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Miami Marlins 2012 First Round Pick Crucial For Future Rebuilding

Giancarlo Stanton is one of the few Marlins "top prospects" that has worked out for the Fish in the last decade. (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
Giancarlo Stanton is one of the few Marlins "top prospects" that has worked out for the Fish in the last decade. (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
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Quick, name the last Miami Marlins first-round draft pick to make significant major league impact for the Fish.

The fact that the player who comes to mind is the recently traded Chris Volstad tells you about the woes of the Marlins' drafting during this decade. After years of depending on young players and free agent scraps to fill in rosters around top talent, the Marlins' well of talent ran dry last season. And despite years of having players within the top 100 prospects in baseball, the Marlins turned only a select few into major league regulars that are now contributing here or elsewhere.

A very clear example of that is in their first round draft picks. Whether it is the fault of the Marlins' draft personnel or their organization's development and coaching, the Fish have not produced many worthwhile first-round picks since 2002.

Player (Draft Year) Pos PA/IP Baseball-Ref WAR
Jeremy Hermida (2002) OF 1929 1.6
Jeff Allison (2003) P 0 --
Taylor Tankersley (2004) P 118 0.5
Chris Volstad (2005) P 584 4.1
Aaron Thompson (2005) P 0 --
Jacob Marceaux (2005) P 0 --
Ryan Tucker (2005) P 37 -1.1
Sean West (2005) P 112.67 0.1
Brett Sinkbeil (2006) P 2 -0.2
Chris Coghlan (2006) 2B/OF 1349 0.6
Matt Dominguez (2007) 3B 48 -0.4

No first-round pick after Dominguez has made the majors, and the two that followed Dominguez, Kyle Skipworth and Chad James, have questionable futures in the big leagues given their recent performances. Nevertheless, it is a bad sign when your top draft picks in each of the previous six seasons in which they were available were unable to produce more than four wins for the team. As a group these guys tallied 5.6 Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) in their time in south Florida, and the majority of that was due to Jeremy Hermida and Chris Volstad. The rest of the Marlins' first-round draft picks produced almost 270 innings and 48 PA (for Dominguez in his late-season callup in 2011) and produced just 1.0 WAR.

Now, some of these players were not necessarily considered top prospects by the time they entered the minors and began playing. Never did I hear mention of Jacob Marceaux or Aaron Thompson on the top prospect lists. But quite a few of these guys did make the top 100 prospects in Baseball America, which means that they did at one time hold some significant talent.

Player (Year) Baseball America Top 100 Rank (Year)
Jeremy Hermida (2002) 28 (2004), 18 (2005), 4 (2006)
Jeff Allison (2003) 44 (2004)
Chris Volstad (2005) 97 (2006), 40 (2007), 58 (2008)
Sean West (2005) 96 (2007), 96 (2009)
Brett Sinkbeil (2006) 77 (2007), 68 (2008)
Matt Dominguez (2007) 64 (2009), 81 (2011)

This list does not even include the numerous non-first rounders that also made the Baseball America Top 100 prospects lists over the years. Ironically, some of those players panned out, like Josh Johnson (80th in 2006) and, most famously, Giancarlo Stanton (16th in 2009, 3rd in 2010). But a number of other players never became the players they were expected to be. Since the 2004 prospect list that included Hermida, only five players of the 19 players that were listed since then are regulars on the Marlins, and two of those players (Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez) were acquired in the Josh Beckett trade and were not homegrown talents. Only six more of those players saw significant playing time as Marlins, and of those six, only one (Cameron Maybin) may yet turn out to be a quality major leaguer. The remaining five are either out of the league already (Scott Olsen) or teetering on the brink (Jeremy Hermida, Chris Volstad).

All of this is to say that the Marlins have struggled with their drafting and development since the early 2000's. A number of players who were supposed to be talented future stars never panned out, and in the latter part of the decade, the talent pool began to shrink. In 2010, the Marlins had three players in the top 100 prospects, but the following year the Fish had only one name, and it was a questionable one at that. In 2012, the Marlins also had only one name, though it was presumably a good one in Christian Yelich.

The promotions in the latter part of the decade thinned the Marlins' crop of prospects dry; they were universally ranked among the bottom tier of teams in terms of their farm's strength. Right now, the club boasts two potential future stars in Yelich and 2011 first-round pick Jose Fernandez, with a couple of other arms that could be useful pieces but are no guarantees. This season has improved the stock of the farm, but the problem remains that their future still has gaps that prospects need to fill. This past season, the Marlins made up for their gaping minor league hole by signing free agents who could occupy positions that the team's terrible farm system could not fill. In a few years, Yelich and Fernandez may be ready to fill a couple more spots. But this year's 2012 first-round pick may be the last at the top of the draft in a little while, and the Marlins need to make the most of it by picking up a good talent that can fulfill a future role with the team.

In a few seasons, the Marlins will be losing much of the team's current core, as many of their current contracts will expire at or before 2014. It is imperative that the Marlins take advantage of this relatively high pick and make an impact selection that can be ready in three seasons. There is no guarantee the club will get anything out of their 2008 and 2009 drafts, so the cupboard will be barren for the next few seasons. In that time, perhaps the Fish can rebuild their farm, starting with this pick, and build a future core around the players that will remain beyond 2014. It all begins with this ninth pick in the first round of a supposedly weak draft. Hopefully, the Marlins' traditionally strong scouting personnel can make it happen.