Miami Marlins: A Decade Of Hits And Misses In The 1st Round

by Michael Theed | Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
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Jose Fernandez

Each year, every Major League team goes into June, eager for the upcoming first-year player draft. Naturally, the most attention goes to the first round, where the most talent is believed to be found. Teams attempt to find an impact bat or a strong arm with their first pick of the evening, with the hopes that the unproven player they throw the most money at will turn out to be worth every dollar.

Unfortunately for some teams, such as the Miami Marlins, the last decade has been filled with first round busts. However, the more recent drafts have shown more promise than the former half of the decade. With that said, let’s take a look at the past 10 years of Marlin first-round drafting.

2013: Colin Moran, 3B, University of North Carolina (6th overall)

To some experts, the fact that Colin Moran fell to the sixth spot in the draft was a bit surprising. They didn’t believe that he’d make it past the Cleveland Indians, who had the fifth pick in the draft. However, he fell to the Marlins, and he provides hope for a position the Marlins haven’t been able to truly fill since the trade of Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers. Moran, a left-handed bat, provides decent power, high contact rates, and an amazing eye at the plate. His final season of college saw him draw 63 walks while striking out only 25 times.

2012: Andrew Heaney, SP, Oklahoma State University (9th overall)

A lefty pitcher with some good stuff, the Marlins may have found a fixture in the front end of their rotation in the near future. After electing to attend college following a 24th round selection in 2009, Heaney worked on his craft and found himself having moved up to the first round. An injury delayed the beginning of Heaney’s 2013 season, but once he got on the mound, he’s been dominant, combining for a 9-3 record between A+ and AA, with a 1.41 ERA, 1.063 WHIP, and a K/9 of 8.6. The Fish are hopeful he can be a strong addition to the rotation perhaps next year, and slot behind the previous year’s first round pick.

2011: Jose Fernandez, SP, Braulio Alonso High School (14th overall)

The final first pick by the “Florida” Marlins. Drafted straight out of high school, Jose Fernandez put together an incredible season in A and A+ ball in 2012, combining for a 14-1 record with an ERA of 1.75 and 158 strikeouts in 134 innings, with a WHIP of 0.925. Just about everyone, including the Marlins front office, believed this youngster would start the season in AA Jacksonville, with the intent of being called up in June or September. However, due to some injuries and inconsistencies of rotation members, Fernandez was brought up to the big leagues in what was originally a questionable decision that turned out to be golden. Fernandez has gone 10-5 with a 2.30 ERA, 165 strikeouts, a 1.002 WHIP, and an impressive enough year to garner an all-star appearance. Many of his stats lead Major League rookie pitchers, and a good number are in the top five for ALL pitchers in the game.

2010: Christian Yelich, OF, Westlake High School (23rd overall)

Yelich came into the 2010 draft as a nice combination of power, average, speed, athleticism, and versatility. The Marlins were able to nab him with the 23rd overall pick in the draft, and while Yelich is currently going through the usual adjustment period of a rookie in the big leagues, he put up a strong minor league career, combining for 36 homers, 163 RBI, 58 steals in 74 attempts, and a slash line of .313/.387/.499/.886 over 302 games through four minor league levels. Yelich, drafted as an outfielder, played first and third base in high school, giving the Marlins a few options in the future if needed. They hope he can be a strong lead-off hitter for them in the short-term future.

2009: Chad James, SP, Yukon High School (18th overall)

This is where things get sour for the Marlins first round picks. Out of the disappointing first rounders for the Marlins, James may be one of the biggest disappointments of them all. Combining for an 18-41 record with a 4.67 ERA and a WHIP of 1.571, James has yet to step above A+ ball. In fact, he performed so poorly in 2012, he was demoted back to A ball, where he’s done even worse. Unless he can turn things around or somehow become successful as a reliever, don’t expect Chad James to be in any part of the Marlins’ future, or perhaps the future of any team.

2008: Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot High School (6th overall)

Expectations had to have been high being taken in the top 10, and especially being taken exactly one spot after 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, 2012 MVP, and two time World Series winner Buster Posey. However, Skipworth has been well below average on both offense and defense. His only saving grace right now is that he’s shown a bit of power, hitting 21 homers last season in AA. However, an inability to hit (a slash line of .216/.278/.378/.656 over 513 games and multiple levels) and lackluster defense (66 passed balls in 437 games) have kept Skipworth down in the minors with just four major league plate appearances.

2007: Matt Dominguez, 3B, Chatworth High School (12th overall)

Going into the 2007 draft, Dominguez was a high school talent considered to have a major league ready glove with a bat that needed developing. His glove lived up to expectations, but his bat never came around like the Marlins had hoped. When Hanley Ramirez was moved to third base in 2012, Dominguez became a trade piece and was sent to the Astros, where he’s gained consistent starts and has put up respectable power numbers, albeit his slash line is still not overly impressive (.233/.271/.402/.673 this season).

2006: Brett Sinkbeil, SP, Missouri State University (19th overall)

Another first round pitcher with some high hopes that wasn’t able to translate collegiate success to professional ball. Sinkbeil toiled over six seasons in the minors, putting up a 21-32 record, 4.83 ERA, 1.506 WHIP, and a 5.9 K/9 in 182 games. After being released by the Marlins in 2011, he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on a minor league deal, where he continued to struggle. After the season, he was out of baseball completely.

2005: Chris Volstad, SP, Palm Beach Gardens High School (16th overall)
2005: Aaron Thompson, SP, Second Baptist School (22nd overall)
2005: Jacob Marceaux, SP, McNeese State University (29th overall)
2005: Ryan Tucker, SP, Temple City High School (34th overall)
2005: Sean West, SP, Captain Shreve  High School (44th overall)

No, that’s not a typo, a mistake, or an error by the draft listing. The Marlins had FIVE first round picks in 2005, and they chose an entire rotation’s worth of starting pitchers, who turned into busts. Of the five, Volstad had the most “success,” compiling a 35-51 record as a mediocre starter, with a 4.88 ERA, 1.441 WHIP, and a K/9 of 5.7, and now currently serves as a reliever with the Colorado Rockies. Thompson, like Volstad, was drafted as a starter and is now relieving. Currently, he sits in AAA with the Minnesota Twins and is putting up decent numbers (3-2, 3.56 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and six saves). Marceaux compiled a wreck of a minor league career, never making it higher than AA with a 14-29 record, 5.53 ERA, 1.618 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, and a 1.39 K/BB rate over 123 games. Tucker last pitched in 2012 with the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and put together an average minor league career (28-43, 4.33 ERA, 1.467 WHIP, and 478 strikeouts in 570 innings. West had 20 starts in 2009 for the Fish, going 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 103.1 innings pitched, but was out of baseball by 2012. The first round of 2005 is definitely one that many of the Marlin fans and the entire front office would like to forget about.

2004: Taylor Tankersley, RP, University of Alabama (27th overall)

When Tankersley made his Major League debut in 2006, he put up some good numbers. After posting an ERA of 0.95 in 22 games in AA with a 12.7 K/9 rate, “Tank” got the call to the big leagues and went 2-1 in 49 games with a 2.85 ERA and 10.1 K/9 rate. 2007 was a step back for Tankersley, with his ERA inflating to 3.99 and his K/9 dropping to 9.3. After that, he was never able to get things back together, needing surgery and eventually dropping from baseball after 2011.

2003: Jeff Allison, SP, Veterans Memorial High School (16th overall)

Jeffrey Allison was drafted as an 18 year old fresh out of high school, and unfortunately, turned into a case of being unable to handle having the spotlight and a lot of money. After his first three games in professional ball, Allison developed a drug habit, and was never able to make it past AA, where he finished in 2011. He combined to produce a 31-38 record, an ERA of 4.65, WHIP of 1.428, and a K/9 of 5.3 over 131 games.

BHC Pick of the Litter: Jose Fernandez

BHC Franchise Flop: Jeff Allison, Chad James

Analysis: The Marlins front office has a bit to make up for after the failed first round picks from 2003 to 2009.  As of late, the drafts have been better, with four potential big pieces of the future being the first round picks of the last four drafts. Realistically, the draft is, metaphorically, a “crap shoot,” and it is difficult to truly plan for the future, as nobody is a guarantee to succeed. Sometimes, picks after the first round are the ones that end up being the all-stars. For example, Giancarlo Stanton was drafted in the second round of 2007. The team’s future, however, thanks to trades and the last four drafts, do look bright. Stanton, Moran, Yelich, Fernandez, Heaney, and others all look to be big pieces for the Miami Marlins.

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Michael Theed
About the Author

Michael is a Marlins fan covering Marlins Baseball. Civil Engineering Student at University of Central Florida. Follow him on Twitter @MTheed4.

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