The Marlins needing to win the 2019 MLB Draft was baseball’s worst-kept secret. “Doing well” or “okay” was unacceptable. Win. It was the only option. They entered last season with a non-competitive major league roster, specifically engineered to obtain this premium draft positioning, so anything below exceptional was off the table.
Exceptional, the Marlins were.
“It’s tough to grade any draft in a complete way not knowing how the players will develop and turn out,” Baseball America draft analyst Carlos Collazo told Andre Fernandez of The Athletic (subscription required). “But on pure talent, you could argue they did better than any other team.”
Voices all across the baseball industry echoed that sentiment.
After taking a pair of @SEC bats & 2 impressive high schoolers early in the #MLBDraft, the #Marlins rounded out their Top 10 with a strong group of college seniors or redshirt juniors, landing on @jimcallisMLB's list of the 7 teams who got the best hauls: https://t.co/dNYeKAMkgt pic.twitter.com/Cm4iUWTVz6— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 6, 2019
One scout’s view— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 5, 2019
1st 10 rounds, best drafts:
#Marlins had the best draft of all 30 teams. Special mention to Tigers, DBacks, Rays and Yankees (if they sign the signability picks).— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) June 5, 2019
So why is the consensus in favor of the Marlins’ performance? Three things: plan, execution, timing.
The Miami Marlins own one of the more impressive collections of arms in baseball. They are ninth in MLB in earned run average amongst starters (4.00 ERA), and they trot out top of the rotation-caliber pitching prospects on a nightly basis throughout their affiliates.
What the Marlins do not have, however, is a collection of dynamic bats. As such, they saw this as a golden opportunity to address that: target advanced bats, and target them without mercy.
Time for a pivot. The Marlins have added pitching, pitching and more pitching under new ownership. This draft class is supposed to bring big bats and much-needed balance to their organization https://t.co/OhAZluu3Oo— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) June 2, 2019
Having insight on the strengths and weaknesses within their farm system is novel for a franchise that previously maintained a reputation of overvaluing their own players, which led to massive blind spots later on in their development. Not this year, and not with Gary Denbo and D.J. Svihlik running the player development and scouting operations.
The Marlins brass recognized what they needed, and as we are about to dissect, were hyper-aggressive in finding a resolution.
Of the first 11 Marlins draft picks (Day 1 and Day 2 selections), they chose seven position players. All of them were collegiate prospects aside from prep SS Nasim Nuñez.
SS Nasim Nuñez signing with the Marlins for $2.2 million, per @CraigMish. This guy pic.twitter.com/FaNHFa9fE0— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) June 8, 2019
Nuñez has received comparisons to Braves 2B/SS Ozzie Albies and Indians SS Francisco Lindor. Making an exception to the plan is understandable when discussing this type of talent at a premium position.
Although bats were the priority, it would be unwise for any organization to go through the early draft while ignoring pitching talent completely. On Day 2, the Marlins selected prep pitcher Evan Fitterer, who was ranked as #60 overall draft prospect on Baseball America; the Marlins got him with the #141 pick.
Why did Fitterer fall? Signability concerns. The young right-hander is committed to attending west coast powerhouse UCLA, and teams felt that they would be unable to convince him to turn pro.
Think again, per Craig Mish of Five Reasons Sports: the Marlins are expected to sign every player that they selected in the first 10 rounds.
The Marlins executives executed their plan to the tee, even sparing room to deviate, and sign two of the top prep players at their respective positions. How can they afford them when other teams thought they’d go to college? Because the plan included perfectly mixing a cocktail of top talent with safe signings (college seniors). Putting their trust in ability over hype when it comes to OF Peyton Burdick, 1B Evan Edwards, and CF J.D. Orr, the Fish could allocate enough funds to convince Nunez and Fitterer to sign.
Smart teams do not just select talent with the hope of signing them—they play chess while other teams play checkers, maneuvering to ensure that their preferred players remain on the board and then selecting with certainty.
Organizational executives do not enter the MLB Draft identifying estimated time of arrival/MLB debut (ETA) as a primary reason for selecting a player. If they did, the top rounds would be littered with college juniors and seniors who are ready for full-season action right away. Rather, clubs tend to wisely draft and develop whoever they believe to be the best player available at their slot.
The Marlins ought to be feeling thrilled with this class because one of the unintended consequences is these players are projected to make it to The Show sooner than their peers.
The Marlins need immediate offensive production in this system, and if their competitive window is to begin around 2021, it would help to have talent from this draft aiding the cause. Many believe that the Marlins first selection JJ Bleday is advanced enough that he would be ready by then. This trend also applies to players like Kameron Misner (No. 35 overall), Peyton Burdick (No. 82) and Evan Edwards. They should move quickly through the system.
On the mound, however, the Marlins do not share that same urgency. So their top pitching selection, Evan Fitterer, has all the time needed to mature.
Chess, not checkers.
Let us know your thoughts on the draft below. How did the Marlins do and who are you most excited to see from this draft class?
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