The Marlins have the ninth overall pick in today's Amateur Draft, high enough that there should be a number of good players to choose from. The depth of talent in this year's class is certainly weaker than last year's, but that should only hurt the teams drafting in the second half of the first round.
The volatile nature of the draft makes it nearly impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy. However, the the Marlins consistent preference for high school talent makes the task easier for prognosticators. The front office has eschewed safer college pickers in the last five drafts, instead targeting high risk, high reward prep players. For the sake of covering every angle, I will include pitchers and hitters from the college and high school ranks.
Best Case Scenarios
Mike Zunino - C, Florida
Zunino has impressive polish for a catcher and stands an excellent shot at becoming an above-average offensive player. He makes the most of his tools, which are not as impressive as hyped college prospects like Buster Posey and Matt Wieters. Zunino's stock has fallen in recent weeks, but one of the eight teams above the Marlins will likely select him.
Kyle Zimmer - RHP, University of San Francisco
Fish Stripes prospect writer Sam Evans wrote an extensive article on why the Marlins should take Kyle Zimmer. He is absolutely right. Zimmer has a nice 6'4", 220 lbs. frame and a full repertoire of pitches that he can throw for strikes. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and can touch 98 miles per hour, while his curveball is already a well-developed strikeout pitch.
Carlos Correa - SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
John Sickels identified Carlos Correa as the best overall talent in the draft. There is very little chance Correa makes it past Chicago and San Diego, but if he were to slip by, the Marlins would be foolish not to take him. Correa projects to be a plus offensive player at third base or shortstop, but some scouts believe Correa's athleticism will allow him to stay at shortstop even when his foot speed decreases.
Max Fried stands as both the top left-handed and prep pitcher in the draft. He has everything you would hope for in a pitching prospect. He throws a quality fastball that sits in the low-90s and can reach 95 miles per hour. His curveball is a plus pitch that could even improve a little. Fried doesn't come cheap though; his UCLA commitment will force any team to spend big to acquire him.
Marcus Stroman - RHP, Duke
Marcus Stroman may be the most dominating pitcher in this year's crop of prospects, throwing a mid-90s fastball for strikes, a devastating slider, a quality changeup, and a decent cutter. At 5'9", many believe Stroman will be converted to the bullpen. However, Stroman has proven he can hold his velocity well into the seventh inning, which alleviates my concerns about his size. The stuff doesn't lie. I would be pleased to see the Marlins take Stroman, who could rise fast and help the team win soon.
Albert Almora - OF, Florida HS
Albert Almora has been attached to the Marlins in many mock drafts, not only because he is a local Florida prep product, but also because he fits within the typical Marlins selection. Almora is a five-tool outfielder, but unlike many athletic high school players, Almora displays excellent polish in all facets of his game. As far as prep players go, Almora is as safe as they come. He doesn't project to be a massive home run hitter, but he can still drive a ball out and hit many more into the gaps. Almora gives the Marlins a potential quality offensive and defensive center fielder.
Courtney Hawkins - OF, Texas HS
If Albert Almora is already gone by the time the Marlins draft, they may revert to Courtney Hawkins. Hawkins isn't a bad pitching prospect, but he will be selected for his bat, which has tremendous power potential. Hawkins strikes out quite a bit, but when he makes contact, the ball goes very far. With a large athletic build, Hawkins should be able to play the outfield well too.
Lucas Giolito - RHP, California HS
Lucas Giolito has fallen considerably in draft rankings since earlier this year, where he was considered an inevitable top three pick. He may still be the superior player to teammate Max Fried, but his elbow injury in March has scared many teams away. He also holds a commitment to UCLA. Giolito is a risky and expensive investment, but one that could pay huge dividends. His fastball is a plus pitch, sitting in the mid-90s and he already has an excellent curveball and changeup.
Worst Case Scenarios
Deven Marrero - SS, Arizona State
Deven Marrero has received considerable attention this year as the top college middle infield prospect in the draft. Marrero is very polished with the glove and will certainly become a quality defensive shortstop. The problem is with Marrero's bat. He is only hitting a pedestrian .279/.335/.437 this year. I don't imagine the Marlins will go for a player like Marrero, particularly when there are higher upside prep players like Gavin Cecchini available.
Michael Wacha - RHP, Texas A&M
Baseball America has Michael Wacha ranked eighth on their list of top prospects, but I am less confident in him. Wacha has a low-90s fastball that touches 95, but I have seen it regarded as largely a straight, hittable pitch. His off-speed pitches also need a lot of work. Wacha strikes me as the type of pitcher who will end up in the bullpen.
Lance McCullers Jr. - RHP, Florida HS
The word I hear attached everywhere to Lance McCullers Jr. is 'reliever.' His stuff is electric, flashing a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider. The problem is with his delivery, which scouts have labeled a maximum effort delivery and susceptible to injury. I have no problem with McCullers as a prospect, but I think the Marlins should dream bigger with the ninth pick.