The stakes are always high when it comes to making the right picks in the First-Year Player Draft. The Marlins might be feeling just a little more pressure than usual when the draft begins today (7 p.m., MLB Network).
Although this year’s draft class lacks an obvious superstar-in-waiting, the Marlins will have five of the first 80 overall picks, including the sixth choice and two before the start of the second round.
The Marlins and Yankees each have four of the first 73 selections.
“Any time you get extra picks, boy, you can hit a real big player,’’ said Stan Meek, Miami’s vice president of scouting. “You keep shooting at the big every time, and if you get more shots, the better chance you get.’’
But having an abundance of early picks doesn’t always guarantee success. In 2005, the Marlins had five picks before the second round, including Palm Beach Gardens High School pitcher Chris Volstad.
Volstad, one of the team’s three first-round picks that year, went 32-39 for the Marlins from 2008-11 before being traded to the Cubs. Today, none of those five are still in the Marlins’ organization.
After the Marlins lost 93 games and finished in last place in 2012, owner Jeffrey Loria took note of the organization’s lean farm system.
“We didn’t have people in our system that we could call up last year,’’ Loria said in February in his first public comments after the Marlins’ 12-player trade with Toronto in November.
“We haven’t had great luck from 2002 to 2008 or ‘09 with the exception of Mike Stanton. We brought Josh Johnson along and a couple of other guys, but I can give the names of (first-round picks) who never made it. … (Jeremy) Hermida didn’t work out, Jeff Allison didn’t work out, (Brett) Sinkbeil didn’t work out. Volstad came here, wonderful kid, terrific guy, didn’t really work out that well for us.’’
The trade with Toronto helped the Marlins replenish their farm system because they acquired three prospects: outfielder Jake Marisnick and pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino.
Infielder Derek Dietrich — now Miami’s starting second baseman — was acquired from Tampa in the trade for Yunel Escobar, who initially came over in that Toronto trade.
Ideally, though, the Marlins want to focus on developing their own home-grown players. They are well-positioned to make strides today with five of the first 80 overall picks – sixth, 35th, 44th, 73rd and 80th.
The last time Miami picked as high as sixth overall was in 2008. They selected catcher Kyle Skipworth, right after the San Francisco Giants took Buster Posey with the fifth pick. Skipworth is currently at Class AAA New Orleans.
The Marlins would love a power-hitting third baseman, but two college players who fit that profile will likely be gone before the sixth pick — Kris Bryant (San Diego) and Colin Moran (North Carolina). The Astros could take Moran with the first overall pick.
Two high school pitchers might be possibilities: right-hander Kohl Stewart from Texas and left-hander Trey Ball from Indiana.
A mock draft by Baseball America had the Marlins picking pitcher Braden Shipley, a Nevada right-hander whose fastball has been clocked at 98 mph. The magazine ranked Shipley as the eighth-best player available.
If the Marlins’ top picks don’t end up fitting the organization’s needs, they can ultimately help acquire other players through trades.
“To me, the draft is about commodities. You’re acquiring commodities. The better commodity you acquire, the better chance you move for something that fits you,’’ Meek said.
Locals who might go early: Oral Roberts right-hander Alex ‘Chi Chi’ Gonzalez, who played at Boca Raton, is projected as a first-rounder by many outlets. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he throws four pitches well, including a low-90s fastball and a nasty slider. Gonzalez went 9-5 with a 1.83 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 113.1 innings as a junior this season. He walked just 27 batters. Florida right-hander Jonathan Crawford, of Okeechobee, has impressed scouts with his upper-90s fastball and slider combination, but lacks a deep repertoire and could start his pro career as a reliever. He went 3-6 with a 3.84 ERA as a junior, striking out a team-high 69 batters in 86.2 innings.
Staff writer Matt Porter contributed to this report