The MLB amateur draft is integral to maintaining competitive balance across the league. The draft order reflects the reverse standings of the previous season, so teams who have been performing the worst at the major league level get access to superior young talent. Also, under the current collective bargaining agreement, there are soft-capped signing bonus pools that shrink dramatically as we go down the draft order, plus early-round compensation picks for teams in smaller media markets. Disappointing as the 2010s were for the Marlins overall, they can thank the MLB Draft for giving them access to several of the prospects who would later emerge as dynamic star players.
Ironically, the franchise’s top draft haul in recent memory came when you’d least expect it—in 2010, when the Fish owned the 23rd overall pick (and selected 22nd in most subsequent rounds). Kyle Glaser of Baseball America dubs it the best class for any MLB team over the past decade (subscription required and recommended).
An 18-year-old Christian Yelich was their first-rounder and received a $1.7 million bonus. Some comments about him from BA at the time:
Yelich is far more athletic than the usual lumbering first-base prospect, with above-average speed. He consistently runs a 6.75-second 60-yard dash in showcase events, and shows both range and a nifty glove around the bag. That kind of athleticism usually signals a position change, but Yelich has a below-average throwing arm that limits him to first. A Miami recruit, Yelich does not project to have the profile power organizations prefer in a first baseman, but he should develop into an above-average hitter with fringe-average power
As it turns out, Yelich hasn’t played a single inning at first base in the majors. Despite those throwing arm concerns, he is now an everyday right fielder! Since 2018, the now-Milwaukee Brewer leads all National League players with a 170 wRC+ and 15.4 fWAR.
Several rounds later, the Marlins took a flier on catcher/shortstop J.T. Realmuto, an outstanding prep athlete from the state of Oklahoma. He accepted a $600,000 bonus to turn pro. During the nine-plus years since then, Realmuto has evolved from a “playable” defender behind the plate to MLB’s gold standard. He heads into the 2020s as the most well-rounded active player at the position.
Painful as it is to see Yelich and Realmuto reach their career peaks for other clubs, Marlins fans got to enjoy plenty of highlights from them during the 10 combined major league seasons they played before being traded away. Moreover, those transactions brought back seven total prospects, including Opening Day roster probables Jorge Alfaro, Isan Díaz and Jordan Yamamoto, with Sixto Sánchez and Monte Harrison knocking on the door.
The following future major leaguers also belonged to the 2010 Marlins draft class: Mark Canha, Austin Brice, Rob Rasmussen, Grant Dayton, Zach Neal and Brandon Cunniff. Although Andrew Toles, Blake Treinen, Seth Maness and Matt Tracy were all selected as well, they decided not to sign.
Glaser’s piece notes that “many of the draft classes [from the 2010s] still have years to be sorted out.” This applies especially to the 2019 draft, which took place less than seven months ago. But the early indications are that the Marlins did very well for themselves by inking outfielders JJ Bleday, Peyton Burdick and Kameron Misner, shortstop Nasim Nuñez and right-hander Evan Fitterer (among others).