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Leading candidates for Marlins’ 1st-round draft pick set to begin college baseball season

Marlins fans are encouraged to tune in to SEC and Pac 12 action this spring for a glimpse of their future.

It wouldn’t be a reach for the Marlins to use their first-round draft pick on a Vanderbilt product for the second straight year. Austin Martin is legit.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Live Miami Marlins baseball is right around the corner, but more so than in ordinary years, Fish fans should monitor the action at amateur levels, too. The franchise holds the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, its highest spot since 2014. The Marlins likely (hopefully) won’t be in the top three again for the foreseeable future—draft order is determined by the league’s reverse standings. Better take advantage while they can.

The cream of this prospect crop seems more well-defined than usual. Even with four-plus months between now and the draft, anybody MLB Betting in Michigan can be confident that the rebuilding Tigers will select either right-hander Emerson Hancock, first baseman Spencer Torkelson or shortstop Austin Martin with the first pick. Regardless, at least one of them will remain on the board for Miami.

Hancock, who celebrates his 21st birthday a few days before the draft, will attempt to be the first-ever University of Georgia player to be selected in the 1-1 spot. MLB Pipeline rates each of his tools as above-average with especially high praise for his fastball, which touches 99 miles per hour. The Bulldogs are the No. 7 team in Baseball America’s preseason Top 25 rankings of NCAA Division-I programs.

Why were draft connoisseurs advocating that the Marlins “Tank for Tork” after their horrific start to last season? Because Torkelson is practically assured of offensive dominance in the pros. He has shattered the school records of ASU legend and MLB home run king Barry Bonds. “He doesn’t sell out for that power,” Pipeline notes, drawing nearly as many walks as strikeouts in both 2018 and 2019.

Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Spencer Torkelson Collegiate Career, 2018-Present

Year Team League HR OPS K%
Year Team League HR OPS K%
2018 Arizona State Pac 12 25 1.182 17.1
2018 Chatham Cape Cod 7 1.176 22.2
2019 Arizona State Pac 12 23 1.153 15.6
2019 Chatham Cape Cod 2 1.556 16.7

Baseball America made the unorthodox decision to rank Tork as the No. 1 overall prospect in his class despite the industry’s general bias against right-handed-hitting first basemen. Meanwhile, the ASU team is third in BA’s preseason Top 25.

Then, from the reigning national champion Vanderbilt Commodores, we have Martin. Playing alongside Marlins first-rounder JJ Bleday in 2019, their lineup consistently put up crooked numbers. The Florida native slashed .410/.503/.619 with eight home runs and 18 stolen bases while handling defensive duties at both third base and second base. The combination of Martin’s pure hitting ability and versatility in the field is tantalizing.

It’s worth noting that Marlins director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik worked briefly on the coaching staff at Vandy. All things being equal between the best available players, he may use that familiarity as a tiebreaker.

Hancock, Torkelson and Martin each get their junior year campaigns underway in mid-February. Most prospects will use this period between now and the draft to demonstrate new skills and address their perceived flaws/limitations; for this trio, it’s simply about remaining poised in the face of enormous expectations and sustaining their established brilliance.

Every player’s journey is unique, but Bleday went directly from No. 4 pick to an assignment with High-A Jupiter to consensus top-50 MLB prospect to non-roster invitee at the following Spring Training. The Marlins hope to once again put the face of their draft class on an accelerated path to the majors.