Baseball

Coral Gables catcher Elih Marrero — son of Eli — might follow dad’s path in MLB Draft

All-Dade athlete Elih Morrero is photographed in the Miami Herald studio on May 16, 2014.
All-Dade athlete Elih Morrero is photographed in the Miami Herald studio on May 16, 2014. MIAMI HERALD

History appears on the verge of repeating itself – with eerily similar circumstances – when the MLB draft begins on Monday.

It all started for catcher Eli Marrero when the St. Louis Cardinals’ made him their third-round pick out of Coral Gables High in 1993.

Now, 22 years later, another catcher out of Coral Gables – his son, Elih Marrero – is ranked No. 124 among draft-eligible prospects, which means a top-three-round selection is within his reach.

Baseball America ranks Marrero as "one of the best defensive catchers in the high school class," with above average arm strength and good receiving skills.

A 5-foot-10 switch-hitter with a line-drive swing, Marrero has competed tor Team USA’s 18-Under team and has a scholarship to play for Mississippi State in case he does not come to financial terms with the organization that drafts him.

It will be interesting to see if Marrero is drafted by the Reds, where his father – who caught a no-hitter during a 10-year major-league career – is now a coach (Class-A ball).

"Elih’s No 1 goal has been to outdo his dad and get drafted higher," Coral Gables Coach Phil Wisser said. "That will be tough to do, but the whole family is excited."

Coral Gables has another top prospect in right-handed pitcher Andrew Cabezas, a Miami Hurricanes recruit who is ranked No. 489 by Baseball America.

"If he were 6-foot-1 instead of 5-10, he’d get drafted in the first two rounds," Wisser said. "His stuff – fastball (91-95 mph), slider and changeup – is as good as the guys in the top two rounds, and he has a bulldog mentality."

Wisser said that if Cabezas does not sign a pro deal he could be a weekend starter as a Canes freshman, ultimately working his way to the first couple of rounds of the draft by his junior year.

Nationally, this draft figures to be dominated by Vanderbilt and shortstops. Three of the top four prospects are shortstops. And three of the top 12 prospects are from Vandy, including shortstop Dansby Swanson, who could go first overall.

Locally, this is a subpar year for talent, at least compared to what the area has produced in recent years.

Besides Marrero and Cabezas, 10 other players with local ties cracked Baseball America’s list of top 500 prospects. Here they are, keeping in mind that the lower a player is drafted, the less money he would get to sign and the more likely he is to play college ball next season:

No. 73: Canes left-hander Andrew Suarez, who turned down the Washington Nationals last year after they picked him in the second round. He’s had a strong year (9-1, 2.96 ERA).

No. 103: Canes third baseman David Thompson, who has finally avoided injuries, put together a monster year – hitting 19 homers and leading the nation with 87 RBI. His ultimate position could be first base or the outfield, but it’s his bat that tantalizes.

No. 189: Mater Academy left fielder Danny Reyes is a Florida Gators signee with rare power from the right side. In just four years, Mater has produced three star outfielders: Albert Almora, (sixth overall pick in 2012), Willie Abreu (now at Miami) and Reyes.

No. 281: Hurricanes infielder George Iskenderian is similar to Thompson in that his main tool is his bat. Iskenderian led Miami in hitting (.367) and steals (23 in 25 attempts).

No. 298: St. Thomas Aquinas center fielder Jawuan Harris hit .440 and led Broward County with 44 steals. He has a scholarship to play football (as a wide receiver) and baseball at Rutgers.

No. 319: Westminster Christian, which is Thompson’s alma mater, has another power-hitting third baseman in Julian Infante, who has committed to Vanderbilt.

No. 345: Canes catcher Garrett Kennedy is a polished defensive player who has had a breakout offensive season (.329, 7 homers, 51 RBI, .440 on-base percentage).

No. 369: Defensive-minded catcher Danny De La Calle played at Ferguson High and Miami Dade College before becoming a starter at Florida State (.251, 8 homers, 35 RBI this season) .

No. 412: Right-hander Ryan Castellanos won three state titles at McCarthy, signed with Illinois and transferred to Nova Southeastern, where he went 9-3 with a 3.23 ERA this season. He has good size (6-3, 220) and throws 88-92 mph.

No. 493: Canes left-hander Danny Garcia, a draft-eligible sophomore, throws 88-92 mph and went 7-1 with a 3.25 ERA as Miami’s fourth starter this season.

Among the local college players who figure to get drafted but did not make Baseball America’s top 500 are FIU first baseman Edwin Rios; FIU right-handed reliever Danny Dopico; Miami shortstop Brandon Gomez; NSU outfielder Justin Garcia; Barry shortstop, J.C. Cardenas and St. Thomas outfielder Jerry Downs.

Meanwhile, Calusa Prep, which is not known as a baseball power, has a pair of intriguing right-handed pitchers from the Dominican Republic, Hector Moreta and Luis Rodriguez.

Moreta, with a mid-90s fastball, is the better prospect, but Rodriguez (low 90s) is not far behind.

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