Spending lavishly on free agents was a bust for the Marlins.
Now, after abandoning their quick-fix strategy of acquiring ready-made players with cash, the Marlins are going back to their roots of stockpiling fledgling talent through the draft.
“We tried the free agent thing,” said Stan Meek, the Marlins director of scouting. “It didn’t seem to fly, so we’re back doing what we’ve always done, which is scout the best [amateur] players and try to find impact there.”
For the Marlins, that process begins Thursday with the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
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The Marlins have not just the sixth overall pick, but also five of the first 80 selections.
The Marlins obtained two of their picks — the 35th and 73rd — in the Gaby Sanchez trade with the Pirates last season and Omar Infante/Anibal Sanchez trade with the Tigers.
“Anytime you get extra picks, you could hit a real big player,” Meek said.
Though there is no can’t-miss prospect in this year’s draft — no Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper, for example — there is enough talent that the Marlins should get their hands on someone who can help them eventually.
According to multiple sources, they would prefer that help to come sooner rather than later, which is why they could have their eye on one of several college players.
And given their lack of organizational depth at the hot corner, the Marlins would probably like to get their hands on one of two college third basemen, San Diego’s Kris Bryant or North Carolina’s Colin Moran. Both are power hitters, and the Marlins don’t seem put off about questions concerning their defensive skills.
“I would say both of those guys, in my opinion, would have a better-than-average chance to stay at third,” Meek said. “They’re both fairly athletic.”
But there is also a strong chance both could be off the board by the time it’s the Marlins’ turn to pick.
Two players certain to be gone are college pitchers Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray, who are expected to be taken within the first three picks. Beyond that, it gets murky.
As Meek said, “It’s an uncertain draft.”
If neither Bryant nor Moran falls to them, the Marlins could go after University of Nevada pitcher Braden Shipley.
Or they could take one of two prep outfielders from Georgia, Austin Meadows or Clint Frazier. The Marlins saw the two work out and were impressed.
“Both of those guys are athletic,” Meek said. “The left-handed guy [Meadows] is a little bit bigger kid, plays a little differently than Frazier.
“But they’re both speed/power players. They’re two good-looking high school kids.”
And Meek said the Marlins aren’t against taking a high school player even knowing their development could take more time.
“I don’t see us taking a college guy just to take a college guy,” Meek said.
On the other hand, Meek acknowledged that “it’s a very small field of high school guys that I would consider” with the team’s first pick.
One thing the Marlins will try to avoid, Meek said, is drafting a player just to fit a current need.
The Marlins appear to be flush with outfielders throughout their system at the moment. But that wouldn’t stop them from drafting one, or drafting another player at a premium position.
“You can never have too much pitching,” Meek said. “You can never have too many shortstops. You can never have too much power. So anytime you can find those things in the draft and you think it’s better than the next thing, you take it.”
The bottom line, Meek said, is finding impact.
“My thing is, we don’t sign a lot of free agents,” he said. “If you don’t get impact through the draft for us, it’s going to be tough. We have to find impact in the draft. So we’re going to try to go with impact players at the top of the draft.”