Fans should not feel obligated to follow every single pick of MLB’s amateur draft. When the dust settles, your team’s core players are generally acquired during the first (Christian Yelich, 2010), second (Giancarlo Stanton, 2007) and third (J.T. Realmuto, 2010) rounds.
Of course, the decision-makers in the front office must be held to a higher standard. The Miami Marlins have rarely had success identifying hidden gems in the later stages of the process, and deserve criticism for it. A franchise operating with significant payroll constraints cannot afford to keep misfiring on those sort of low-risk/high-reward investments.
Usually, it’s wise to withhold judgement on MLB prospects for several years. Give them a chance to develop!
Well, not in this particular case. The Fish clearly made a big mistake. From the 18th round of last week’s draft:
With the 539th overall selection, the Marlins took Bryce Howe, a right-handed pitcher from Oral Roberts University, allowing a talented high school arm who’s literally named Marlin to go with the very next pick.
This team hasn’t had a consistent lefty in the rotation since...Dontrelle Willis? How do you let this stud—same last name, no relation—slip through the cracks?
Marlin Willis, 6'5" LHP T91mph (2017/Ga St commit) pic.twitter.com/hLsuVYotaM— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 5, 2017
Marlin Willis has a similar build to No. 2 overall pick Hunter Greene and even shared the spotlight with him at a high-profile showcase event earlier this year.
“With a projectable 6-foot-4, 196-pound frame and velocity already into the 90s, “Willis’ potential is obvious,” Baseball America’s Bill Mitchell writes. “But what isn’t as visible from behind home plate is the fact that he’s a real student of the game.”
Passing on this 19-year-old is an insult to the baseball gods. Indefensible. FIRE EVERYBODY!
Then again (insert thinking face emoji), perhaps there’s more to it. Willis is committed to pitch at Georgia State, and the fact that he remained available so deep into the draft suggests teams had serious doubts about his signability. Only one high school player selected in the 18th round has signed so far.
Whenever Willis ultimately does go pro, the Fish better be ready with a blank check and a fully developed strategy for marketing him into a star.