It’s often difficult to predict what will happen at the very top of the MLB draft, as was the case this year, and further down the board, it gets nearly impossible. With the Marlins making their first pick at 16th, it was hard to pin down exactly where they might go, but the public still had an idea of what the overall gameplan was thanks to some breadcrumbs left by scouting director D.J. Svihlik in his comments to media. He all but confirmed that the Marlins would select a catcher early on in the proceedings, and also suggested that the early picks were all tilting towards position players. While the Marlins did end up with three position players including a backstop with those early selections, they came about them in a way that nobody predicted, so the proceedings weren’t light on excitement.
Let’s take a look at each member of the class, and what they bring to the organization.
Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (NC) - Round 1, 16th Overall
Several curveballs were thrown by teams selecting in the top 15, and as a result, the Marlins got the opportunity to select a player that they likely viewed as a pipe dream at best before the draft got underway. Watson was routinely mocked in the top five, had some late buzz at first overall, and was considered to be on par with fellow prep shortstops Marcelo Mayer and Jordan Lawlar— both of whom went in the top 10— in terms of raw talent. The Marlins and their extra pick at 31st overall were uniquely positioned to stop Watson’s slide once it started, as their bonus pool is much larger than the teams closest to them in the draft order.
When the opportunity to draft Watson presented itself, the Marlins pounced. From what we’ve seen, the reaction in the draft room appeared to be one of both immense surprise and excitement. Many in the public space had zeroed in on Georgia prep catcher Harry Ford—who went to Seattle at 12th overall—as the “dream scenario” for the 16th pick, but that was under the assumption that Watson and the rest of his prep shortstop counterparts would be long gone, and now most seem to agree that the Marlins got an almost impossibly good value that surpassed all expectations.
It’s certainly a view that I am on board with. When taking into account presumed approximate bonus figures, I saw Watson as the #1 overall option in the class entering Sunday night. He doesn’t offer quite the same floor as a Marcelo Mayer, and isn’t quite the pure shortstop that Jordan Lawlar is, but in a down year for bats I thought that his offensive profile was perhaps the single most exciting available. Watson is smaller in stature at 5’9”, but has a broad build with explosive hips that help give him at least above average power potential. When it comes to raw bat speed, he’s near the top of the class, and despite using a larger, power oriented cut, he consistently squares pitches up thanks to his standout barrel feel. He’s an aggressive hitter in the sense that he’s looking to drive the ball every time up, but he’s not one to expand the zone wildly and shows the baseline for a very solid approach. There’s likely to be some level of swing and miss here, but it’s mostly for stylistic reasons rather than concerns about the swing, and the quality of contact projects at such a high level that he can hit for high averages despite that.
The loud offensive tools are Watson’s mealticket, but he’s also a very clean middle infield fit. Just like in the batter’s box, Watson shows sudden athleticism in the field, with explosive short-area quickness and the smooth hips to make difficult throws and turn double plays with dynamism. He might not end up being the best shortstop on his future big league club defensively, but he has the raw ability to stick at the position. Should he be forced off the position for whatever reason, he’s an easy fit at second base, where he’d project as a potential standout defender. He even offers good auxiliary tools, with speed that is presently easy plus (6.55 in the 60 yard dash) and above average arm strength, giving him an ability to impact games in more or less any way he chooses. Marlins fans should be very excited to see him get to work—he immediately fits amongst the top tier of prospects in the organization.
Joe Mack, C, Williamsville East HS (NY) - Competitive Balance A, 31st Overall
Had the picks ahead of Miami gone more unfavorably, Mack likely would’ve been in the mix to go 16th, and the Marlins had to be excited to get him after indulging in a value pick in the first round. Mack had top 20 buzz, and even if he requires some overslot money, he looks well worth the investment. The New York native entered the year with a lot of hype, and managed to exceed expectations and improve his stock even further. After impressing with the bat and his raw power on the showcase circuit, Mack got off to a slowish start by the standards of a top prep prospect this spring before heating up in a big way to solidify a straight first round grade.
A bigger backstop at 6’1”, Mack sports true plus raw power and arm strength, two preferred standout tools for the position. It’s that arm that anchors his defensive profile, as he’s more advanced throwing out runners than he is as a receiver, but he has the flexibility and athleticism to stick back there and has seen his defensive skills gradually.
It’s Mack’s bat that got him drafted here, though. He’s used a pretty funky pre-swing setup historically, but has simplified it some recently, and his movements in the box are smooth. He rotates with good explosion, and has a swing path geared for power. It’s a bit power over hit on the whole, but there’s potential for the hit tool to be solid average giving him heart of the order upside.
He’ll need to continue to refine his hitting skills a bit in the minor leagues, but the approach is already very solid and he should be pushed pretty aggressively. There is no major weakness in Mack’s game unless you want to nitpick the speed, which really isn’t an issue for his profile at all. Considering the state of the system at the position, he immediately becomes Miami’s presumptive catcher of the future.
Cody Morissette, SS, Boston College - Round 2, 52nd Overall
BC entered the year with some hype and got off to a good start in non-conference play, but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with the tough competition in the ACC. They weren’t lacking for talent though, and produced three top-six round selections this week, with more on the way next year. Save for 15th overall pick Sal Frelick, Morrissette was the best all-around player on the Eagles’ roster this past season, and there’s plenty of reason to believe he could become even better down the line.
A New Hampshire product, Morissette was firmly on the radar as a prep player, but, being in an area with less scouting heat, wasn’t quite able to stand out enough to draw attractive pro offers. A lefty hitter and righty thrower, he’s long stood out for his above average arm strength and smooth swing, and was a pretty prized recruit for BC in the 2019 freshman class. He tuned up for his freshman season by hitting .310/.393/.393 in FCBL against older competition, increasing the excitement and positioning him for a starting role. He’d seize that opportunity, starting 58 games at second base with a .320/.371/.476 slash line, which laid the foundation for some pretty serious draft hype.
With his reputation growing, Morissette headed to the Cape during the 2019 offseason, and while he did hold his own with only 27 strikeouts in 138 plate appearances, his ISO was just .098 which didn’t exactly establish his wood bat power. However, that was quickly put in the rearview when he got into 2020 action, as he came out of the gates on fire with a .448/.522/.655 slash line, a pair of homers and a 6/9 K/BB ratio in 15 games before the season was cut short. The shutdown had to really sting for Morissette, who was taking his stock to new heights in the early going, but teams were impressed by the sample in spite of the size.
During the downtime before the 2021 season, he made a return to the FCBL, and looked locked in at the plate, slashing .340/.480/.511 with more walks than strikeouts. The power still wasn’t really showing, but teams loved the potential in his bat, and at this point in his career he had shown proficiency all over the infield. He entered his junior campaign with day one hype, but the season didn’t really go to plan. It didn’t seem like he was comfortable at the plate in the early going, and on April 21, he was hitting just .243. From there, however, he turned on the jets and went 24 for his last 50 including six consecutive multi-hit games to end the year, pushing his season line all the way to .321/.398/.497 when things wrapped up.
It’s easier to overlook some up-and-down performance in a year like 2021, and in Morissette’s case there was also some minor injury trouble that could’ve contributed. It’s also highly unlikely that the Marlins would’ve been able to acquire his services at this spot had he been a bit more consistent as a junior, as he was seen as a potential top-50 guy coming into the year. Indeed, there’s some real upside with this selection, despite Morissette’s less than flashy power/speed numbers at the college level. While those tools don’t stand out for him, he does offer some real offensive potential, with a very mechanically sound swing and above average bat speed. The swing path is tight and befitting of the pro game, giving the hit tool a chance to be above average, and the plate approach is also very solid.
He may be a four year college guy, but there’s also some projection possible here. While currently on the smaller side, Morissette is quite twitchy and packs more punch than the typical player of his size. He’s not going to get huge, but should be able to add some strength in pro ball which could translate to modest but meaningful power contributions. It’s not an explosive offensive profile, but it becomes more exciting when combined with Morissette’s ability to play all over the infield—he fits best at second base, but has adequate range for short and an adequate arm for third as well. I’m projecting him as a utility player and think he fits in the Marlins organizational rankings right away.
Jordan McCants, SS, Pensacola Catholic HS (FL) - Round 3, 88th Overall
After a quick detour to the college level, the Marlins returned to the prep ranks in the third round with a player from their home state. Brother of TJ McCants, a current Ole Miss player and draft prospect in his own right as a high schooler, Jordan brings a blend of athleticism and skills that make him an intriguing floor/ceiling play. His speed is perhaps his best tool, rating in plus-plus territory, and it plays on both sides of the ball. McCants is seen as a potential shortstop stick, with solid average to above average range for the position, though his arm strength will need to develop a bit further. It’s becoming more of a rarity nowadays, but McCants also shows baserunning savvy and an ability to be a difference maker in that phase of the game.
In addition to the defense and ability on the basepaths, McCants shows a heady offensive game which helps lay a very solid foundation for his profile. His at-bats are praised as being consistently mature, and there are also some very solid bat to ball skills here. However, there are real questions about how much juice there is in the bat—not only does he have a slight build at present, his swing is pretty handsy and doesn’t fully utilize what power he does have. Some adjustments to his hitting mechanics could definitely coax out more power, and he’s not without projectability, but significant tinkering might have adverse effects on his already-strong contact ability.
I’m a little skeptical of the offensive impact with McCants, but it’s far from unheard of for this kind of player to grow into power later on in their development. On top of that, even if he remains very much hit-over-power, he can contribute enough in other facets of the game to be a very useful player regardless. True speed and on base skills players are more rare at the big league level than one might expect, and McCants has a chance to provide that type of profile with some significant defense value to boot. It should also be noted, even if as a footnote, that McCants is already 19 years old, meaning he’s on the high end for the prep class.
Tanner Allen, 1B, Mississippi State - Round 4, 136th Overall
After emphasizing defense and contact skills a bit with their second and third round picks, the Marlins went a very different direction with their fourth rounder, and came away with one of my favorite players in their haul. Pitching was a big part of Mississippi State’s huge success this past season, but they were also a formidable offense, and Tanner Allen led that group. A fourth year senior, Allen has been on the radar awhile, having been drafted both out of high school and as an eligible sophomore back in 2019. In fact, he could’ve had a shot to be a day two selection as a prep, but wasn’t considered signable and lasted until the later rounds.
Long known for his intimidating left handed bat, Allen started right away for the Bulldogs, and was a positive contributor as a freshman, hitting .287/.353/.444 while starting at first base. It was a solid start to his college career, but his 62 strikeouts in 308 plate appearances were a bit on the high side, and the power impact was still modest. It would be the following season that he really hit his stride, nearly halving his K rate and improving his slash to .349/.426/.516, establishing a reputation as one of the bigger offensive threats in the SEC. There was draft interest, but it was limited to a degree by the power production, as Allen was still playing exclusively first base. Despite being quite old for a sophomore, he decided to return to school to try to further improve his stock.
The move nearly backfired. The 2020 shutdown was particularly hard on older players like Allen, boxing him into a return to school as a 23-year-old senior, but fortunately he performed so well this past year that he was able to accomplish his goal anyway. Showing a bit more controlled aggression at the dish, Allen slashed .383/.456/.621 in 2021, setting a career high in home runs with 11 while maintaining a low strikeout rate just north of 10%. He further helped himself by transitioning to right field full time, a position he had played sparingly in the past. Not only did he old his own in the outfield, he performed surprisingly well. Despite his background as a bat-first 1B, Allen actually has some sneaky foot speed, and his arm is also solid.
It’s a signability pick, but Allen has serious game. He’s not the biggest guy, but maximizes his gifts with high level hitting ability and instinctive play. The advanced age will force him to adjust quickly, but he’s a highly mature hitter with a chance to do just that, and there are some big believers in his defensive game as well. There probably isn’t quite enough raw power for him to play every day at a corner, but we should feel confident that he’ll hit, and he may even be a guy who can fill in adequately at multiple outfield spots. I think he has a good chance to crack the big leagues as a depth piece.
Brady Allen, OF, University of South Carolina - Round 5, 193rd Overall
Back to back Allens, and back to back four year college outfielders. Brady is a junior, who holds the dubious distinction of being a righty hitter who throws with his left, and offers a wide range of intriguing traits. A two way standout as a prep, Allen focused purely on the hitting side for the Gamecocks, and gradually built his reputation over the course of his three year career there.
Allen was pushed aggressively in college, starting 56 games as a 19-year-old freshman. He’d struggle a bit that year, slashing .210/.344/.414, but he took competitive at bats and made quality contact when he got ahold of pitches. He’d follow that up by seeking out a challenge in the Northwoods League, where he was well below the average age, and stood out by hitting .290/.395/.419 and a 20/20 K/B mark. Evaluators were really liking the approach, and while the power didn’t really show up there, the hitting skills were a pleasant surprise.
He was building on his momentum out of the gates in 2020, with a .327/.459/.571 slash before the season shut down, and was able to continue that a bit during the offseason by hitting .308/.447/.474 in the Coastal Plain League. He had a bit of hype coming into 2021, which ended up being something of a mixed season for him. On one hand he posted career high power numbers by a healthy margin, socking 13 home runs with a .240 ISO, but made a bit less contact with 50 strikeouts in 272 PAs and .276/.375/.516 slash.
We’ve seen Allen look both hitterish and sluggerish at different points in his career, and it remains to be seen whether or not he can combine the two in a single approach. It may not be an impossibility, as Allen’s swing is pretty aesthetically pleasing and well-synced, although the bat speed is more solid than standout. Even if it is more of a power over hit look at the plate, which is what most evaluators expect, Allen has a chance to be a contributor as a depth outfielder. He offers solid speed and arm strength, and played all over the outfield in college, fitting best in left with the skills to fill in elsewhere. Scouts give him high marks for his makeup, and he should provide some much-needed stability to the A-ball outfields in 2022.
Sam Praytor, C, University of Alabama - Round 6, 179th Overall
The Marlins much-maligned catching depth was an area of focus leading up to the draft, and they snagged their second backstop of the class here. Much like 31st overall pick Joe Mack, Praytor is more of an offensive standout than a defensive whiz, and racked up 20 home runs for the Tide between the shortened 2020 campaign and this year. While he is a fourth year senior, he’s on the younger side for that group, at 22 years and 3 months as of draft day.
Like the rest of the Marlins’ college picks to this point, Praytor had some serious heat as a prep player, ranking 166th in the 2017 high school class on Perfect Game’s rankings. While his physicality didn’t stand out much thanks to a smaller, 5’9” frame and so-so arm strength, he showed off some nice suddenness behind the plate to compensate as well as a bat with serious pop. If signable, there likely would’ve been some pro interest for Praytor despite some uncertainty in the defensive profile, but his commitment to Alabama was a strong one, and he went unpicked in the 2017 draft.
It wouldn’t take long for Praytor to establish himself as a dude in the SEC, as he immediately seized primary catching duties as a freshman and made big contributions on offense. He’d start 46 games for the 2018 club, and showed a plate approach well beyond his years, hitting .279/.397/.381 with 28 strikeouts against 25 walks. It was a very promising start, as evaluators were confident there would be more power on the way. That didn’t come to pass as a sophomore, but it was due to injury- Praytor would start just 6 games in 2019, which made the shortened 2020 season all the more painful. To make matters even more frustrating, he’d gotten out of the gates on fire as a junior, hitting .350/.452/.667 while setting a career high in home runs with 6 in just 16 games before COVID intervened. He would’ve been well on his way to a day two selection in a typical year, but the abbreviated nature of both the 2020 season and the draft rendered that an impossibility.
After a couple of major setbacks, Praytor had to be a bit frustrated, but returned undeterred for his senior season and performed at a high level. His pace with the bat wasn’t quite as torrid as it had been to start his junior year, but he was able to maintain his historical contact numbers while proving that the power uptick from 2020 was for real. Across 58 starts in 2021, he hit .277/.375/.531 with 14 bombs, solidifying the power and patience. At most positions, his bat would look a bit pedestrian by pro standards, but behind the plate it could be relatively exciting. Praytor isn’t the most explosive athlete around, and the swing, which is longer with some stiffness, and hitting style point towards a below average contact rate, but the rest of the offensive profile is tuned to mask that. He won’t be a standout receiver either, which probably precludes him from earning primary catching duties at the highest level, but the potential for him to be an offensive-minded backup is very much there.
Gabe Bierman, RHP, Indiana University - Round 7, 209th Overall
It was a uniquely strong year for the Hoosiers in the draft, as they sent six players to the next level, scattered across all twenty rounds. The first four in that group were pitchers, and Bierman was the second to come off the board, trailing only the mercurial McCade Brown, a third round pick of the Rockies. Of the many college players selected by the Marlins this week, Bierman is the only one classified as a (third year) sophomore, though he’s actually older than Cody Morissette and will turn 22 later this year.
A notable prep player on the fringes of the pro radar, Bierman has always shown solid arm strength, hitting 90 MPH while he was still in high school. His frame at the time was also very projectable, and Indiana was excited to get him into the fold, immediately inserting him into their 2019 bullpen. It was an assignment he handled very well, and he even earned a handful of starts by season’s end. On the year he had a solid 3.56 ERA, and impressively showed advanced control with just 18 walks against 46 strikeouts in his 48 innings of work. It was an excellent freshman campaign, and Bierman added an exclamation point to it in the Northwoods League following the year. Pitching for Kenosha, he made three starts in which he totaled 16 innings and struck out 20, setting the stage for a move into the Hoosiers’ rotation in 2020.
The transition got off to a pretty good start, as Bierman managed a 2.45 ERA in his 4 true sophomore starts before the season ended, but he did allow 24 hits in 22 innings and there were 8 unearned runs on his ledger, so there was room for improvement. He’d achieve just that when he returned for 2021, enjoying the best season of his college career in a stellar 12 start sample. Across 74 innings he allowed just 47 hits and 22 earned runs, good for a 2.68 ERA, and struck out a rock solid 80 hitters. The most impressive piece of his statistical profile, however, is the batted ball data. Per FaBIO, which measures pitchers on their strikeout ability, control and batted profile vs. their peers, Bierman had a truly elite ground ball rate, with a 99 rating (100 being the highest possible):
As is typical of groundballers, his outfield fly avoidance was excellent as well—he allowed just 7 home runs over the course of his entire Hoosier career, supporting this further. From a stuff standpoint, Bierman is mostly fastball/changeup, and still hangs out around the 90 MPH range that he touched as a prep. He has hit a big higher with the fastball, but might need to pitch in shorter stints to do so consistently. Evaluators question whether or not his breaking stuff can play in the pros, so a relief future feels most likely, but Bierman’s ability to miss some bats while keeping the ball on the ground as well as anyone make him an intriguing follow. I’d expect him to be sent out as a starter, and if the Marlins are able to help him find a quality breaking offering to round out his arsenal, there could be a chance for him to surprise a bit.
Pat Monteverde LHP, Texas Tech - Round 8, 239th Overall
24 years old in September, Monteverde is comfortably the oldest player in the Marlins’ haul, and the only fifth year senior. He climbed out of true obscurity as an underclassman to eventually becoming a Friday starter in the Big 12, making stops at Virginia Wesleyan and Seton Hill University (PA) before making it to Lubbock. He also missed most of two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, so we can cut him some slack on the advanced age.
Monteverde has performed everywhere, kicking off his college career with a 1.96 ERA and 60/17 K/BB ratio in 82 2⁄3 freshman innings at the Division III level, which caught the attention of coaches further up the ladder. He’d move up as a sophomore, though it was a modest upgrade to the Division II PSAC, which was home to current big leaguers Tim Mayza and Chas McCormick in their college days. His stop there got off to an auspicious start, as he missed more bats for Seton than he had as a freshman, striking out 78 in 71 innings while maintaining strong run avoidance with a 3.04 ERA.
The elbow injury struck after just three starts the following year, so the data from the rest of his time in PA is very limited. He was able to briefly return for one outing of 2 2⁄3 innings in 2020, which was apparently enough for the Red Raiders to offer him a rotation spot, and he took it without hesitation. Monteverde seemed to make the leap from D2 to the Big 12 with ease, posting the best numbers of his career against by far the best competition he’d seen. He maintained a stranglehold on his starting gig all year, punching out 101 opposing hitters across 86 1⁄3 innings while pitching to a 3.75 ERA.
Much like Bierman above, Monteverde’s FaBIO profile stands out for the glowing ground ball column. He’s doesn’t rate quite as highly as the 7th rounder, but is nonetheless in plus territory, and also sports very strong K rates. Pitchers who can combine those two traits will always be in high demand, so it’s no wonder he stood out amongst a deeper senior sign class. He’s also similar to Bierman from a stuff standpoint, with a lighter, upper-80s fastball with heavy life, though the secondaries are considered a bit more well rounded. He’s able to mix three pitches effectively, backing up the sinker with a solid slider and changeup. The stuff may be light, but it played up in college thanks to his standout command, and has a chance to continue to do so in the pros.
Jake Schrand, RHP, Wright State - Round 9, 269th Overall
The third straight college pitcher selected by Miami, Schrand’s profile is almost a polar opposite of the two drafted before him. A fourth year senior, Schrand was a member of the Wright State bullpen from 2018-2020 before jumping to the rotation for his senior season. He’s very small for a righty hurler, at 6’0” with a slight build, but stands out most for his arm strength. With the help of some impressive arm speed, Schrand is capable of running his fastball as high as 98 MPH at max effort, according to WSU Associate Head Coach Nate Metzger (via Fish On The Farm), though it typically sat in the low-90s as a starter.
Schrand’s delivery is a little herky-jerky, and there’s relative consensus from evaluators that it’s a reliever look, but he’s made big strides with his control over the course of his college career. After walking 24 hitters in 22 innings across his freshman and sophomore seasons, he was able to trim that rate to 6 in 14 1⁄3 as a junior before making a quantum leap in 2021, during which he issued just 20 free passes in 68 1⁄3 frames. The improved location came with little compromise, as he continued to miss bats at a high rate with 92 punchouts. There was, however, an issue with hittability—Schrand surrendered 79 hits as a senior, 6 of which left the yard, contributing to a pedestrian 4.61 ERA.
As you’d expect from the hit rate, FaBIO reveals a pretty ugly batted ball profile, particularly in the line drive avoidance department. The fastball was the pitch most frequently punished, so more consistent velocity could help to address this issue, but there is some concern about the limited extension and life on the pitch, so he may simply have a smaller margin for error than most pitchers with his level of velocity. Schrand mixes in a solid curveball and a changeup that is in my opinion the stronger secondary, giving him the tools to deal with both righties and lefties, but the heater projects as the biggest piece of the pie here. It flies a little true, but the lower release height and somewhat unique look created by Schrand’s size and delivery give it a chance to carry him to a big league bullpen if he can turn up the heat a bit.
Hunter Perdue, RHP, Florida State University - Round 10, 299th Overall
Despite having spent quite awhile on the radar thanks to his big fastball, Perdue doesn’t have a ton of college data to work with. He spent his underclass years at the JUCO level, and even had some draft interest at that time, but has never quite shown the secondary traits teams are looking for in an early pick. A Chesapeake native, Perdue attended State College of Florida out of high school, and had some success in his Freshman season— he started 14 games, including two that he also finished, pitching to a 3.97 ERA in 90 2⁄3 innings, though the supporting numbers were pretty pedestrian.
He disappeared from the stat sheet at that point, presumably missing the 2019 season with an injury, and wouldn’t resurface for a full three years, after the COVID-19 shutdown. Despite the long layoff, the Seminoles were interested enough in his big arm to hand him a bullpen role, and he rewarded them with some steady performance. He’d only toss 22 innings, but limited the damage to 19 hits and 10 walks while striking out a healthy 28, good for a 3.27 ERA. Evaluators were pretty impressed with Perdue’s ability to control his big fastball, which can scrape the upper-90s, but he didn’t show much at all in terms of secondaries.
Perdue’s FaBIO profile shares the strengths of classmates Gabe Bierman and Patrick Montverde, standing out for a combination of strikeouts and grounders. This is almost more impressive given the fact that Perdue is something of a one trick pony, as it’s pretty rare for a heater to be able to create both swings and misses and groundball contact in one package. The narrow arsenal and middling control point definitively towards the bullpen, but there won’t be a ton of pressure on whatever pitch he settles on as the go-to secondary. It’s a modest ceiling, but there’s big league arm talent and relief upside here, making him a worthy 10th round stab.
Jesse Bergin, RHP, UCLA - Round 11, 329th Overall
Bergin isn’t necessarily a sexy pick, but, if the Marlins end up being able to sign him, he represents a nice value this far down the board as he entered the year projected to go quite a bit higher. He’s no stranger to the limelight, having pitched at one of the best prep baseball programs in the country in Harvard-Westlake before making the leap to the Pac-12. His stuff has never truly popped, but it’s solid and he’s long impressed evaluators with his physicality and strike throwing ability. He performed admirably after immediately joining the Bruins’ rotation as a freshman, striking out 76 in 67 innings en route to a 4.43 ERA, and followed that up with 4 dominating starts before the 2020 season was cut short. The hot sophomore start gave him some early day 2 hype heading into 2021, but he and the rest of the Bruins’ staff underperformed, leaving his stock in limbo.
After striking out well over a batter per inning as an underclassman, he managed just 65 in 79 2⁄3 innings this year. Also concerningly, he allowed 85 hits, leaving doubts about his future role. His FaBIO profile is a bit all over the place, looking noticeably different in 2021 vs. previous years—not only did the batted profile shift noticeably, he also struggled against lefties in a way that he hadn’t previously, so perhaps the Marlins have specific reasons in mind as to why that happened (if I had to guess, I’d think that it had something to do with his breaking ball efficacy):
There isn’t really a standout pitch in Bergin’s arsenal, which primarily leans on his fastball and slider. It’s not a particularly remarkable heater, hanging between 90-92 with pedestrian life but above average extension thanks to Bergin’s frame and delivery, rating somewhere in the vicinity of solid average. The best pitch in his repertoire is a slider with power and bite, coming in in the low-80s with late movement. While not a wipeout offering, it can create swings and misses and was his primary out pitch in college. There’s also a changeup in his bag, but it has been used more sparingly and could use refinement at this stage. Bergin throws enough strikes to be a back end starter, but was perhaps too aggressive in 2021. Paths forward include a more finesse-oriented approach in the rotation, or a move to the bullpen in the hope of adding velocity. I lean more towards the latter, but can see a case for either.
Brandon White, RHP, Washington State University - Round 12, 359th Overall
White is 6’8” with well above average body control for his size, so it’s no shock that he was popular amongst evaluators as a prep player. His potential has long been obvious, and the Dodgers make a run at signing him in the 14th round, but most teams felt he was to green to make a large commitment to at that time. He ultimately headed to Washington State in the hopes of improving his stock, but the performance just hasn’t been there. He was given ample opportunity by the Cougars, totaling 131 1⁄3 innings across two full seasons and the shortened 2020, but issues with his location have rendered him unable to avoid damage.
As a freshman in 2019, White threw 58 innings across 14 starts and a bullpen appearance, and struggled with his control. He limited walks with just 24, but was touched up for 73 hits, leading to a 6.52 ERA. He showed some modest improvement in 2021, missing more bats with 61 strikeouts in 68 2⁄3 frames, but the hit avoidance still wasn’t there, and he walked even more batters than he had as a freshman. White’s stuff is appealing- his fastball can touch 97, and it comes in from a pretty mean angle thanks to his size, which he utilizes in his delivery. To back up the heater he has a nasty changeup that has been perhaps the most reliable weapon in his arsenal, thrown with good arm speed. There was feel to spin here too in his prep days, but he seemed to leave the breaking stuff by the wayside a bit in college. Revisiting that part of his repertoire could be another opportunity for improvement alongside improving his command and control, so there’s some pretty significant upside in this pick if the dev staff can work some magic.
Chandler Jozwiak, LHP, Texas A&M University - Round 13, 389th Overall
Jozwiak has been a fixture in the Aggies’ bullpen since 2018. A smaller lefty, he doesn’t light up radar guns, but offers a unique enough look that he could continue to be a confounding matchup at the pro level. He stands out most for his performance- after pedestrian results as a freshman, he took off in 2019, striking out 80 batters in 58 2⁄3 innings. His momentum was interrupted a bit by COVID-19, but he returned from the layoff to post an encore performance with 79 more punchies in 62 frames. In addition to the strong strikeout rates, his FaBIO profile also highlights his ground ball creation, much like Bierman and Montverde—he graded out as plus in that department in both 2019 and 2021:
While he did occasionally start in college, he’s a bullpen fit the pros. This is primarily because of his narrow arsenal, which is mostly a pure fastball/slider look. The fastball straddles the upper-80s and lower-90s, but he hides the ball well giving it more of an explosive look. His lower arm slot also creates a tricky angle on the pitch, as well as a healthy amount of arm side run, so it’s more difficult to square up than the velocity would suggest:
The slider has a bit less power than that of a typical big leaguer, but makes a very nice pairing with his fastball, and it has enough vertical break to avoid especially sharp platoon splits. He’ll always likely be more effective against lefties than righties, but he has enough in his bag to handle either, so there’s a potential future as a matchups-based reliever here.
Holt Jones, RHP, University of Kentucky - Round 14, 419th Overall
Jones has quite a bit in common with White, as he’s a 6’7” hurler who showed nascent skills as a prep player but never quite put it together at the college level. A California product, he attended Clemson out of high school and immediately seized a role in the Tigers’ bullpen, where he’d remain for three years. The performance was pretty steady throughout his time with the Tigers- he consistently missed bats, but command improvements were very slow and he posted pretty ugly walk and wild pitch rates—in 2019 for example, he struck out 43 in 36 2⁄3 innings and allowed just 23 hits en route to a 3.93 ERA, but walked 24 with 10 wild pitches.
He’d transfer to Kentucky for his senior year, but his role didn’t change much. He again worked out of the bullpen, racking up 28 1⁄3 frames, and while the results were different they weren’t necessarily better. He improved his walk rate, issuing just 10 free passes, which was encouraging, but it came with some undesirable side effects. It appears that he had to compromise his bat missing ability in exchange for the improved control, as he allowed 28 hits, allowed homers at a career high clip and struck out just 26.
Jones’ performance isn’t exactly inspiring, but the physical talent is obvious. Despite a stride that is on the shorter side, he creates extension that is well above average thanks to very long levers, allowing the fastball to play beyond its raw velocity. There’s also solid feel to spin, as he’s able to throw an 11-5 curveball with some nice depth and upper-70s velocity, which should be able to play the role of his go-to secondary long term in what projects as a fastball heavy mix. He won’t have the command to start, and he needs to tighten things up to succeed even in short stints, but the heater has the potential to be a very difficult pitch to handle. If the Marlins can clean him up a bit mechanically and improve the control, they could have another solid bullpen option on their hands.
Caleb Wurster, LHP, UConn - Round 15, 449th Overall
This is the first player in the Marlins’ haul who failed to receive a ranking from Perfect Game out of high school, though that may partially have to do with the fact that he played his prep ball in Rhode Island. He was a two sport athlete in those days, playing a multi-position role on the gridiron in addition to baseball, and ultimately decided to stay close to home in college by attending UConn. Although a member of the 2017 prep class, he wouldn’t actually debut for the Huskies until two years later, joining their bullpen for a beefy role in 2019.
His performance was outstanding right away—he appeared in a whopping 36 games as a redshirt freshman, totaling 47 1⁄3 frames with a 2.66 ERA and just 30 hits allowed. He didn’t miss all that many bats with 40 strikeouts, but issued only 16 free passes for a WHIP south of 1.00. He wasn’t quite as successful limiting damage on the Cape that offseason, but did manage a strong strikeout to walk ratio at 14/5 in 16 2⁄3 innings. Obviously, there wasn’t much to report from the following regular season, but he was able to add a nice cherry to the top of his resume in 2021—in 41 senior innings, he allowed just 31 hits and posted a 52/14 K/BB ratio with a 2.85 ERA. The results look pretty similar to his previous seasons at first glance, but FaBIO reveals some positive developments:
As you might’ve noticed, Wurster’s results against righties took a big step forward this past season. In the era of the three batter minimum, this could’ve been what pushed him over the line for pro clubs, as pure platoon relievers don’t really have a place anymore. I don’t have much of anything on Wurster’s stuff, but he offers a pretty analytical profile with no major weaknesses, so he’ll be an intriguing follow when he gets going in pro ball.
Ivan Melendez, 1B, University of Texas - Round 16, 479th Overall
He’s a college guy, but Melendez should be considered a tough sign in the 16th round. There are some areas of his game that need polish, but he has multiple years of eligibility remaining and was projected as a day two selection on pure talent. The most dangerous hitter in the Longhorns lineup this year after transferring from the JUCO ranks, Melendez ran a bit hot and cold in 2021 but was perhaps the best hitter in the country for a stretch in late spring. All told, he hit .319/.438/.603 with 13 home runs (including a heroic blast late in a postseason game) this season, his first season at the NCAA level.
At 6’3”, 220 lbs., he’s a behemoth, and he has the plus raw power you’d expect of a player his size. He’s also got some twitch to him, with good bat speed and an ability to reach pitches to most parts of the strike zone, and shows below average to fringe average potential as a hitter. He’s also got some pretty big arm strength with some pitching in his background and did play the hot corner in his JUCO days, but lacks foot speed and projects as a long term first baseman despite the Marlins announcing him as a 3B. He served as the designated hitter for Texas, who had Cam Williams (now of the Royals) and Zach Zubia (scroll down) at the corners.
There’s serious potential in Melendez’ bat, but he’ll need to sharpen his game a bit to capitalize on it fully. While he’s patient at the dish overall, you will see him wave at chase-y breaking pitches, which could become a bigger issue at the next level. If the Marlins are able to tempt him away from another year in Austin, they could be rewarded handsomely if they can help him become a bit more selective at the dish, as there’s some exciting talent here offensively.
Justin Fall, LHP, Arizona State - Round 17, 509th Overall
Had there been a 20-round draft last year, it’s very likely that Fall would’ve heard his name called. Despite having just 19 NCAA innings to his name and middling results to that point, Baseball America ranked him as the 208th overall prospect in the 2020 class because of his significant arm talent and perceived upside. The five round format left him on the outside looking in, but he entered his senior year with some day two hype. Fall has a great pitcher’s frame at 6’6”, 260 lbs., and combines it with some top-end velo and feel to spin, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together in a game setting to this point. He was effective to a degree this past season, posting a 4.09 ERA and allowing just 74 hits in 77 innings, but his K/BB ratio of 47/37 left a lot to be desired. The low K rate hamstrung his overall FaBIO rating, but the rest of the profile does offer some positives:
As you can see, there’s a lot of green in his batted ball profile, with the 98 in the ground ball column standing out in particular. This evidences the efficacy of his low-90s fastball, which has some nice sinking life to it, and is presumably creating a large portion of the weak contact. His arsenal is rounded out by a slider and changeup, with the breaking ball standing out as clearly superior. The changeup will flash, but the fact that it lags behind the other offerings, combined with his mediocre command, has him pointing towards the bullpen long-term in the eyes of most. Fall has very easy operation on the mound, so the Marlins might give him a shot as a starter early on in the hopes that there’s a bit more in the tank with regard to his location and changeup, but a future as a fastball/slider reliever feels like the most likely outcome.
Bennett Hostetler, SS, North Dakota State - Round 18, 539th Overall
Not many draft picks come from more humble beginnings than Bennett Hostetler, who played his prep ball in the scantily scouted state of Montana. He did enough to draw some college interest and a Top 1000 ranking from Perfect Game, and eventually decided to stay relatively close to home at North Dakota State, where he’d remain for five years. For much of that time, pro ball didn’t look to be in the cards. He started from the jump, but in his first four years with the Bison, his offensive impact was pretty minimal. After hitting .279/.332/.347 in a solid debut, he regressed to .225/.351/.314 as a sophomore, putting him in a precarious position.
A big performance in 2018 offseason ball suggested there might still be some upside in the tank, and it started to turn its head the following season, as he’d improve to the tune of a more balanced .250/.342/.413 line. It wasn’t an explosion, but it created some momentum for Hostetler which was inconveniently dashed by the COVID-19 shutdown. Entering 2021, he was completely off the radar, but flipped a switch as a fifth year senior and posted career highs in basically every statistical category. The Summit League isn’t exactly the “summit” of college baseball competition, but a .394/.513/.606 slash (Hostetler’s senior line) in Division I is going to turn heads, even if it comes from a fifth-year senior. There were a few more strikeouts than the batting average might suggest with 38 in 272 PAs, but he chipped in 10 home runs and 19 steals in 21 attempts as well, both career highs by big margins.
Hostetler is very new to the radar as something of a one-year wonder, and I’ve had difficulty turning up information on his tools to this point. What I do know for the moment is that he was a pretty impressive high school football player, and appears to have some degree of both strength and speed in his 6’0”, 190 lbs. frame. He’s already nearly 24 years old, but has late bloomer markers as a cold-weather prep player with a multi-sport background, so maybe the Marlins found a diamond in the rough.
Noah Williamson, OF, Everett Junior College (WA) - Round 19, 569th Overall
Several of the Marlins’ earlier picks passed through JUCO at some point in their college careers, but Williamson was the only player in their 2021 class drafted directly from the level. Unfortunately for fans, he barely got into action for Everett JC this year and has produced precious little data thus far overall. It’s tough to find a more interesting background—while I haven’t been able to 100% confirm this independently, Sport RSI reports that he’s the first Swiss player to be drafted by a MLB club. Williamson has a Youtube channel with some of his highlights, including some for a Swiss national team, this bomb among them:
A perusal of the clips suggests some pretty notable raw power in Williamson’s game, as does the one data set we have available from his 2021 West Coast League stint. He recorded 112 plate appearances in the WCL against competition of equal age, and slashed .280/.348/.620 with 6 dingers—his strikeout rate was a bit high with a 29/7 K/BB ratio, but the big power numbers helped to balance that out. Williamson appears to be a very good athlete with an ability to get to power in games, but we don’t know too much more about him yet. Regardless of the incomplete information, Williamson’s background and tools make him a highly intriguing follow going forward if he signs.
Zach Zubia, 1B, University of Texas - Round 20, 599th Overall
It feels like the Fish threw me a bit of a bone in ending their draft this way. Zubia just wrapped a phenomenal 4 year run in my backyard as the Longhorns’ first baseman, helping push the club to the brink of the College World Series final earlier this season. Nearly 24 years old already and limited to first base defensively, Zubia is exactly the type of player that tends to go overlooked in the draft, but elements of his game are absolutely big league quality. He was consistently one of the tougher outs in the Big 12, with a top notch approach that he used to rack up 140 free passes across his time in Austin. In his three full collegiate seasons, he posted OBPs north of .400 twice, with .385 representing his “down” year.
He’s not the best hitter for contact in the world with roughly average bat speed and a power oriented cut, but he’s able to consistently work counts and fight off pitches with two strikes to mask his shortcomings. His large, 6’4” frame also offers at least above-average raw power- he wasn’t exactly a big time slugger in the Big 12, totaling “just” 30 home runs in 845 PAs for the Longhorns, but his home park is tougher power than most at the D1 level and the raw stats probably undersell his pop a bit. If you’re still feeling skeptical, look no further than his 2017 Northwoods League trip—his 22 homers in 301 plate appearances there still stand as a league record. His contact ability rates as below average by big league standards, and he was one of the oldest players drafted, but Zubia’s ability to grind at the plate and hit for power give him a chance to surprise. He’s ready to step into full season ball tomorrow, and could provide some valuable leadership in addition to a steady bat.
The Marlins have a total bonus pool of $9,949,800 to allocate toward signing their picks from the first 10 rounds. They can spend up to 5% above that—$10,447,290—without losing any future draft picks.
The signing deadline for all players is August 1.