For the third time in four seasons, the Marlins have selected a high school pitcher with their first pick in the draft. Following Tyler Kolek (2014), and Braxton Garrett (2016), Miami chose left-hander Trevor Rogers with the 13th overall pick last night.
While this article is not going to delve into Rogers’ profile or mechanics in great depth, one has to ask why the Marlins chose to go down this same path with their selection, considering what has become of the aforementioned Kolek and Garrett.
In 2014, the Marlins were blown away by the triple-digit velocity Kolek had showed en route to dominating the baseball scene in rural Texas, and selected him second overall. The team saw great potential in Kolek, even though it was widely regarded that he was far from the finished product.
It is fair to say that his professional career did not get off to the best start. Kolek struggled in the Gulf Coast league in 2014, posting a 4.50 ERA over 22 innings even though his strikeout numbers were respectable at 7.4 K/9.
In 2015, he took more steps in the wrong direction at Single-A. In 108.2 innings, Kolek made 25 starts, but finished with a 4-10 record, coupled with a 4.56 ERA, 6.7 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9. The struggles were concerning for the Marlins, but more concerning over the last 18 months is the fact that he has not thrown a professional pitch. Kolek underwent Tommy John surgery right before the 2016 season, and has yet to make his comeback.
The story started differently for Braxton Garrett, the seventh overall pick in 2016. A smooth and steady delivery, along with a highly-developed pitching repertoire, immediately led to results. Garrett did not pitch for the Gulf Coast Marlins in the fall of 2016, but got off to a hot start this season. Over four starts, the lefty sported a 2.93 ERA and 9.4 K/9 - both very promising numbers for a minor league rookie.
Then the news came a few weeks ago that he, too, might need Tommy John surgery. While comparing Kolek and Garrett and their deliveries is like comparing apples and oranges when it comes to the reason for their injuries, it is not a stretch of the imagination to theorize that the huge amount stress of pitching (and succeeding) in the minor leagues takes its toll on pitchers coming straight out of high school.
When taking into consideration that the huge jump from high school to the minors may be having an effect on the health of pitchers, it is perplexing why the Marlins would take such a risk once again, especially considering that Alex Faedo was still on the board when the Marlins chose Trevor Rogers.
Faedo is arguably the best pitcher on the best team (Florida) in the nation’s best college conference (SEC). After a slow start as a result of off-season knee surgery, Faedo went 7-2 with a 2.60 ERA and 132 strikeouts over 107.1 innings during the regular season, and he is now about to pitch in the College World Series again. He was ranked 11th in the pre-draft prospect rankings compared to 25th for Rogers.
While Trevor Rogers may become the next great pitcher in baseball, and the Marlins have very accomplished and experienced scouts, it is disconcerting that the Marlins have continued a draft trend which has not played out well for them the last two times they have tried it. Yes José Fernández was drafted straight from high school and developed into Miami’s greatest ever starting pitcher, but he was a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and the Marlins cannot expect draft success like that again just a few years later.
Rogers looks like he could be a solid arm for the Marlins if he can stay healthy, but keep a look out for Alex Faedo down the line, as he could be one that seriously slipped through the net.