Football great Steve Largent hails from Putnam City, Okla. So does former NBA star Alvan Adams. The Marlins are hoping left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney becomes the first big-time baseball player to emerge from there.
The Marlins on Monday took Heaney with the ninth overall pick in the draft.
“We took a polished college pitcher, a winner,” said Stan Meek, the Marlins vice president of scouting.
“He has ‘stuff’ and he has ‘now’ pitches, pitches in place. Our hope is that, in a couple of years, at least, we see him [at the major-league level].”
Heaney, who pitched at Oklahoma State, was regarded as the top college left-hander in a draft that lacked a sure-thing prospect. He’s the first college southpaw taken by the Marlins in the first round since Taylor Tankersley in 2004.
But he’s not the first lefty hurler from Oklahoma taken by the Marlins in the first round in recent years. The Marlins used their first-round pick in 2009 on another Oklahoma southpaw, Chad James. As it turns out, Heaney once beat James in a head-to-head showdown when both were in high school.
“We’ve seen him pitch all the way through high school,” Meek said.
Meek described Heaney as a “fastball-slider-change guy.”
Here’s what Baseball America had to say about Heaney:
“Scouts have raved about Heaney’s quick arm and clean, effortless delivery,” according to the magazine’s draft analysis of the pitcher. “The 6-foot-2, 174-pounder has added 2-3 mph and touches 95 mph. He not only throws strikes, but generates swings and misses. In a down year for left-handed pitching, Heaney is clearly the best college southpaw available.”
The first eight picks went pretty much as expected, Meek said. But when Mark Appel, a right-hander out of Stanford whom some analysts projected to go in the top two picks, remained undrafted after the first seven selections, Meek said consideration was given to taking him with the Marlins’ ninth pick.
Pittsburgh, picking eighth, snatched him just before the Marlins had a chance to get their hands on him.
“Outside of Appel, everything went as planned,” Meek said. “There were serious discussions regarding him.”
By taking a college-seasoned pitcher, the Marlins are hoping he will make the jump to the majors sooner rather than later.
“We sure hope we can move him faster than the normal guy,” Meek said.
Heaney, who was drafted low by Tampa Bay in 2009 but elected to go to college, said he’s ready to begin his pro career with an organization that has always had an affinity for Oklahoma pitching stars such as James, Josh Johnson and Brad Penny.
“I knew Miami had a lot of Oklahoma ties,” Heaney said. “But I was just as surprised as everyone else [with his spot in the draft].”