virtually anywhere on the diamond so there are a multitude of options when it comes to getting him in the lineup. Though he was drafted as an outfielder, Fernandez played second base for most of his high school and college careers and looks to continue playing there early in his minor league career. His tools, good hands, good reaction time, good speed which allowed him to run a 7.14 60, and a strong arm that was once clocked in the mid 80s, best suit him for that position. At the plate, Fernandez stands tall in the box and gets his bat through the zone well with good speed and a typical line drive swing. His good hands follow him to the plate where he remains relaxed and loose before displaying good strength in them. The approach allowed him to finish 2015 second on the Sharks in homers and slugging while his speed garnered him a team leading five triples. As he proved this season, when he squares the ball up which he has a good knack for doing, Fernandez’s tools make him a threat for an extra base hit every time. Where he needs to improve is in the patience department, proven by the fact that he struck out a heightened 66 times in 203 ABs this season. If Fernandez can learn to pick and choose his swings by way of improving his plate vision, there is nothing to suggest he can’t become a complete baseball player. He is already a complete athlete both physically and mentally and he comes from a great baseball pedigree. There’s reason to be excited about the next member of the Fernandez family becoming part of the Marlins’ long term future.

26 – #776 – RHP Obed Diaz – Casiano Cepeda HS (Puerto Rico)
Grade: —

Diaz is a sizeable 6’3″ 175 pound righty out of Puerto Rico whom very little information is available on.

27 – #806 – SS Taylor Munden – West Virginia
Grade: C

Munden is a 5’10 185 pound college senior out of West Virginia who led his team in power production this past season, slamming 11 homers and driving in 31 runs. He was second on the team in slugging at .468 as well as doubles with 12. Munden also flashed good speed and baserunning instincts, swiping a team high 11 bags. At the plate, the stout Munden makes use of a small strike zone and is fairly selective when it comes to waiting for his pitch. When he gets it and barrels it up with a straight swing in which he maintains his strength all the way through, Muden can be quite surprisingly — especially for a guy his size — the masher. Where he could use improvement is seeing the ball to the barrell. While he more often than not makes contact, it is not often enough solid contact. He also tends to fly open on his swings. On defense, Munden reacts to contact well but his infield mechanics could use a bit of work. Last season, he made a team high 17 errors. Munden has an edge in that he possesses power at a weak power position but he will need grooming on both sides of the ball if he hopes to make it as a pro.

28 – #836 – LHP Jeff Kinley – Michigan State
Grade: B

Kinley is a 6’1″ 175 pound southpaw who has been through a lot in his college career. After taking home league MVP honors twice in his high school career and getting off to a good start in the first two seasons of his collegiate career, Kinley received quite the health scare in 2013 when blood clots were found around his lungs. Kinley underwent two surgeries, one of which cost him one of his ribs before coming back stronger than ever in 2014. That season, Kinley set a Michigan State record by recording 13 saves. He also held down a 2.45 ERA. This year, Kinley once again began the year as the closer before being moved to the rotation. As a reliever, he gave up just 8 runs in 25.1 IP before giving up 9 over 25.2 innings in his last 5 games, all starts, proving he is more affective in shorter spurts. Kinley has a three pitch repertoire which also backs that assertion. His fastball tops at 93 and he gets in on hitters well with his breaking stuff. Kinley has a good closer or late inning reliever’s make up. He could use to improve upon his command as he has been liable to give up some big contact when he misses his spots. Other than that, he projects decently as a guy who can contribute to the bullpen at the professional level.

29 – #866 – RHP Ben Meyer – Minnesota
Grade: B

Meyer is a righty hurler with baseball in his blood. Meyer’s father pitched at Minnesota and Ben, although he was at first at basketball player, eventually followed his bloodlines to the mound. He is an imposing figure as he toes the rubber, standing at 6’6″, 200 pounds. He is as imposing with his low 90s fastball which he has all the confidence in the world in. Because of it’s good movement and the good handle he has on it, Meyer is not afraid to challenge hitters with the pitch. He has a great feel for it and has the ability to pitch it black-to-black. As for his secondary pitches, Meyer completely overhauled that area of his repertoire when he came to Minnesota. Four years later, he possesses a high 70s slider and a tricky low 80s circle changeup. He used his arsenal to compile the seventh most career strikeouts in Minnesota history. He also pitched the second most innings (288) in 59 games and 39 starts. His great control and command are best evidenced by his 3.08 K/BB ratio as a collegiate player. Meyer could have probably gone a lot higher than the 29th round if not for struggling with giving up the long ball in his senior year giving up 10, a new experience for Meyer who had only allowed a total of 5 homers in his first three seasons. Other than those struggles with homers, it was another great year for Meyer. He totaled a career high in strikeouts (71) while walking just 24, leading to a 2.96 K/BB ratio. He did match hits with IP with a 9.00 H/9 but that can be attributed to a high BABIP. All-in-all, Meyer is an imposing downhill throwing righty with a well established repertoire. As long as the heightened number of longballs he gave up this year were a one-time thing, with continued natural production, Meyer could become a back end of the rotation starter or at the very least a long reliever/spot starter at the professional level.

30 – #896 – SS Joseph Chavez – University of California – Riverside
Grade: B

Chavez is a 6’0″, 195 infielder who is an absolute speed demon, proven by his 49 stolen bases in 172 games in his collegiate career. To get on base, Chavez uses a good batter’s eye, plus patience and plus plus power which allowed him to collect 57 XBHs between his sophomore and senior years. For his career, Chavez slashed an impressive .299/.393/.436 culminating with a .308/.390/.453 year last year. When he makes good contact, his solid line drive swing which is the product of soft hands and good lower body action combined with his blistering speed makes him a threat for extra bases every time. Chavez’s weakness lies in the fact that he struggles to see the ball to the barrell. He really needs to improve upon his contact rate in order to make it at the next level. Defensively, Chavez uses the same speed he uses on the bases to cover a lot of ground at shortstop and he makes the right decisions with the ball. However, he needs to work on solidifying a consistent arm angle. Last year, he made a team high 14 errors, a lot of them as a product of his throws. If Chavez can work on making more consistent contact thus cutting down on strikeouts as well as cleaning up his defensive mechanics, he’ll be worth keeping in your thoughts as a type-B prospect.

31 – #926 – OF Griffin Conine – Pine Crest HS (FL)
Grade: B+

The next generation of Conine has come to the Marlins! The son of Mr. Marlin himself, two time World Series champ and original 1993 Marlin, Conine’s surname is one every Fish fan will recognize immediately. A lefty hitter standing at 6’1″ and weighing in at 195, Conine hits from a very spread stance and possesses some of the best bat speed in South Florida. He has an uphill swing and a power first approach but also exhibits good patience and plate vision allowing him to wait out opposing pitchers. When he squares up, the ball explodes off his barrell and more often than not goes for extra bases. In the outfield, Conine possesses raw arm strength but his mechanics needs some work but as he fills out, improvement will undoubtedly come. Conine will more than likely head to college as he has already committed to Duke but the fact that the Marlins have already put the thought in the minds of the fanbase of hearing the name Conine being announced once again as a member of the Marlins’ starting lineup sometime in the near future is enough to excite any long time fan of the team.

32 – #956 – 3B Kris Goodman – Iowa
B

Goodman is a 6’1″, 193 third baseman who hits from an extremely spread stance with a front foot toe tap and has an extremely fluid and easy follow through. He retains his looseness very well and swings all the way through the zone with a straight through stride. He has some hidden power and a knack for finding the outfield gaps. Upon making contact, Goodman flies down the line with plus speed and has the ability to turn anything into an XBH. As a senior, he collected team highs in doubles (11) and triples (5). He also stole 10 bases on 14 attempts. Goodman also possesses good patience at the plate which allowed him to total a 36/30 K/BB in 2015. Like a few previous picks, Goodman could also use to improve upon the rate at which he makes contact. On defense, Goodman is more than sufficient at the hot corner, flashing a good glove and good instincts, fielding the big hop almost exclusively. He has an accurate arm that will only get better as he fills out. Natural production suggest Goodman has a good opportunity to turn in to a quality prospect.

33 – #986 – RHP Ryley MacEachern – SUNY Stony Brook
Grade: B-

MacEachern is a sizeable 6’2″ 213 pounder from New York with a good feel for pitching. He throws from a high 3/4 slot with a solid follow through. He tosses a solid plus fastball in the low 90s which he keeps down almost exclusively with good sinking action. The breaking stuff also flashes plus. His slider and curve both spin well with the curve holding good depth and the slider good late break. He also holds a mid 80s changeup which he has a good feel for and pairs well with his heat. MacEachern has shown improvement with each passing season. The question regarding his stuff is whether or not he can maintain consistency. While his arsenal is good, he has shown the tendency to fall off from game to game. If he can figure that out, he could become a viable rotation option. If not, he will still be useable in relief capacities.

34 – #1016 – OF Brandon Rawe – Morehead State (KY)
Grade: B+

Rawe is a 6’2″, 190 outfielder who was a force to be reckoned with in his college career at Morehead State. The country grown Rawe lives up to his namesake by displaying great raw power which allowed him to post an impressive .351/.405/.548 slash line. Rawe has matured quickly. After struggling with plate discipline and contact rate in his freshman year, he came back in his sophomore year to set the Morehead State single season record for hits with 98. This season, he nearly equaled that figure with 92, second in the Ohio Valley Conference, while belting a team high 24 doubles (4th in the OVC) and 12 homers (5th in the OVC). The K/BB ratio has improved every season to the point where this season he had it down to 1.24 while his OBP sat at .432 while getting the most ABs and second most PAs in his conference. His gargantuan senior year led his team to a conference championship. He was also a second team All-Conference selection. If his college numbers are any indication, Rawe is a well balanced two way player with huge power upside. His arm shows above average to plus, he possesses a good glove, and he covers a lot of outfield ground with plus speed. He could use to become a bit more selective at the plate and as a student of the game who has made strides each year, that shouldn’t be much of a problem for him to accomplish under professional tutelege. Rawe is a great find at this point in the draft and could contribute at the major league level sooner rather than later.

35 – #1046 – OF Cameron Newell – University of California – Santa Barbara
Grade: B-

Newell is a wiry 6’1″ 190 outfielder who nearly fell out of the watchful eye of scouts last year before coming back to attract them once again with a great year this year. After hitting just .271/.350/.341 in 2014, he came back to lead UCSB’s offense by slashing .368/.447/.473. While his ability to find holes may have fallen off in 2014, he has displayed great patience since his days as a sophomore, walking more than he has struck out. That trend continued this season as he walked 27 times to 23 Ks. While the lefty bat shows a great work ethic as well as plus speed, working against him is the fact that he had his best year in a season where his BABIP was at an unsustainable .399 and his worst season where his BABIP was as close to average at .291. While he does have some raw tools, makes contact more often than not and has a great hitter’s eye, the book is still partially out on his ability to hit ’em where they ain’t and on what kind of production he can really provide. Since he’s been either extrememly lucky or slightly unlucky its hard to put a finger on exactly what kind of production he could provide at the next level at the moment. Right now, we would put him in the B type prospect range with the prospect for more.

36 – #1076 – LHP Gunnar Kines – University Of Mount Olive (NC)
Grade: B

Kines is an athletic 6’3″ 210 pound lefty out of Mount Olive in North Carolina who enjoyed a decorated college career. This season, by way of a 3.26 ERA in 96.2 IP and an insane 121/24 K/BB, Kines was named the Conference Of The Carolinas Pitcher of the Year. Using impeccable control and an extremely deceptive arsenal, the southpaw struck out 11 batters per game and held down a .247 BAA. On the hill, the tall lefty throws from a 3/4 arm slot after a high leg kick delivery. He makes the most of his long limbs keeping the ball as far away from the hitter’s eyes as possible until he begins his follow through. He comes through the ball well and ramps his fastball up to the mid 90s. He pairs the heat with a solid secondary changeup which tops out around 85 with good fade. He needs to work on keeping the rest of his secondary stuff down. By keeping it up the zone, he gave up 11 homers this season. Other than that, Kines is a sleeper pick with a solid starter’s makeup, a great feel for his fastball/changeup combo and a guy who could surprise in the near future.

37 – #1106 – OF Ruben Cardenas – Bishop Alemany HS (CA)
Grade: B+

Cardenas is an athletic 6’2″ 185 pound high schooler from California who enjoyed an exquisite varsity career. In two years, he hit .417 and OBP’d .502. The outfielder shows plus speed and a prototypical line drive swing. He has college aspirations and will attend it at the University Of Nevada. If he continues to grow and produce on a similar level there, this will be a name to remember a few drafts from now and the Marlins are in on the ground floor.

38 – #1136 – RHP C.J. Newsome – Columbia HS (MS)
Grade: B+

Newsome is a fast as lightning outfielder from Mississippi who once ran a ridiculous 6.60 60. He put that speed to use over his three year high school career, stealing 45 bags, including 21 in his junior year and 23 this year. He also showed he can get on base to use his jets in multiple ways — by way of the walk thanks to great patience (27/18 K/BB) and by way of the hit thanks to a snappy bat (.350 career BA). All of this lead to a career .398 OBP. His ability to stretch any ball that falls as well as his knack for finding the gaps with above average power allowed him to become a career .461 slugger. Newsome is another kid who will continue his education in college but another guy who the Marlins will follow closely leading up to future drafts.

39 – #1166 – 3B Bucket Goldby – Yuba City HS (CA)
Grade: B

Goldby, a 6’0″ 185 pound infielder, is another kid with ties to the Marlins’ organization. He is the son of Scott Goldby, a west coast team scout. After getting his feet wet with the varsity club in 2014, Goldby enjoyed a fantastic senior campaign, slashing .371/.475/.690. His plus power allowed him to smash 17 XBHs including a team high 5 homers. A prototypical power hitter with an uppercut swing at the plate, Goldby maintains his strength through the ball with good hands. If he continues to progress at the college level, he could become a future top 20 round pick. The Marlins will watch this kid with much interest.

40 – #1196 – C Matthew Foley – Rhode Island College
A

Miami rounded out the draft with Foley, a catcher with a great huge catcher’s build. At 6’4″ 230, the plus sized Foley does a great job covering most of the plate. He has a strong arm as well as athletic hands which make the ball come out quickly. His footwork behind the plate could use to improve a bit when it comes to his crouch to pop time. At the plate, Foley hits from an extreme spread stance. He uses great strength behind a straight through swing which allowed him to post gargantuan numbers in his senior year. All three areas of his ridiculous .453/.515/.872 line were among the top 5 in his conference. His 11 homers led the conference. He rounded out his Triple Crown winning season with a conference leading 45 RBIs. He also exhibited good patience when it came to waiting for his pitch by walking 15 times to 16 Ks. In just his junior year, Foley has shown the skill needed to become a top tier hitting catcher. If the defensive side of his game can improve, he has the athletic ability to become a complete two way player. A great find for the Marlins in the final round of the draft.

MLB Draft Recap: Rounds 1-20

Josh Naylor

Last week at the MLB Draft, the future of baseball got a lot brighter in Miami. Just how much more talent rich will the Marlins be, pending contract signings? Here is a round-by-round look at each Miami draft pick.

1 – #12 – 1B Josh Naylor – St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS (ON)
Grade: A

Since 2012, the Marlins have struggled to find power outside of anyone not named Giancarlo Stanton. Each season, the team has finished in the bottom four in the leauge in power production. Part of the reason for these offensive shortcomings lends itself to the fact that the team opened one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the league. Since Marlins Park’s inaugural year, the Marlins have tried out lefty options such as Logan Morrison, Garrett Jones, etc in hopes that they would be able to find the seats closest to home plate in left field, 335 feet away as well as the triples alley in right center. While those plans have gone awry with all of those the Marlins have attempted it with thus far, they may have found their guy in Naylor. A 6’1″ 225 pound lefty from Canada, Naylor and his gargantuan power have drawn attention from scouts ever since he was 15 years old. That year, Naylor ironically hit a ball 480+ feet out of Marlins Park during a power showcase, one of many such events in which Naylor has drawn ooh’s and ahh’s from onlookers. Looking through reports from scouts, it is more common than not to read that Naylor makes the best contact, has the best exit velo and hits the ball the farthest out of all participants. He does so by making the most of his extra large frame and strength while also maintaining his looseness. At 17, he already has outstanding above average bat speed that should only get better during his journey to the majors. The only knock on his pre-swing approach is that he could use to utilize his back legs more as his current swing is almost all upper body with a very short stride below the waist. He is a pull first hitter but can hit to all fields when he squares up. Naylor will need to improve upon his patience and his ability to fight pitches off as he does swing and miss a lot when he doesn’t make contact but that will undoubtedly come with age and experience. On defense, Naylor is athletic, covering a good amount of ground for a kid his size. His arm is very good but a bit inconsistent as he tends to drop his arm slot and release point, an issue that will also be easily fixed with experience and coaching. There’s plenty of reason to be excited about Naylor who is much bigger and is showing more power than the smaller Giancarlo Stanton did at the same age. Whether or not he reaches the plateau Stanton is currently at is still up in the air but it is a distinct possibility. And that is enough to excite anyone.

 

2 – #50 – LHP Brent Lilek – Arizona State
Grade: A

Lilek is a 6’4″ 190 pound lefty who matured early in high school to become one of the top lefty arms in the 2015 draft. The tall lanky southpaw has a great pitcher’s build and uses his size to his advantage. Remaining loose, he uses a high leg raise delivery and tosses from an extended 3/4 arm slot. Lilek’s utilization of his body doesn’t stop there as he is also a very heady pitcher who makes great pitch and spot selections. His 89-92 MPH fastball is mostly straight but he has the ability to spot it wherever he wants, working both sides of the black consistently. He works eye levels well, usually setting up an elevated fastball with his breaking stuff, 74-76 MPH well shaped curves and fading changeups, which he keeps low in the zone. He is also working on a slurvy slider. As his arsenal develops even more, Lilek has the potential to become ace material. We will be following his progression in earnest.

3 – #85 – OF Isaiah White – Greenfield School (NC)
Grade: A-

White is a 6’0″ 175 pounder with a good athletic structure. At the plate, he hits from a square straight away stance and maintains his relaxation well. With good hands and bat speed, he finds the barrel often and hits all the way through the ball, making good line drive contact on swings straight through the zone. If the ball does find green grass, White and his speed which allowed him to run a 6.46 40 is a threat for extra bases every time. Defensively, White uses the same speed to cover a lot of ground, runs good routes and has a strong along with a quick transition and follow through that make it very projectable. White is a catalyst type hitter with already good but still developing defensive instincts and all the god-given tools to succeed in this league.

4 – #116 – RHP Cody Poteet – UCLA
Grade: B

Poteet is an athletic 6’1″ 190 pounder with an over-the-top release and good downhill action to the plate. Delivery is easily repeated. Has a good fastball which tops out at 92 with good life when he hits his spots but his bread and butter is a nasty well-tilted one that lives in the high 70s. He is also working on a developing changeup that has flashed above average. He limits pitches by living in and around the zone which lead to a 49/16 K/BB last season. He does need to improve the command of his pitches as he tends to find a bit too much of the plate at times but entering just his junior year at 21 years old, there is still room for improvement.

5 – #146 – LHP Justin Jacome – University Of California – Santa Barbara
Grade: A

Jacome is a huge lefty who surprisingly fell to round 5, possibly because he was overshadowed by teammate Dillon Tate. After a fabulous first three years of college at UC Santa Barabra, many scouts had him going off the board in the first three rounds. Jacome’s sparkling college career thus far was capped by a 116.2 IP, 2.70 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 96/26 K/BB this year. He did so by utilizing a 4-pitch arsenal and having extreme confidence in each pitch. Working quickly with good command, Jacome possesses a fastball which tops out at 92, a good fading changeup, and a best pitch curveball with good 12-6 bite. Good mechanics and control have lent themselves to a 3.27 career K/BB ratio. Jacome is a guy who already at 21 possesses three plus pitches and is working on a fourth. He already has the success to succeed in the minors and could take the fast track to the majors. The Marlins likely stole one here.

6 – #176 – C Justin Cohen – Riverview High School (FL)
Grade: B+

Cohen is a catcher with the build to prove it. At a stocky 6’0″, 190, he stands tall in the box and has a nice fluid swing. From a straight away open stance, he has a snappy bat with projectable line drive power. Last season in his junior year in high school, he hit .325/.392/.580 with three homers and nine doubles. Cohen excels even more on defense where he really puts his athleticism on display. He has a strong but controlled arm and goes from crouch to pop in the blink of an eye. The biggest and possibly only hole in Cohen’s game lies in his inability to pick the ball up out of the pitcher’s hand. He is fooled often and swings and misses even more. He will likely head to Florida State University to attempt to iron out those issues. If he succeeds, he could become starting catcher material. Even if he doesn’t, Cohen has enough defense skill to make it as a primarily defensive player.

7 – #206 – RHP Travis Neubeck – Indian Hills Community College (IA)
Grade: B

Neubeck is a tall, thin righty from the Air Force Academy. An athletic guy who lettered in both baseball and hockey in high school, Neubeck relies heavily on his wrists that can both crank up a heavy slap shot as well as bury a sharp curveball. Throwing from a 3/4 arm slot and working very quickly with good rhythm, Neubeck is Jamie Moyer light, relying heavily on finesse stuff. Though his fastball barely touches 90 MPH, he has the secondary stuff to make up for it. His best pitch is a low 70s curve that is tough for opposing hitters to pick up out of his hand and sneaks up on them with sharp break and fantastic movement. He has also flashed a low 80s mix in curve that needs work. Though he is virtually a one pitch pitcher at the moment, the curveball is good enough to give him a solid ground floor to work from. If he can gain some velo and movement on his fastball/changeup combo, Neubeck could have success at the major league level.

8 – #236 – RHP Chris Paddack – Cedar Park High School (TX)
Grade: B+

Paddack is a huge 6’4″ 195 pound righty who tosses free and easy from a high 3/4 arm slot. He has an easily repeated delivery with good downhill motion. He can do several things with his low-mid 90s fastball including cut it and sink it, turning his three pitch repertoire into more of a five pitch repertoire. His secondary stuff, a straight high 70s change that he has a good feel for and a slow 71 MPH 10-4 curveball that he will dip his arm slot a bit to throw, is still developing but both pitches show promise. He also shows versatility on his curveball by turning it in to a slurvy slider. Paddack will likely initially head to college at Texas A&M but, with a good foundation and a semi-pro ceiling that doesn’t appear to be far away, shouldn’t take long to reach the minor leagues.

 

9 – #266 – RHP Reilly Hovis – North Carolina
Grade: B

The 6’3″ 195 pound Hovis is another tall lanky righty who pitches from a 3/4 arm slot. He works at a slow but methodical pace and drives hard off his back leg to gain velo on his low 90s heat. In just his junior year of college, Hovis already has well developed secondary stuff including a good fading 88 mile an hour change. His best pitch is his outpitch curve, which sits in the upper 70s has good depth and good downward motion. He will sometimes drop arm slots when he throws the curve, allowing hitters to pick it up and sit on it but with a good knowledge of the zone and the ability to change hitters’ eye levels, it doesn’t hinder him much. Last season, Hovis went 9-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 64 innings and primed himself to be a top three round draft pick. However, in the offseason, Hovis underwent Tommy John surgery and will not pitch again until at least next season. If he can bounce back from the surgery, Hovis is a quality, heady pitcher with a good starter’s mentality. In round nine, Hovis was well worth the gamble.

10 – #296 – RHP Kelvin Rivas – Oklahoma Baptist University
Grade: A

Rivas is a massively framed 6’4″ 245 pound righty power arm. He uses all of his strength and gets out in front well with a downhill delivery that is easily repeatable. He ramps his plus fastball that both runs and sinks up to 95 with the ability to paint both sides of the black. He has a good feel for a simialr changeup which he drops down in to the mid-80s for a nice chance of speeds. His out pitch is a late breaking slider with sharp movement. This year in his junior year of college, Rivas led all of Division I basbeball in strikeouts (144), K/9 (13.64) and wins (12, including 3 CGSOs) while also ranking 29th in IP (95) and ERA (1.80). Rivas also put his control on full display by walking just 36. A quality arm with a good starter’s poise, Rivas could begin contributing at the minor leauge level immediately.

11 – #326 – RHP Ryan McKay – Satellite High School (FL)
Grade: B

Rounding out the string of pitching picks, McKay is a 6’4″ 170 pound north Palm Beach County native who makes the most of his long limbs on the mound. Working at a slow pace, he performs a high leg raise and a complete rotation of his arm before releasing from a high 3/4 arm slot. His arsenal includes a low 90s fastball with some slight cut to it, a mid-70s curveball with hard spin and dropping action which he tips well and a developing mid 80s changeup. He’s also started to work on a slider. McKay does tend to overthrow and is definitely still a work in progress but in just his senior year of high school, improvement will undoubtedly come as his body and mind mature. He will be worth keeping an eye on during his college career at Louisanna State University.

12 – #356 – OF Terry Bennett – Atlantic Coast High School (FL)
Grade: B-

Another in-state product, Bennett is a two sport athlete who has a decision on his hands. Not only was Bennett drafted by the Marlins, he was also signed by Florida International on national signing day to play football. Bennett was a star on the football field in high school but was also good enough in baseball to draw an All-American mention. As you may have guessed, Bennett has plus speed which allows him to cover a lot of ground in the outfield which would be a huge asset to Marlins Park. That same quickness allowed him to steal 11 bags in 22 games in his junior year. Bennett has also flashed extremely good patience at the plate, walking 31 times while striking out just 18 times in his high school career and accumulating a .492 OBP, suggesting he would be a viable option at the top of the order. While we won’t know until the day college classes resume what Bennett’s decision is, it would appear as if he is more interested in football as he did not partipate in baseball this season. However, on the chance that he does decide to pick the bat and glove back up, the infinitely athletic Bennett, though he will need a lot of grooming, could turn some heads.

13 – RHP RJ Peace – Serrano High School (CA)
Grade: B+

Peace is a 6’2″ 175 pound righty with a well groomed arsenal for a kid his age. Throwing from a high 3/4 arm slot, Peace has a slow and easy delivery which is easily repeated. He also has an extremely fluent follow through. His fastball sits in the 89-92 MPH range with good run to both sides of the plate. His best pitch by far though is his out-pitch slurve. Sitting in the 77-79 MPH range and evidencing a great mix of speeds, the slurve has extremely late break. When Peace is on, it is virtually untouchable. He also mixes in a pretty average low 80s slider. While he can get wild at times, Peace has great poise and confidence, allowing him to bounce back quickly. He usually controls his pitches very well and has the ability to paint the entire black. If Peace can clean up his wild antics during his college career, he could become a quality professional arm.

14 – #416 – Jordan Hillyer – Kennesaw State
Grade: A

Hillyer is a second time Marlins draftee out of Kennesaw State in Georgia. Standing at 6’0″, 200, he a lefty offspeed specialist. He possesses an 86-92 MPH fastball, an above average changeup, and a very good plus mid-80s curveball which he spins well. What gives Hillyer’s stuff even more of an edge is his extremely deceptive delivery which is something to behold. Working at a quick pace, Hillyer transitions from glove to hand then drops his arm nearly directly downward and behind his back before driving to the plate and releasing from a side-arm angle. His tricky mechanics along with his outstanding control have allowed him to enjoy a great college career proven by a 3.13 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP, a 194/97 K/BB and the fact that he started the 2014 Cape Cod All Star Game. He projects very well as either a back of the rotation starter or productive bullpen piece who should be able to contribute sooner rather than later.

15 – #446 – OF Kyle Barrett – Kentucky
Grade: B-

Barrett is a 5’11” 185 pound speedster who once ran a 6.77 40. At the plate, he is a slap singles hitter who’s speed allows him to leg them in to XBHs. He also isn’t afraid to drop down a bunt at any given moment. When he squares up, he makes good line drive contact and sees the ball to the barrell. That being said, his approach could use a bit of work, especially in the hands and flying open departments. In the field, Barrett covers as much ground as anyone if not more, takes good routes, and has a plus arm. With a bit of work on his approach at the plate, Barrett could become starter material acting as the sparkplug that helps turn the lineup over. At present, he projects best as a fourth outfielder.

16 – #476 – LHP Justin Langley – University Of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
Grade: C

Langley is a 6’6″ 225 pound lefty who struggled with injury early in his college career, limiting him to just 34 IP over his first two seasons. However, this season in his sophomore year, Langley has come back strong, posting a 3.33 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and a 2.06 K/BB ratio over 67.2 IP. His repertoire includes 89-92 MPH heat and a developing circle changeup which has flashed plus. While he is a bit of a gamble due to his being limited by health issues, he has started his comeback journey strong. His offspeed arsenal includes a high 80s fastball and two plus secondary pitches — an 83 MPH changeup and a 72 MPH 12-6 curve — both of which have sick movement and both of which he will throw in two strike counts. Langley mixes it up well, making up for his lack of velo with extremely fast firing neurons and the ability to get in opposing hitter’s heads. With continued success and good health, Langley, an avid competitor and great athlete who played two sports in high school, could still find himself in the pros some day soon.

17 – #506 – SS Max Whitt – Lewis-Clark State (ID)
Grade: B-

Whitt is a one time pitcher who has made the transition to the infield. After a good high school career in which he earned first team all conference honors in both his junior and senior year, Whitt has enjoyed continued success early in his college career. Last season, he showed his durability by starting 56 games and the skill he holds in his snappy bat by slashing .296/.405/.586. He also flashed plus power by hitting 17 homers, fifth most in the nation. His patience was also on full display as he walked 29 times to just 24 Ks. In the field, Whitt still possesses the same strong arm that he used to throw 89 MPH fastballs with. If he gets his glove on the ball and makes an on-line throw, even the fastest of runners doesn’t stand a chance. Making the transition to the diamond dirt hasn’t been all sunshine and butterflies for Whitt who made 11 errors last season but with more experience, that should clean itself up. While the book is still out a bit on his defensive capability (especially since he played at 2B and was drafted as a SS), Whitt’s bat makes him an intriguing young prospect with good upside.

18 – #536 – RHP Kyle Keller – Southeastern Louisianna University
Grade: C

Keller is a 6’4″ 200 pound hurler who enjoyed a good college career as a reliever. He went out on a strong note this season by allowing just 11 runs while striking out 40 and walking just 10 in 36 IP. When he is on, he keeps the ball down extremely well and limits damage. In his entire college career spanning 129 innings, he gave up just four long balls. On his good days, his low 90s heat and mid 80s changeup combo are effective and he keeps everything down in the zone. But if he is going to make it in the majors, he is going to have to become a lot more consistent. On any given day, his control can turn to nothing, which was the culprit in getting him removed from a starting role. Though he has great raw talent, Keller is going to need to be groomed well at the minor league level in order to succeed as a professional reliever.

 

19 – #566  RHP Curt Britt – NC State
Grade: B+

Britt is a sizeable 6’2″ 240 pound righty. He uses his strength well behind his heavy mid 90s fastball as well as his good biting curveball which can touch the low 80s. He isn’t afraid to challenge hitters as he pounds the zone before pitching them in on the hands deep in counts. He has a quick arm and a fluid delivery especially for a guy his size. Between two colleges, he enjoyed a spectacular college career, mostly as a reliever, compiling a sub-3 ERA, an 82/35 K/BB and a 1.28 WHIP. With good tools and athleticism, Britt has the stuff to succeed at the professional level as a late inning reliever and was a great find at this point in the draft.

20 – #596 – C Korey Dunbar – North Carolina
Grade: C+

Rounding out the first 20 rounds worth of picks is another North Carolina product, catcher Korey Dunbar. Dunbar is a defense first catcher but his bat has also come around late in his college career. This year for the Heels, Dunbar enjoyed by far and away his best season at the plate, slashing .288/.362/.484 (the BABIP was slightly inflated at .353). He is an extremely picky hitter, especially for a catcher and has flashed plus power potential. If he gets a hold of one, he can hit it a long way. In 2015, 23 of his 56 hits were XBHs, including six homers. Where Dunbar still struggles offensively is finding the barrell or the bat at all. His rate of contact needs a lot of TLC as he enters the next level. Defensively, Dunbar is a beast. His strong arm and quick pop time give him the ability to cut down any runner. In his sophomore year, he threw out 23 guys. This season, he threw out 21. Dunbar also makes all of the plays when he is called upon to do so. Since his sophomore year began, he has only committed three errors. Dunbar does everything right on defense and most things right on offense with a few hitches that will need to be worked on. If he can start making more consistent contact, Dunbar could become starting material. Right now, we would reserve a backup role for him.

Rounds 20-40 coming later this week.