The Marlins have frequently been vilified by their fans as a team that is unsuccessful at drafting. They have whiffed on a large number of first round picks, which is a no-no if you’re a team in the Marlins’ financial situation. But the draft is a crapshoot anyway, and many first round picks never pan out. The Marlins have, of course, hit the nail on the head with some recent picks – Jose Fernandez is an All Star, Christian Yelich and Andrew Heaney look to be the real deal, and second round pick Giancarlo Stanton is, of course, a superstar when he’s healthy.
This year’s first round draft pick, Colin Moran, looks to be a legitimate prospect in his own right. As we approach the signing deadline, I have been looking over the rest of this year’s picks. I have been reading many scouting reports and I find myself encouraged at some of the talent the team has inked from the later rounds of this year’s class. Sure, talent needs to translate to the pros, but despite the harsh words it receives for its whiffs on Jeremy Hermida and Chris Volstad and Kyle Skipworth (who still has a shot at having a major league career), the team rarely receives accolades for its late-round drafting acumen. In general, if a player from a later round even makes the major leagues, it’s considered a success. The Marlins have done a pretty good job of identifying contributors late in the draft, many of whom have surpassed first round talent from the draft.
Beginning in 2005, the Marlins started a run of drafting at least one player in the late rounds who ended up being a contributor to the big league club. In the 22nd round of that year’s draft, the Marlins selected Logan Morrison. Morrison’s career has not been quite what the Marlins and their fans have expected thus far, but he has dealt with a good amount of injuries, and appears to be back on pace thus far this season. Amazingly, Morrison wasn’t the best draft pick of that 22nd round, as Tommy Hanson and Jaime Garcia were both selected toward the end of what is almost certainly the best 22nd round in draft history. By comparison, 3 players from the 21st round have made the majors – Daniel Adams, Neil Wagner, and Ryan Rohlinger – and they have combined for a -1.2 WAR in their careers.
2006 yielded an even later dividend, as the Marlins selected Alex Sanabia in the 32nd round. It seems as if Sanabia has been around forever, but he is still young – just 24 years old – and owns a 4.15 career ERA in 138.2 innings. He has already contributed 0.7 wins above replacement to the Marlins, and on such a young team, he always has the opportunity to contribute more. No other 32nd round pick from that draft has reached the majors.
In 2007, the Marlins drafted Steve Cishek in the fifth round. Although the fifth round may not seem late, not many players drafted that low make the majors, let alone have a successful career as a closer, which it appears Cishek has begun. Twelve other players from the fifth round in 2007 have made the majors, and they have combined for a 1.0 WAR. Cishek has a 3.2 WAR. The next highest individual player, Nate Jones of the White Sox, has a 2.6 WAR. Cishek has had considerably more success than many pitchers drafted in the first round of that draft – Daniel Moskos, Phillippe Aumont, Blake Beavan, Joe Savery, Aaron Poreda, Clayton Mortensen, and Andrew Brackman are just a few of the highly-heralded pitchers drafted in the first round in 2007 with lower career WARs than Cishek. Chris Withrow, Tim Alderson, Nick Schmidt, Michael Main, and Josh Smoker read as a list of one-time top prospects who have yet to reach the major leagues – and they were all selected 4 rounds before Cishek.
Beyond 2007, the Marlins have drafted some players who have yet to make a significant impact but are well on their way. These drafts are by and large too recent to judge entirely, but the Marlins have shown that they have a few players who will continue their line of late-round success. In 2008 the Marlins selected Dan Jennings in the 9th round. Jennings has become a contributor to the Marlins bullpen, posting a 0.7 WAR over his young career thus far, and looks to be on the path of being a successful LOOGY. The only other major league contributions from that year’s 9th round have come from Matt Hague, Ryan Verdugo, and Dave Sappelt, who have combined for a -0.3 WAR. 18th round pick Tom Koehler has seen some time in the rotation this year, and will likely get another shot after the All-Star Break. The 2009 draft has already yielded reliever A.J. Ramos from the 21st round. While no late-round players from the 2010 draft class and beyond have made the majors with the Marlins yet, there are a few who appear poised to make it to the show in the next few seasons.