The vibes around Major League Baseball aren’t very positive currently. The possibility of no baseball season in 2020 gets bigger by the day. However, there’ll still be at least one MLB-sanctioned event this summer as the 2020 MLB Draft will be held virtually on June 10th and June 11th.
The Miami Marlins are one of the teams in an interesting situation entering the draft. In a reduced five-round format, the first-round selections will become as crucial as ever. This means an even bigger advantage for teams with early picks in Round One. The Marlins are one of the clubs that are ready to exploit that advantage with the third overall pick on Night One.
This year, the Marlins have their highest draft pick since the 2014 edition of the draft. It saw them pick Texas high school pitcher Tyler Kolek who hasn’t advanced further than Single-A in five seasons with the organization. Nearly half of their first-round selections during the past decade have stuck in the league for some time. However, Josh Naylor, Andrew Heaney, Colin Moran, and Christian Yelich were traded in the process and are no longer with the team. Meanwhile, Jose Fernandez, the 14th pick in 2011, proved to display a terrific turnout leading the Miami rotation before he tragically died in 2016.
With the third top-three pick in franchise history, the Marlins have a diverse choice but one name, in particular, stands taller than the rest. It could continue the trend of what has become a dominant class of Marlins pitchers coming from the farm system.
Without further ado, here’s all you need to know about the Marlins ahead of the 2020 MLB Draft.
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Round One: Asa Lacy, RHP, Texas A&M
The Aggies’ right-hander is currently the clear-cut favorite to land with the Marlins with Pick 3. Top prospect Spencer Torkelson would be a sensational addition and a future star to watch at first base. However, it doesn’t look like he could fall off the top spot so he seems like a future Detriot Tiger. The same goes for Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin and the Baltimore Orioles.
So that takes us to Lacy. Last year, during his first campaign as a full-time starting pitcher, Lacy dominated the SEC as a part of a very strong A&M rotation. Perhaps in the shadow of fellow pitcher John Doxakis, Lacy still posted an ERA of 2.13 and finished fourth conference-wise in strikeouts (116). It was his second year with a sub-3.00 ERA and he made a vital statement. That start of this season, however, may have elevated his value through the roof even more.
Lacy destroyed opponents in inter-conference play in each of his four starts in 2020. An eye-opening indicator of that is the 46 strikeouts he recorded in that span, as well as his 0.75 ERA. In his last start this spring, he threw seven scoreless innings in what would eventually turn out to be an 8-3 win over New Mexico State.
Heading into his junior year, the only negative side of the season stoppage for Lacy is that he wasn’t able to increase his value even more and lock up the first overall spot. Lacy has been one of the best starters in college baseball for the last two seasons and is perhaps the best prospect at this point in the draft.
The Marlins farm system has been very successful in developing pitchers in the past few years. All five current members of the rotation have either debuted for or came in as prospects for the Marlins. Furthermore, other examples include Sixto Sanchez and Trevor Rogers who have flourished in the minors.
Details: According to MLB Pipeline, his signature pitch is a 90-92-mph fastball, plus a curveball and a “harder slider “in the low 80s. His most notable problem is control, averaging 4.4 walks per nine innings in 2019.
Alternatives: If the Marlins want to go in a different direction, the best options past Lacy are CF Zac Veen (FL HS) and 2B Nick Gonzalez (New Mexico State). If they elect to stay in the pitching department, MLB’s next highest-ranked prospect is Georgia’s Emerson Hancock.
On the one hand, Veen is a liability as a high-schooler. On the other hand, Gonzalez is a terrific hitter but Lacy is the better pick at No. 3.
Three Late-Round Prospects
Aaron Sabato, First Baseman, North Carolina
Sabato spent two years at North Carolina and was a walk-drawing machine. However, his on-base percentage of .453 in more than 230 plate appearances last year wasn’t the only feat he accomplished. He also posted a slugging percentage of .696 plus 63 RBI, in addition to hitting 18 homers. Finished the 2019 campaign seventh in OBP and second in OPS (1.149) in the ACC. He started the 2020 season drawing walks and hitting extra-base hits at even higher rates.
In the Marlins’ Top 30 Prospect List, Lewin Diaz (No. 9) is the only first baseman.
Why him: When the Marlins are on the clock with one of the first picks of Day Two, he could be the best hitter on the board.
Jeff Criswell, RHP, Michigan
Criswell was one of the best starters in the Big Ten last year. Moreover, he was a huge reason why the Wolverines reached the finals of the College World Series. The former 35th-round Tigers pick posted a 2.72 ERA with team-leading 116 strikeouts, ranking third in the conference.
Why him: A weak start to the 2020 season hurt Criswell’s value in the draft. In four starts, he had an ERA of 4.50 and allowed 12 earned runs. This is almost half of his total last year. However, the average statistical values of the three true outcomes (BB/9, K/9, HR/9) have all kept the same level or even improved in a good way. Therefore, the Marlins could be getting a bargain in the middle rounds.
Jordan Nwogu, Outfielder, Michigan
Nwogu has been Michigan’s best hitter for the last two seasons. His success peaked last year when he batted .321 with an OBP of .435 and an SLG of .557 in nearly 300 plate appearances. As MLB Pipeline notes, “he has an even bigger upside than last year’s pick out of Ann Arbor Jordan Brewer”.
Why him: Firstly, the Marlins farm system could use another high-profile, high-ceiling outfielder. Secondly, his busy workload in the past two seasons legitimizes his impressive statistical resume of over-the-top average figures. All of that makes him a good value pick for his projected position of Pick 108.
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