The Marlins entered the 2022 draft in an interesting spot. There has been recent, heavy turnover in their baseball ops department, and they were picking 6th overall with no extra selections, giving them a sizable pool but not quite as much maneuverability as some other clubs. Their strategy played out in a pretty straightforward way—they played no games in round one, taking arguably the safest hit tool in the college class, before collecting a pair of blue chip prep pitchers with their other top 100 selections. After picking up a couple of junior hurlers, they finished out day 2 with a run of cost-saving senior pitchers.
Berry has already signed for roughly slot at $6 million, so they’ll presumably need at least some of those savings to close deals on their second and third rounders Jacob Miller and Karson Milbrandt. From where I sit, it looks as though there should still be a good amount left over for them to make a run at the one day three prep stab they took, Florida righty Evan Chrest, who was a top 100 talent on many public boards.
Even if they only sign 19 out of 20, it’s hard to argue that the team didn’t come away with an appropriate amount of talent for their slot. They may have leaned into a risky demographic in prep pitching, but this also plays into their recent organizational strengths, so it’s a sensible play.
1st round - Jacob Berry, 1B, LSU
Things went mostly as expected in front of the Marlins with one big exception—the Rangers surprise underslot deal with Kumar Rocker—as the top four prep talents in the class went off the board within the first five picks. This left the Marlins with their pick of the litter in the college class, and most projections had them taking one of a few players from that demographic. Brooks Lee, Jace Jung and Kevin Parada have all ranked as the top college bat depending on which source you looked at and when, but they all had unique strengths and weaknesses that prevented consensus from forming.
Jung and Parada both show more raw power than Berry, but Jung’s performance unraveled in conference play and Parada’s approach isn’t as mature as the rest of the bunch, plus his hit tool upside is more good than great. Lee and Berry come with elite track records but more limited power for a mix of reasons. While Lee offers much more defensive value, Berry utilizes what power he does have much more effectively, and current information suggests that will continue into the future. Favoring Berry would suggest that the Marlins wanted to come away with the most complete bat, with less regard for defensive value. Parada also has an argument through this lens as one could pretty easily argue that his power advantage outweighs Berry’s superior approach, but its an argument with no definitive right answer.
Berry’s reputation for pure hitting runs back to his high school days, but he was old for his prep class with defensive limitations which depressed his stock and decided to try his luck as a draft eligible sophomore instead. Two years later he has produced at an elite level in both the Pac-12 and SEC and just went 6th overall, so obviously that decision is looking pretty good at this point. A switch-hitter with a bit more juice from the left side, Berry has a very complete contact profile and one of the most mature approaches in the class overall.
Berry entered 2022 among the top rated players in the class after a .352/.439/.676 freshman campaign with Arizona, and improved his line in many ways this season after transferring to LSU. His K rate improved from 19.5% to 8.9% while his walk rate remained steady (11.1%, 10.8%), helping him to improve his batting average and OBP further with a .370/.464/.630 season slash. His power production did back off a little bit—he managed 15 home runs after 17 as a freshman, but had 17 less extra base hits in total.
That power production represents the biggest question mark in Berry’s profile. He’s a pure first base/DH fit at the pro level thanks to well below average range, which places a lot of pressure on both offensive tools. It’s difficult to argue with the hit portion here when looking at the college production, but his exit velocities are basically average among draftable college prospects. He’s going to hit more homers than most players in his EV bucket because he hits a lot of fly balls to the pull side and makes pure contact at a high rate, but it will likely be rare to see him muscle balls out of other parts of big league parks.
It’s not hard to imagine Berry’s bat playing up to the high big league standard at first base, but he will need to come close to his offensive ceiling to make that a reality. I’m not sure that there’s really an established true regular at the position in the big leagues right now with a style quite like his—that’s not to say it can’t work, just that it takes a rare hitter. Berry has looked the part of one thus far, but while the hit tool portion of the profile is exceptionally safe, the Marlins are sort of betting on an outlier here.
2nd Round - Jacob Miller, RHP, Liberty Union HS (OH)
In recent history, we’ve seen the Marlins value fastball and breaking ball quality over all else in their draft selections on the pitching side. It wouldn’t be a surprise if some of their tendencies were shaken up going forward for a number of reasons, but Miller checks one of those boxes as emphatically as anyone. The Ohio product has arguably one of the best breaking balls in the entire class, a sharp curveball in the upper-70s to low-80s with big, consistent depth. He’ll also show a quality slider with some sweep, evidencing strong overall feel for spin. He can drop the curve in for strikes with much more feel than the typical teenager, and I feel it’s a pretty easy 60 pitch.
Miller’s fastball is a solid pitch, if a bit vanilla compared to the breaking balls. He can run it as high as 97, but has generally lived 91-94 in games. It doesn’t have standout movement traits and he may be a guy who is frequently working backwards, but if effectively located the heater does its job. He’s more of an average mound athlete than a truly explosive mover, so while he’s already a solid strike thrower it’s fair to wonder how much that projects, as well as whether or not he’ll be able to add significant velocity.
There are already two secondaries here that easily project as major league quality and the fastball isn’t going to drag the profile down. In the Marlins pitching development infrastructure, he should have plenty of help in widening his arsenal even further with a changeup and getting as much velocity out of his frame as possible. With Miller’s rare spin ability, he can easily project as a mid-rotation arm and has upside beyond that if that fastball develops further than expected.
3rd Round - Karson Milbrandt, RHP, Liberty Senior HS (MO)
The Marlins went back to the prep righty well with the 85th overall pick, this time opting for a very different flavor in the form of multi-sport athlete Karson Milbrandt. In contrast to Miller, Milbrandt stands out for his movement ability and projection more so than present stuff. The Kansas City product doesn’t have the biggest frame at 6’1”, but it’s an athletic, high-waisted build with a blend of fluidity and explosion. The stuff took one step forward this spring, but there’s still plenty of room in the tank for more as he continues to develop.
Milbrandt gets a lot of separation in his delivery and has a very live arm, typically sitting 90-93 with a spinny fastball that is consistently over 2600 RPMs. His mechanics have a number of effects on the heater- there’s some tilt to his delivery but the arm slot is a lower three-quarters, so the release height is low. However, he doesn’t get down the mound as well as he could, so the extension is limited, and the arm angle creates more horizontal movement than vertical. It’s not perfectly tuned to induce strikeouts at this point, but the magnitude of the movement is strong and should at least help suppress the quality of the contact that he allows.
The drawbacks on the fastball feel like they can be addressed, and there’s also room to add strength and improve his velocity, so the heater shows big potential on all fronts even if it’s not the best in the class at present. The secondaries tell a similar story—he primarily used a curveball earlier in his prep days but has started to favor a slider as of late which looks like the stronger pitch. It has two-plane action but is a bit more vertically oriented and sports low-80s velo with good depth. His command of spin is still developing, but he shows the raw ingredients for an above average breaking ball if he can refine his feel in pro ball.
Milbrandt also shows a changeup with promising movement traits that is sold pretty well, but at the expensive of separation. One would certainly think that he landed in a good spot to maximize the pitch, so there’s significant potential with three offerings here. The entire package needs some polish, but it’s a good upside swing that plays to the organization’s strengths. As a Vanderbilt commit he will surely require an overslot bonus, but he has the talent to be a bargain even at day one prices if it all comes together. One could argue he has as much upside as anyone in their haul.
4th Round - Marcus Johnson, RHP, Duke
While Johnson comes from the college ranks, he’s very much a projection play regardless- one would certainly hope so anyway, as he posted a 5.61 ERA in Duke’s rotation in 2022. All joking aside, Johnson does show some present skill but is being drafted in this spot for his potential for continued improvement. Standing 6’6”, 200 lbs, there’s certainly room for Johnson to add strength to his frame and velocity to his low-90s fastball, but the Marlins should be able to help him make more use of his length mechanically as well, as his current on mound actions are perhaps a bit too compact which adversely impacts his heater.
Despite a reliever background, Johnson has a starter’s repertoire and projects to stay in that role initially. His fastball has some carry to it that doesn’t really blend well with his high release, and it has low extension for a pitcher of his size. The game plan for the pitch in pro ball should be pretty clear: if Johnson can get his release down and out closer to home plate, the fastball might become a strength of his profile rather than a question mark. The four seam is backed up by a sweep-oriented slider that he’s willing to use against lefties as well as a changeup that needs more separation but has appealing shape. Both pitches picked up swings and misses at the college level and it was the fastball being squared up and punished most often. While it doesn’t necessarily all click right now, it’s possible to project a lot more improvement with Johnson than your typical day 2 college arm.
There are some developmental hurdles to get over for Johnson to reach his ceiling but there should be a role for him regardless of where he lands. I’d expect him to be brought along slowly relative to college arms as the organization will likely want to tinker with him mechanically, work on the changeup, and try to add some good weight to his frame. Depending on how all of that goes, there are likely going to be pitch mix changes needed as well. There’s rotation upside if it all clicks, but he can fall short of that and still end up as a back end guy or deceptive short reliever who is reliant on the slider.
Round 5 - Josh White, RHP, Cal
After a dominating 2021 campaign out of the bullpen, White was transitioned to the rotation this season with mixed results. After a strong start, White lost effectiveness in late spring and eventually moved back to working in shorter stints. He may have been fatigued after a busy sophomore year, as his command and velo backed off in a big way and he was never really able to right the ship. On the whole, he posted a 5.05 ERA while allowing 70 hits and 42 walks in 67 2⁄3 innings across 16 appearances, though he did strike out 91.
The main reason he was still able to miss bats was the continued quality of his breaking stuff, which is by far the headliner of his profile. Even with diminished power, the curveball was effective in 2022 and sports great depth with power relative to his fastball in the low 80s. He’ll also throw a distinct slider which is also vertically oriented and of similar quality. The fastball has been up to 97 in the past but lived in the low 90s this spring, with mediocre life. The straight nature of the pitch combined with White’s lacking command were to blame for the bulk of his hitability issues this spring.
White has a tanky build at 6’1”, 205 and has a bit of twitch, but his operation is relievery with a lot of jerky movements and he doesn’t look to have a ton left in the tank as far as velocity is concerned. I have him ticketed for a breaking ball dominant reliever role, but perhaps the Marlins think they can quiet down the operation, addressing the fastball effectiveness and the command in one fell swoop. There could be a back end profile in there somewhere in such a scenario.
Round 6 - Jared Poland, RHP, Louisville
Poland’s career at Louisville began as a two-way guy who also got playing time at second base, but he eventually ascended to the Friday starter role. He’s built like a tank at 6’0”, 215 with a broad frame with a ton of natural strength, and held up very well to an 83 1⁄3 inning workload in 2022 after throwing just 41 1⁄3 across 3 seasons prior (including the shortened 2020). Helping his cause was a big jump in the strike throwing department, as he cut his walk rate nearly in half from his injury plagued 2021 campaign in half. He held down his role all year and posted a solid 3.46 ERA, but was susceptible to hard contact as he allowed 9 home runs.
Despite entirely different physicality, Poland has a similar stuff profile to fourth rounder Marcus Johnson. His fastball has some bat missing qualities but plays down due to poor extension and a less than ideal release point and was pounded this season. In theory, it should be possible to address this with a mechanical adjustment and it’s a credit to his secondaries that he was still able to limit hits and runs at a solid level in the ACC despite the weakness, and it also offers a significant opportunity for improvement if the Marlins are able to shore up the holes in the offering. His operation is not especially fluid, so while he was a solid strike thrower in college it’d be a surprise to see him last in that role in the pros in my mind.
Poland’s slider has great raw characteristics with ample vertical movement and low 80s velocity, and is probably his best all-around pitch at present, though his changeup will flash as well. The 2022 incarnation of Poland likely wouldn’t have much success at the pro level but there’s obvious upside if a mechanical update can clean up the subpar aspects of his fastball without compromising his command, and since he’s a senior this pick surely helped facilitate the Marlins’ prep-heavy strategy in the early rounds. Getting savings and upside in one package is always a good thing.
Round 7 - Kyle Crigger, RHP, Louisiana Tech
Speaking of senior signs, Crigger is another big cost-saver as a 23-year-old who is five years out of high school. He was actually primarily an infielder in high school, but the righty’s college career began at the JUCO level with Itawamba CC in his home of Mississippi, where he posted solid results out of the bullpen for two seasons with back-to-back 2.83 ERAs without playing in the field much. His efforts were enough to earn him a shot at the D1 level with Louisiana Tech, where he was able to immediately seize the closer role. He was effective in 2020-2021 but didn’t miss a ton of bats, and took his game to a new level this season by striking out 79 in 69 frames with an ERA of 2.35 and 60 hits allowed.
Despite being a five-year reliever at the college level, Crigger has a startery four-pitch arsenal, throwing a 2-seam, slider, curveball and change. The whole mix plays thanks to some impressive raw movement, and the ability to move the ball in all directions helps everything play up by keeping hitters off balance. He has also thrown plenty of strikes throughout his career, so sending him out as a Low-A starter feels like a viable option. Crigger isn’t the most physical guy and it remains to be seen exactly where his fastball might sit in longer outings, but he was frequently throwing multiple innings and/or on short rest for the Bulldogs and held up well.
So Kyle Crigger might be one of the better senior signs in this draft. Was a reliever in college but I’d let him start in pro ball.— (@mason_mcrae) July 14, 2022
Up to 97 w/ sinker. Plus SL w/ 10” of sweep at 84-87, feel for CH w/ heavy fade, flashed a nasty CB at 81-84 too. pic.twitter.com/Y0jYhjujIL
If his body responds well to the rigors of pro ball, Crigger can be a quick mover who should come at a big discount because of his age. The possibility of getting a starter at such a low cost is an exciting possibility, but we’ve already seen how well his competitiveness and stuff play in the bullpen, and this pick is a huge success if he makes it to the majors in that role too. It’s hard not to like this one a lot as a senior sign.
Round 8 - Dale Stanavich, LHP, Rutgers
An upstate New York product, Stanavich bounced around the college ranks a lot before eventually ending up at Rutgers, where he was eventually able to establish himself as a key bullpen piece. After a solid transition to D1 in 2021 with a 3.13 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 23 innings, Stanavich performed well on the Cape last year with another 30 strikeouts against 8 walks in just 16 innings, which raised some eyebrows. That was followed with an impressive 2022 which saw him strikeout 54 against just 9 walks and 24 hits allowed (0 homers) in 34 1⁄3 innings.
This is another senior sign as Stanavich is also 23 years old already, and to say he isn’t very physical at 5’11”, 175 would be an understatement. His fastball doesn’t light up guns, but as the numbers indicate he can really locate it, and his arm angle creates some nice bat-missing ride. He’s typically in the low 90s with it, but can get up to 94 or so on occasion. The heater is backed up by a fringy slider, but this will probably be a fastball dominant pitch mix. It’s a pure reliever profile, but Stanavich should make quick work of the low minors and could max out as a low leverage arm pretty quickly.
Round 9 - Evan Taylor, LHP, Arkansas
A slider-dominant lefty, Taylor is another signability option with a low ceiling, but he performed very well against college baseball’s best in the SEC this year. Taylor has shown strong feel for spin since his days in the Alabama prep ranks, and further refined that feel at Arkansas before eventually breaking out in 2022 with 54 strikeouts against 16 walks and 28 hits allowed in 44 1⁄3 relief innings. He surrendered some hard contact with 7 HR allowed and a 3.65 ERA, but answered the call as a go-to lefty out of the pen for a top program.
Evan Taylor comes in and slams the door. Hogs take the series— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast (@11point7) May 8, 2022
Arkansas with 2 game lead in the SEC West over Texas A&M pic.twitter.com/Cm5DkMYehZ
As a high schooler Taylor used a more conventional three-quarters arm slot, but it now sits much lower which helps his low 90s velo to play and creates a sweepier shape on his breaking ball. It’s a formula that’s most effective left-on-left. He’s able to move his slider around enough for it to be effective against righties as well. Even at 22.5 he has yet to show much of a third offering to speak of and his operation looks relievery, so I’d project him as another pure relief arm.
Round 10 - Cade Gibson, LHP, Louisiana Tech
The run of senior sign pitchers continued through round ten, but the reliever streak ends here with Gibson. Like Crigger, he came to LA Tech from a lower level, debuting at the college level all the way back in 2017 with NAIA LSU Shreveport. He was a rotation piece there, making 18 starts across 2 seasons, but struggled to find effectiveness with ERAs in the 6-7 range. His stuff and feel nonetheless intrigued the Bulldogs, but he’d miss 2019 due to injury and 2020 to COVID.
Finally back on the field, Gibson bounced between bullpen and rotation in 2021 but dealt with hitability, posting a 6.40 ERA in 71 2⁄3 innings. He did post an intriguing 66/19 K/BB ratio, but allowed 95 total hits including 7 homers, and wasn’t able to find a consistent role. His role was left in a state of flux entering 2022, but he took a step forward and had locked down weekdown starter status by midseason. His ERA remained a bit inflated at 4.87, but this time around he allowed less than a hit per inning and upped his strikeout rate with 93 against 19 walks in his 85 innings.
Another senior sign out of Louisiana Tech, Cade Gibson. His 2.84 FIP this year ranks 49th among all pitchers w/ 50+ innings.— (@mason_mcrae) July 14, 2022
Up to 93, low eff sinker. Legit feel for his CH, kills lift and gets 14” of fade. CB is a 55, heavy sweep w/ 56” of drop at 76-79. pic.twitter.com/1OIOciR5kc
Gibson’s arsenal includes a two seam, curve and changeup, all of which have their merits. The curve stands out as the best with big two-plane action, but the fastball plays up from its 89-92 velocity and the changeup can miss some bats as well. He’s already over 24 years old, but Gibson is ready for his shot to move quickly through the low minors and could surprise as a back-end rotation type with his pitchability and ability to move the ball around in different ways.
Round 11 - Alex Williams, RHP, Stanford
The Marlins kept it rolling with seniors on day three, taking a four-year Pac-12 performer who took conference pitcher of the year honors in 2022. California native Alex Williams was a four-year rotation fixture for the Cardinal, throwing 237 1⁄3 frames over his career in Palo Alto in which he struck out 211 against 43 walks and allowed just 189 hits for a 2.88 career ERA.
Williams has a nice starter’s frame at 6’3”, 220 lbs but hasn’t yet thrown as hard as one might expect, hanging in the upper 80s to low 90s consistently with four seam shape. The fastball performs a bit above its velocity thanks to some carry and the unique angle created by his delivery—Williams starts from the extreme third base side of the rubber before working back across the mound through release. Some of the underlying data supported his low hit rate as he induced popups at a near-elite level.
Williams’ secondaries project a bit better to the next level than his fastball, particularly the changeup which is sold well with separation and movement. He’ll mix two breaking balls, with his slider, which has predominantly vertical movement, seeing more usage than his slow curve. There has never been big bat missing juice here, but Williams induced a ton of weak contact at Stanford with his combination of deception and solid movement characteristics. If the Marlins can help him find a bit more velocity without compromising his unique qualities, he could have some intrigue as a back-end guy.
Round 12 - Cole Kirschsieper, RHP, Illinois
Righty Cole Kirschsieper entered the spring with potential top 5 rounds hype after an excellent Cape Cod League performance and performed pretty well in the Illini’s rotation. He ultimately slid to day 3 due to raw stuff concerns. The Illinois native struck out 60 in 58 2⁄3 bullpen frames as a freshman and sophomore, and grew his reputation with outstanding performances in the 2021 Appalachian and Cape Cod leagues, which was enough to get him into the rotation in 2022. He held the role down effectively, posting a 3.40 ERA in 87 1⁄3 innings with 88 strikeouts against 29 walks and 75 hits allowed. His batted ball profile is heavy on air contact, but that includes a plus popup rate and plenty of oppo contact, so it’s not especially scary.
Kirschsieper is just 5’11” and uses a low arm slot to boot, adding deception to his three pitch mix. His fastball is a two seamer and doesn’t move a lot, but the low angle helped him to avoid damage sufficiently in college. He also leaned heavily on his pair of secondaries, a two-plane slider in the upper 70s to low 80s and a changeup that sometimes looked like an out pitch at the college level. There’s appealing funk to Kirschsieper’s style and a lot of feel in his game. His stuff doesn’t immediately project to the pro level in a big way, but his release qualities could give the heater hidden potential and with his feel to locate breaking stuff, adding a new shape to his bag could be worth exploring as well.
Round 13 - Chase Luttrell, OF, Long Beach State
A productive piece for El Toro HS which has produced numerous big leaguers as a prep, Luttrell elected to stay close to home for college and went on to a productive four year run with the Dirtbags. He struggled offensively as a freshman but showed signs of a breakout in the COVID shortened season before posting back to back slash lines of .316/.347/.520 and .312/.365/.520 in 2021 and 2022 with 17 home runs overall.
At 6’1”, 200 lbs. Luttrell is an average athlete by pro standards, but was a versatile defender in college who moved around all three outfield spots as well as first base. His range plays up vs. his raw speed thanks to good instincts, but his arm strength is lacking so unfortunately he’s probably limited to left field and first base as a pro. Offensively it’s a similar story—Luttrell has a well-leveraged swing and good contact skills, but a chasey approach leaves his hit tool projection in fringy territory. His raw power may be a bit above average, but his contact profile is more liner oriented so it plays about down the middle. Improved selectivity could add intrigue to Luttrell’s profile, but he looks like an organizational depth piece for now given the limited defensive utility and OBP concerns.
Round 14 - Torin Montgomery, 1B, Missouri
A Washington state product, Montgomery started his college career with a .308/.393/.615 slash line for Boise State in the COVID shortened season before transferring to Missouri for his sophomore and junior years. In contrast to many day 3 picks, he’s on the younger side for the college class having just turned 21 a couple of months ago. Montgomery offers a lot of physicality at 6’4”, 245 lbs. and has all the strength you’d expect out of that kind of frame.
Marlins 14th round pick Torin Montgomery has some big time power potential, working to tap into it more consistently in games.— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) July 19, 2022
This shot traveled 433 feet at 107 mph. pic.twitter.com/6OyNyIuytt
Montgomery has performed well in the SEC on the whole, batting .279/.373/.430 as a sophomore before upping his game with a .365/.462/.547 slash line in 2022, totaling 9 home runs. The zone contact ability is surprisingly good for someone with such long levers, but obviously the power production hasn’t matched up to the raw strength so far. Montgomery does hit the ball very hard, but it’s a flat plane that depresses the frequency of his fly ball contact. Trying to markedly change this piece of a prospect’s profile can be an uphill battle, but Montgomery does offer a strong hit tool with plus raw power, even if it is currently hidden from his game profile.
Round 15 - Ike Buxton, RHP, Lipscomb
Apparently the Marlins heavily scouted the 2020 Boise State club, because Buxton was a teammate of Torin Montgomery on both that team and the Bismarck squad in the Northwoods League the following summer. Buxton, in contrast to Montgomery, struggled in his brief taste of Mountain West baseball, allowing 12 hits and 8 ER in 6 2⁄3 innings out of the bullpen. It was a similar story in the Northwoods, as posted a 13.50 ERA in 14 relief frames- he struck out 22, but had serious strike throwing issues with 15 walks.
Things weren’t working for Buxton at this point, so he transferred down to the A-Sun with Lipscomb where he was able to secure a rotation role. He showed improvements in 2021, but walks were still a major issue as he ran a 35/25 K/BB ratio in 48 2⁄3 innings, and hitability wasn’t much better. He would try to build some momentum with a return to the Northwoods, and while he only walked 3 batters in 7 2⁄3 , he also allowed 17 hits and ran a 14.09 ERA.
Buxton was able to rebound with another small step forward this year, finally allowing less than a hit per inning en route to a 3.86 ERA, but his 66/39 K/BB mark in 74 2⁄3 innings left a lot to be desired (not to mention 16 HBP). He has some physicality and twitch and his fastball can flash when it’s at the peak of its velo range as it has some good sinking action. His secondaries include a two plane slider and classic changeup both with good shape, so there’s potential for a back end starter mix if the Marlins can rein him in a bit mechanically but he will need to improve to be effective at all.
Round 16 - Brett Roberts, IF, Florida State
An Atlanta product, Roberts started his college career at Tennessee Tech where he quickly established himself as a productive stick on the infield. He posted a .343/.375/.490 slash with 5 bombs as a sophomore in 2021, earning him a Cape spot where he held his own with a .305/.345/.427 line, 2 homers and 5 walks against 15 strikeouts. The consistent performance earned him the attention of Florida State, where he split time evenly between second and third base while contributing to the offense at a .300/.373/.461 slash. The line included by far a career best walk rate as he took 21 in 248 plate appearances—still not the highest, but he had taken just 8 in 217 PA a year prior.
Roberts offers legitimate defensive versatility, as he should be able to handle both of his college positions at the pro level with a nice blend of range and arm strength. After showing a free-swinging approach early in his college career, Roberts really improved his pitch selection as a junior and now projects solidly in the OBP department. He also offers some solid raw power from his 6’0” frame, but only managed 14 career college homers because of a low-damage contact profile. His swing is busy with a lot of hand movement and can be mechanically loose, so it’s possible that he might be able to tighten things up in the box to get under the ball and make more use of his natural strength. He needs more work to project offensively, but there’s plenty of ability to work with this late in the draft.
Round 17 - Evan Chrest, RHP, Wharton HS (FL)
We’ll have to wait and see if Chrest is signable, but he fits alongside the club’s day one prep arm selections on pure talent if they can reel him in. He’s only 5’11” and sits around 90 MPH with the fastball, but gets ride and run on the heater and offers twitchy athleticism combined with on-mound fluidity. It’s a slight build that may not hold much more strength, but there should be at least a bit more velo available through mechanical cleanup. Chrest uses a lower arm slot, creating a very uncomfortable release when combined with his shorter stature. He’s a projection play who came on a bit late in the process, but has a weaker college commitment to Jacksonville and the Floridian may be more amenable to signing with his home state Marlins than some other clubs.
In addition to unique release characteristics, Chrest gets well above-average spin on his heater. The result is jumpy life that is far more perceptible to the naked eye than most fastballs. It remains to be seen exactly where the velo will land, but the secondary characteristics are good enough that he should be able to generate weak contact with the heater at a minimum. The headliner of his profile at present is an upper-70s slider with incredible depth and mostly vertical movement and some sweep. The pitch is a bit soft by pro standards at present, but can be plus at maturity with its tight, efficient shape. He will throw changeups on occasion at present and has already shown some promising feel for offspeed, so that part of his game should come together as well.
Most expected Chrest to head to college after he wasn’t selected on day two, but I wouldn’t count the Marlins out of these negotiations after their senior heavy strategy. He may be a bit of a slow play, but the developmental plan isn’t especially complicated as adding velo is the primary concern. While can’t blow you away at present, you’re not going to get anything straight when you step in the box against him, and the breaking ball could be pretty special if he can add a little bit of oomph to it. There’s potential for Chrest to profile towards the high end of the mid-rotation starter spectrum if he develops athletically and takes to mechanical adjustment.
Round 18 - Spencer Bramwell, C, Colorado Mesa
There was something in the water at Colorado Mesa this year. The Mavericks dominated the D-II Rocky Mountain Conference in 2022, putting together a 43-17 record behind some nutty offensive performances. The team’s top bat, Haydn McGeary, was probably the best surface stat performer in NCAA with a .481/.579/1.061 slash line and 35 home runs at primarily DH and was selected in the 15th round by the Cubs, but the team had a total of five full-time starters who OPS’d north of 1.000. Among them was primary catcher Spencer Bramwell, who achieved the feat for the third consecutive season (including an 18 game sample 2020) with a .371/.449/.747 line and 23 bombs, all career bests.
Bramwell played sparingly, and usually at third base, as a freshman in 2018 before moving behind the plate primarily going forward, but he has played both positions in all five of his college seasons including 17 starts there in 2022 when McGeary played behind the plate. I’m not sure what his throwing velocity looks like, but that kind of defensive deployment, even at D-II, suggests that the arm plays. He has never been an especially good hitter for contact, as even this year he ran a 15.9% K rate (19.7% in 2021), and the numbers suggest an aggressive approach is the main culprit. The power really popped as a senior, but Mesa hit 129 bombs as a team and his 23 were still only good enough for 3rd on the club, so it’s difficult to say exactly how real it is. This will likely be a low dollar signing, but the Marlins may like his defense behind the plate and if he can continue to get more selective at the dish there could be offensive improvement in the tank even at age 23.
Round 19 - Carmine Lane, C, South Florida
The Marlins plan to use Lane as a catcher. While the 21-year-old saw playing time at a total of six positions in college, catcher was not among them—he was the Bulls’ primary third baseman in 2022 but also got a healthy dose of run in the outfield as an underclassman and occasionally substituted elsewhere on the infield briefly. Lane has been a consistent performer for a tough USF squad for two consecutive years, posting slash lines of .307/.361/.496 and .332/.390/.523 with a total of 21 homers in 543 PA and 43 walks against 89 strikeouts.
Lane makes sense athletically behind the plate at 6’1”, 200 lbs with some short area burst and arm strength, and at 21.4 he’s got a bit of time to sharpen his skills. He has been a solid defender around the diamond for the Bulls and can fall back on a utility role, but the bat may not profile on the infield. Lane’s swing is pretty steep and he can loft even elevated pitches, but it’s a pull heavy style and aggressive approach that has limited his contact ability thus far. The upside in this selection essentially comes down to how the defensive conversion goes. It’s a creative way to take a stab in the late rounds.
Round 20 - Jack Gowen, RHP, Georgia
A four-year reliever for the Bulldogs, Gowen was a solid recruit but not somebody who stood out on the scouting radar in his high school days. He struggled in his first tastes of college ball as a freshman, but established himself as a high leverage option in 2021 with a 2.16 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 25 innings. His big delivery created some strike throwing issues, but also gave his stuff some beneficial secondary characteristics that made him especially difficult to square up.
Gowen’s skillset rounded into form this year in his age-22 season, as he was able to locate much more consistently than years past with 18 walks in 37 2⁄3 frames while maintaining his K rate with 50. Despite a tanky build at 6’1”, 220 lbs., Gowen really gets down the mound well and lets it go close to home plate, so his stuff comes out of a low release point with increased effective velocity.
As alluded to above, Gowen’s operation is of the pure reliever variety. It’s a long arm action with dramatic lower body movements, moving parts and stiffness throughout. Gowen does a good job of repeating, but he’s generally just letting it rip at max effort and is never going to be a guy who moves the ball around the zone at will. The fastball is currently parked in the low 90s and probably won’t get much firmer. It’s primarily backed up by a 12-6 curveball with solid but vanilla characteristics. He’s a middle relief prospect, but could move quickly as the fastball will play right out of the box. The former Savannah Banana is a fun pick in the final round.
After recent events in the Marlins’ front office, they entered this draft as a bit of a question mark, but it feels as though they have taken a very sensible approach. Pitching development has been the one piece of the organization that has worked very well in recent history, so going after three high upside prep arms plays to their strengths. This strategy did force them to go exceptionally senior-heavy on day two, but some of the players they got out of the senior sign bucket show real upside. The Berry pick isn’t exactly what I would’ve done, but I think going college bat up top was the right call. If he performs, they sign Chrest and hit on a value pick or two, this class does have the potential to be a home run, and even if it doesn’t work out it won’t be because it was short on talent.