The Miami Marlins hold the seventh pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, and so the team has another relatively high, important selection to make. The club has in recent times had bad luck with the draft in terms of developing talent. The team dealt college prospects Andrew Heaney and Colin Moran in recent years as part of deals for All-Star Dee Gordon and not-so-All-Star Jarred Cosart, thus depleting the minor league depth it could use now. Miami's last two draft picks have been high schoolers, but their careers have gotten off to uneven starts. Tyler Kolek was the second pick of the 2014 MLB Draft, but he is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery and did not exactly endear himself in his first full season in professional baseball last year. The 2015 first-round draft pick, first baseman Josh Naylor, was a widely panned selection and while has hit well to start, he also just accidentally sliced fellow prospect Stone Garrett on the thumb and sidelined him on the disabled list.
It has not been a great few years since Miami selected Christian Yelich in the 2011 draft. This year, high school arms appear to be the in-group for the draft, and Miami has no qualms about targeting a prep player. After the team's failed 2005 draft, the team has selected prep players in seven of 11 of their first-round picks (not including competitive balance draft picks). The team may look to one of those major prep pitching names again this season.
Braxton Garrett, LHP, Florence HS (AL)
Garrett is a high-schooler and lefty out of Alabama, and he may have the safest floor among all of the prep pitchers. He is also the one guy the Marlins are most closely linked to in the consensus mock drafts. Garrett is a 6'3", 190 pounder, fitting the tall frame that you want to see out of a rotation guy. His big claim to fame is his curveball, an plus-plus offering that is polished for a high school player whom you would expect to struggle out of the gates with the fundamentals. The pitch works as you would expect, going high 70's to low 80's in velocity with big 12-6 movement despite his throwing angle. The motion is consistent with good arm action akin to his fastball.
He works 88-93 on his fastball, which is prototypical for a left-hander and has been a little up since the previous year. He has a third pitch in a changeup which projects as average going forward. His primary two pitches show good command and control, and his motion is smooth and unlikely to be an issue, even out of a mildly 3/4 delivery.
Garrett has a commitment to Vanderbilt University, so you know he is skilled. There has not been a lot of word as to whether he would be unwilling to sign, but given that he does have a commitment, Miami would have to make a serious offer to keep him in the system. The ceiling for him appears to be mid to second starter in a rotation, putting his top marks a tier below the bigger prep names in the draft, but his high floor is appealing.
Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat HS (NJ)
Groome is the other big left-handed name and a guy who has a small chance to slip down to Miami. He is considered the top high school pitcher in the draft and was ranked third in terms of selection in our consensus mock draft rankings, going at an average of fifth pick. He is 6'6" tall and weighs in at 180 pounds, so it looks as though he still has plenty of projectability in his growing ideal starter frame. Groome is not the same guy as the safe choice of Garrett; he throws hard in the mid-90's with a four-seam fastball, and it is an easy overhead motion without scary effort. He also works a plus curveball with 12-6 hammer movement and a developing changeup, posting a higher-velocity repertoire akin to Garrett's. All three pitches are expected to at least be average over time, with the hard heat and the curve his primary offerings.
Groome shows off good command but looks to be a nightmare for hitters to get the ball on the bat. He recently threw a no-hitter facing 21 batters and struck out 19 guys along the way. Of course, all of those outings got stricken from the record after he was suspended for violating transfer rules by going back to high school in Barnegat, NJ after transferring to Florida for a few years at the prestigious IMG Academy.
Groome has an outside shot at first pick, but he could slip down. There is a lot of potential talk about him going fourth, but at least one mock draft had Miami selecting him seventh, with a few more dropping him to around sixth.
Riley Pint, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (KS)
Pint has potentially the highest ceiling of any of the prep starters in this draft. He is also exactly the type of guy Miami went after two years ago with the selection of Kolek in 2014. Pint may be the hardest thrower coming out of high school ever, which is something Kolek could claim back then. He legitimately throws 100-mph heat during starts and regularly hangs out in the mid- to high-90's. His changeup is a strong offering and hangs in the low-90's, and that is a scary rarity since it displays good velocity difference and is still ridiculously hard-throwing. ESPN's Keith Law said his arm was "indeed special" in a recent scouting evaluation (Insider required).
Of course, as with any elite hard-thrower, the questions involve the rest of his game. He has little command of his pitches and may still not know where they are going. He is also a risk for injury, something that was recognized early by his high school coaching staff and worked on diligently and chronicled in Jeff Passan's new book "The Arm" which details several stories about elbow injuries in pitchers. His motion looks more violent than I'd like as well, with some inconsistency pitch-to-pitch and a head snap that could all need fixing. Pint's 6'5", 195-pound frame bodes better for him than if he were a smaller player, but it still has to bring some concern since Miami just dealt with an injured hard-throwing righty.
There are plenty of other candidates as well, including high ceiling developers like Mark Manning and Joey Wentz and a big midwestern hard-throwing righty in Forrest Whitley. The Marlins have some consideration for any number of these guys, but look for Braxton Garrett to be the one they bank on unless someone like Groome falls into their lap.