Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer each were special talents from South Florida scooped up by other clubs before the Marlins had the chance to keep them in their hometown.
The Marlins do have a shot, however, to land the next big thing this year.
As the franchise approaches its first draft under new ownership and trying to leave years of disappointing draft picks behind them, it is looking for the most impactful player it can find.
Triston Casas, a 6-4, 245-pound power-hitting lefty corner infielder from Plantation American Heritage, just might be that type of player.
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Casas, rated the No. 20 overall draft prospect by MLBPipeline.com, has the combination of power to all fields as a lefty, the agility for a player his size and the off field intangibles according to some to become a franchise player for whichever franchise selects him.
Casas, who will be attending the draft at MLB’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, New Jersey, has worked out for numerous clubs including most recently the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays and the Marlins.
While Casas, also a University of Miami signee, is eagerly anticipating the chance to pursue his dream of playing major league baseball, he acknowledged that playing for the hometown Marlins would be something he’d cherish.
“I’ve been thinking about it more and more and for me, it would be a dream come true,” Casas said. “I live basically in between their spring training facility [in Jupiter] and their home ballpark. So to potentially have the chance to move up in their system and play in front of friends and family every day it would be a dream come true to be honest. I think I’ve done everything I can to impress them and their scouts, but if they do pick me it would be something I enjoy.”
Ultimately, the Red Sox drafted Casas with the 26th pick in the first round Monday night.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo originally had the Marlins picking Casas in one of his recent mock drafts, although in one released Wednesday he had Miami taking outfield prospect Connor Scott of Plant High in Tampa, and Casas going to the Rays with the No. 16 selection. The Marlins did take Scott.
The Marlins have the No. 13 pick in the first round, which has a slotted value of $4,038,200, and are looking to improve their fortunes with recent top picks. The Marlins’ past three first round picks – pitchers Tyler Kolek, Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers – have yet to advance past the low-A Greensboro level for different reasons.
While pitching is always a hot commodity and solid college options figure to be available at that slot, the Marlins could opt to take a player like Casas, who many scouts believe has that rare combination of power, defensive ability and off the field intangibles to make him a centerpiece player.
“The value of the pick is the impact that it brings to this organization,” said Stan Meek, the Marlins Vice President of Scouting. “What we’re trying to do is try to find the most impact we can for this organization as we’re going through the process of building whether it’s a high school guy or a college guy that really fits what we think what will be an impactful part of our organization going forward.”
Casas, 18, has been making an impact since he was 16 and became the youngest player on the USA National team. He has since helped the USA 18-under team win three gold medals, winning the Pan American championship in Monterrey, Mexico in 2016 and the U-18 Baseball World Cup after which he was named the WBSC International Player of the Year.
“He can play multiple positions and his character and maturity are second to none,” said American Heritage coach and former Marlins outfielder Bruce Aven. “His power to all fields separates him from everybody. When you’re a senior in high school and you can hit balls further than right-handers going opposite field it makes you pretty special.”
Casas is rated a top-two power hitter among high school players, and has shown remarkable power to all fields from the left side of the plate through his career at American Heritage reminiscent of Hosmer, who has become a World Series champion and All-Star in the decade since graduating from their fellow alma mater.
And Hosmer has been a great guide for Casas along the way with the two training together in the offseason the past couple of years.
“Mr. Hosmer has been very kind to me and welcomes me to his home,” Casas said. “He’s given me advice on how to handle this process. I consider him one of my mentors. I’ve taken some swings at his batting cage at his house with him, but mostly we just talk baseball, talk life, that kind of thing.”
Casas' father, Jose, who has a construction and trucking company, and his grandmother, Magaly, were his biggest supporters growing up. His dad didn't want him to go into the family business once he developed his baseball talent.
“It all started with my dad,” Casas said. “He got it from his dad. The Casas family are pretty hard workers and I’m nobody to end that tradition. I just want to make my family proud and keep their name going.”
Casas has impressed with his power, hitting balls over 400 feet and at exit velocities as high as 103 mph during his senior year according to Perfect Game. His plus-arm could give him the chance to also play third base at the major-league level someday. Casas has shown that strong arm on the mound in high school with a fastball that has consistently touched 92 mph.
Casas also has handled the spotlight that has come with being one of the country’s top prospects.
“I’ve never been a guy to shy away from the limelight, but I’ve never had a problem with being the star on a team and being a guy that everyone looks to perform well and be that clutch player,” Casas said. “I won’t say I like the attention, but I don’t have a problem being considered that because that’s what I work for, to be the best.”
Casas balances that confidence of a veteran with remarkable humility and willingness to help his teammates, qualities that Aven thinks could make him a great clubhouse leader one day.
“He has never given me any kind of attitude or acted like he’s better than everybody else,” Aven said. “You ask him to run and he’s the first one in line trying to run faster than everybody else. He’s never told me, 'Coach, I can’t play shortstop because scouts are looking at me at third or first. He just says, ‘I’ll play wherever you need me.’
“He’s not only going to be a great player, but a great person and a great ambassador for a team.”