MIAMI -- If everything falls right, the 2014 First-Year Player Draft could become a franchise-changing, three-day event for the Marlins.
Not only are the Marlins primed to select an impact player with the second overall pick, they are also well positioned to stockpile early-round talent that will enable them to strengthen their overall system.
Miami certainly is in an enviable spot. The club has three of the first 43 choices, and five of the top 106, which carries the Draft through the supplemental third round.
Possessing so many high picks has kept Marlins vice president of scouting Stan Meek and the rest of the baseball operations staff on the move. President of baseball operations Michael Hill and general manager Dan Jennings also have been racking up plenty of travel miles, spanning the country to evaluate high school and college talent.
"Between all of us, I would guess we've probably logged hundreds of thousands of [air] miles," Meek said. "With that many picks, I know I've been out there more than I've ever been out in the spring."
The 2014 Draft will take place from today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network today at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
For the second pick alone, Marlins officials have scouted and circled back to scout many times the cream of the 2014 class. They've repeatedly seen pitchers Carlos Rodon (North Carolina State), Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic High, San Diego) and Tyler Kolek (Shepard High, Texas).
Catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson (Rancho Bernardo High, San Diego) also has received multiple looks by Miami officials.
"We have to be ready to go," Meek said. "We've got to be ready to get the job done."
For the projected top five or 10 picks, the Marlins have found themselves repeatedly bumping into the same personnel people from the other teams with high choices. The Astros pick No. 1 overall, while the White Sox (three), Cubs (four) and Twins (fifth) round out the top five.
"We're kind of running into the same guys," Meek said. "I think we're kind of fishing in the same pond with most of these teams. We run into them a lot. They see us."
The Marlins can't control what the Astros do with the top pick, but they can be ready to move forward once they're on the clock.
"We can't worry about what Houston does or whatever they're looking at," Meek said. "We've just got to line the players up like we think they fit and work off that, and be prepared no matter what happens."
Along with picking No. 2, the Marlins also have a compensatory first-round pick at No. 36. They received the 36th choice because they were unable to sign their 2013 pick, lefty Matt Krook, who didn't pass the physical and opted for college.
Miami also had a Competitive Balance Round A pick at No. 39 overall before trading that selection to the Pirates for right-hander Bryan Morris on Sunday.
The No. 43 overall pick for Miami is its second-round selection, and in the third round, the club is at No. 76 overall. The 105th pick is compensation for not signing 2013 third-rounder Ben DeLuzio.
Having so many picks comes at a cost.
Because of the extra choices, the Marlins' bonus pool figure is $12,741,700 -- second-highest in MLB, behind only the Astros. It was an MLB-high $14,199,300 before the Sunday's trade with Pittsburgh.
"We have those extra picks and we're picking so high," Meek said. "We have a lot of money to play with, and we plan on spending it. We plan on doing the best we can by the money. But the bottom line is it's the pick rather than the money that's the key. We're really going to focus on taking the best guy with every pick, and not worry about the dollar."
In about 50 words
Day One will be busy for Miami. It's a crucial day, because the organization possesses three of the first 43 picks. Along with having the No. 2 choice, the club also has a compensation pick at 36, and the No. 43 choice is Miami's second-round selection. Day One could impact the organization for years to come.
When in doubt, taking pitching has long been an organizational mantra. The way the Marlins have seen it, it doesn't matter if it's a college or high school arm. The club has had success in both areas. Jose Fernandez, you may recall, was picked out of high school in the first round in 2011, and in '12, Andrew Heaney was a college selection. Best available has been the philosophy in the past, and there is no reason to believe that will change this season.
Without a clear-cut No. 1 overall choice, the direction the Astros go with the top pick may not matter much on the Marlins' board. There are some dominant arms available at the top of the Draft, and indications are the Astros will go for one of them -- perhaps Rodon or Aiken. The Marlins have long liked Texas prep power-pitcher Tyler Kolek, who has wowed with his 100-mph fastball. As much as Miami covets pitching, at No. 2 they may find themselves throwing a curveball to the top of the Draft by going with the best position player on the board. Since the organization is thin on position players, Alex Jackson (catcher/outfielder/third baseman) may wind up being the choice. Kolek is the probable fallback plan. Those plans could change if the Astros pass on Rodon, who is the closest to being big league ready.
Marlins bonus pool
Possessing extra picks has dramatically boosted the Draft signing bonus pool. The Marlins, holding three of the first 43 choices, find themselves at the top of the list of teams with allotted money to spend.
The Marlins' pool figure is $12,741,700 to spend on players from rounds 1-10. It breaks down to an average of $1,061,808 per player.
The only other team with more allotted pool money to spend is the Astros, who have $13,362,200 to spend on 11 picks.
Miami's 12 selections in the first 10 rounds are tied for the most in the Majors. The Draft lasts 40 rounds. So there is a substantial financial commitment being made for this Draft.
For perspective, if the Marlins' overall spending reaches $15 million, it would approach the second-highest dollar amount ever paid by a team. The Nationals in 2011 shelled out $15,002,100 for all their Draft picks. The same year, the Pirates set a record at $17,005,700.
With so many high picks, the Marlins are set up to take the best position player available at No. 2. If they go that direction, they could use their next couple selections -- 36 and 43 -- to land a pitcher or two. Or they can land a power pitcher at No. 2, and seek positional help with those later picks. There is an organizational thought process to keep drafting pitchers because of need, even though the farm system is stocked with them. Fernandez's Tommy John surgery is a reminder how fast a high-end starter can go down. Also, because pitching is so coveted throughout the game, pitching prospects (after being drafted) could be used in potential trades for position players.
The Marlins trended toward college players in the first round in each of the past two Drafts. Heaney was the No. 9 overall pick out of Oklahoma State in 2012, and third baseman Colin Moran was picked sixth overall in 2013 out of North Carolina. For that trend to continue with the No. 2 overall pick this year, it would appear to only occur if Rodon from North Carolina State is bypassed by the Astros at No. 1. A surprise college player who could be on Miami's list is Trea Turner, Rodon's N.C. State teammate. Turner is a speedy shortstop who projects as a big league leadoff hitter, and perhaps a second baseman.
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY
Heaney could be days or weeks away from reaching the big leagues, just two years after being a first-round choice. The 23-year-old is ranked by MLB.com as the top lefty prospect in the game. He recently made the leap from Double-A to Triple-A and is currently part of the New Orleans rotation.
Adam Conley, a second-rounder out of Washington State in 2011, is a hard-throwing lefty at New Orleans. If not for an injury this season, Conley may have already been called up by Miami. In the second half, the southpaw could get the nod to pitch in either the Marlins' rotation or come out of the bullpen.
Steve Cishek has blossomed from a fifth-round pick in 2007 to becoming one of the most reliable closers in the National League.
Out of Carson-Newman College, the lanky right-hander took over the Marlins' closer's role from Heath Bell after the All-Star break in 2012, and he has locked down the position ever since.
Tom Koehler falls into the category of a "late bloomer," and his story is proof that you don't have to be taken in the first few rounds to make it at the highest level.
At 27 years old, the right-hander entered Spring Training without the guarantee of winning a roster or rotation spot. But from Day One in camp, the 18th-round Draft pick impressed. Through performance, he flat-out won the fifth-starter spot. And he's been one of Miami's most consistent starters.
A.J. Ramos, who has solidified a late-inning setup spot, was a 21st-rounder in 2009. The right-hander threw 80 innings of relief a year ago, and he is on pace for a similar amount this season.
In The Show
A year ago at Draft time, Christian Yelich was nursing an injury at Jacksonville. The outfielder then was ranked among the top prospects in the game, and he made his big league debut after the All-Star break in July.
Now, in his first full MLB season, Yelich is a regular with the Marlins, and the 22-year-old is a promising young outfielder hitting at the top of the order.
Fernandez, of course, is one of the true success stories in any sport. His path to the big leagues is well chronicled. The right-hander defected Cuba at age 15, and five years later, he was in the Majors. Fernandez, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, however, is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Marlins on Sunday gave one of their promising young catchers a big league look. After placing Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the seven-day concussion disabled list, Miami called up J.T. Realmuto from Double-A Jacksonville. Realmuto, a third-round pick in 2010, is making his MLB debut.
The Marlins' recent top picks
2013: Colin Moran, 3B, Class A Jupiter
2012: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Triple-A New Orleans
2011: Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins (disabled list)
2010: Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
2009: Chad James, LHP, No longer in organization