Yesterday evening, the Miami Marlins made Oklahoma State lefty pitcher Andrew Heaney their first-round draft pick for the 2012 MLB Draft. Fish Stripes prospect expert Sam Evans had the analysis on Heaney's selection, and it is definitely worth another read. One thing that I think was an important aspect that needs to be highlihgted again was this quote by Evans.
At best, I think Heaney could be a marginal #2 starter. At worst, he could pitch in a major league bullpen. The Marlins didn't draft Heaney expecting him to be an ace. They drafted him because he won't be very expensive, and he could be a solid #3 pitcher very soon in the majors.
This seems important to mention because this was a pretty unorthodox Marlins selection. The Fish have leaned primarily towards prep pitchers in the first round of the draft, opting for college starters in the second round and beyond. This is evidenced by picks such as the Adam Conley selection in 2011 and the Rob Rasmussen pick in 2010. Neither of these players were highly considered and both were thought of as easy signs for the Fish. In a similar vein, Heaney was looked at as a bit of a reach by both Fish Stripes prospect experts Evans and Eric Weston, but the Marlins ideally will have the ability to sign him easily and get him into their minor league system soon. Overall, it has been six seasons since the Marlins selected a first-round college pitcher, and since 2002, the Fish have only done this twice (Brett Sinkbeil in 2006 and Taylor Tankersley in 2003), both instances to little or no avail.
While the past history may no have been successful, this unorthodox pick may be important for the Marlins if only because Heaney's biggest advantage over other available players at the time is the possibility that he may be ready for the majors soon.This stands out as an important point to be emphasized because it is unlikely that the Marlins will retain their currently successful starting pitching staff into the future years. Remember that two of the team's five starters (Anibal Sanchez and Carlos Zambrano) are free agents at the end of 2012, and two more pitchers (Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco) are free agents by 2013. This leaves the Marlins with only one long-term starter in recent free agent signing Mark Buehrle. The Fish will have to find a way to fill those rotation holes opening up by the 2014 season.
That is where the Andrew Heaney selection may prove its most advantageous. The Marlins are currently in a position to win now, and knowing the holes they need to fill in the rotation in the near future, they may have decided to go for the safe choice in a player who is unlikely to bust heavily. In Heaney, the Fish have a pitcher who is relatively unremarkable in talent in terms of first-round selections, but they do have someone who is a strike-throwing lefty who has a chance to be major league ready in two seasons. Even if Heaney only pans out as a back-end starter for the Marlins, he would be a decent lefty back-end starter that would be ready to plug in just as the team is losing a good number of pitchers.
Heaney's potential 2014 debut time, provided he gets a decent amount of minor league time this season and shows off some talent, would coincide nicely with the potential debut of current top pitching prospect Jose Fernandez. Fernandez has been dominating the Sally League for Greensboro, striking out 34.4 percent (!) of his batters faced and posting a 1.50 ERA and 1.67 FIP in just over 60 innings pitched. He is clearly dominating the Sally League and making a name for himself as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. With the way he is working, he may receive a late-season promotion to High-A and could easily skip onto Double-A in 2013. If that is the case, then you are looking at an arrival time somewhere between 2014 and 2015 if all goes according to plan. That sort of scheduling would coincide with Heaney's and allow the team a chance to place their bright, young starters alongside the veteran Buehrle in the future.
Despite the probable reach in terms of talent, the Marlins probably foresaw their potential gap in the rotation in 2015 and 2015 seasons. They may not have wanted a player like Courtney Hawkins, who would have been a hitter that would have taken significantly more time to develop and would have been redundant in a system full of outfielders. Perhaps other high school pitchers did not strike the team's fancy for similar reasons. Combined with Heaney's Oklahoma roots (roots shared by Marlins director of scouting Stan Meek), this made Heaney the rare college pitcher that attracted the Marlins in the first round.