Miami Marlins draft spotlight: Gunner Leger, 26th round

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MIAMI, FL - MARCH 06: A general view of the new Marlins Ballpark shot throught a fishtank behind home plate during a game between the Miami Marlins and the University of Miami Hurricanes at Marlins Park on March 6, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 06: A general view of the new Marlins Ballpark shot throught a fishtank behind home plate during a game between the Miami Marlins and the University of Miami Hurricanes at Marlins Park on March 6, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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The Miami Marlins thought Gunner Leger was ready to make the jump to professional baseball. After taking him in the 26th round, he decided not to sign.

It’s easy to understand why the Miami Marlins wanted gunner Leger to begin with. The aptly named left-handed pitcher isn’t short on potential. Many thought he’d be taken earlier in the draft, and there is a “chicken or the egg” scenario at play here.

His decision to return to college for his senior season has a lot to do with where he was selected in the draft. And where he was selected has a lot to do with teams knowing he was keen to return to school. With another stellar season, he could be taken in the first 10 rounds in 2018.

The Miami Marlins wouldn’t complain if he fell to them again.

Leger was a Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2017, and an All-American in the conference. Pitching to a 1.97 ERA, he was a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes award; the award given to the best amateur baseball player in the United States.

Brendan McKay beat out Leger for the award.

Leger announced that he’d be returning to play for the University of Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns via his personal Twitter page:

Even aware that he wasn’t going to sign, the Miami Marlins decided to take a chance at signing Leger. They were likely hoping that they could sway him with a sizable signing bonus, much the way they did with Matt Givin earlier in the draft.

No dice. Leger stuck to his guns and the Miami Marlins missed out on an excellent left-handed arm that would have been ready relatively soon.

What it means for the Miami Marlins

It doesn’t mean much, really. Elsewhere in the draft, the Marlins organization was very careful not to gamble on players who might not sign. They thought Leger would be worth the risk in the 26th round, which remains a prudent decision even though it didn’t work out.

Leger marks the first player in the 2017 Miami draft class that didn’t sign with the team. That’s unusual for the Marlins, who typically like to draft young, high-school prep pitchers with a lot of velocity. Their lack of depth forced them to play it safe in 2017.

Next: Miami Marlins draft spotlight: Evan Estes, 25th round

If the Miami Marlins liked Leger enough to draft him with an outside chance of signing, they might take him again in 2018. It’ll probably be much earlier in the draft next year though. Without fear of him opting to return to school, teams will be eager to take him on the second day of the draft.

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