Less than a year after trading their entire starting outfield, the Marlins have made efforts to add depth and athleticism to that unit both at the major league and minor league levels.
They hope they gave that unit another big long-term boost Monday night.
The Marlins selected Connor Scott, a highly-touted outfielder from Plant High in Tampa with the 13th overall pick in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
Scott a 6-4, 180-pound left-handed batter, who was also a pitcher in high school, is a University of Florida commitment, and was ranked No. 18 overall by MLBPipeline.com and the third highest outfield prospect by Baseball America.
"As you line up the board and identify players who you think will impact your organization, we couldn't have been happier that Connor was available," Marlins President of Baseball Operations Mike Hill said. "He's the complete package in our eyes. He's a speed and power package that we believe will impact both sides of the ball."
Shortly after making the pick, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter called Scott to personally congratulate him.
Scott is the first pick for the Marlins under their new ownership group.
The Marlins, who used their first round pick on a high school player for the fifth consecutive year, targeted players who could add organizational depth and athleticism at key positions.
The clubs' previous five first round picks have either never made it or have yet to make it to their major league roster for different reasons.
All three players the Marlins took on Monday beginning with Scott and continuing with shortstop Osiris Johnson (53rd overall) and catcher Will Banfield (69th overall) are regarded for their athleticism at their respective positions.
"In our evaluation we took the most impactful player," Hill said. "Connor checked all the boxes from our standpoint."
Scott, who is the first outfielder selected in the first round by the Marlins since Christian Yelich in 2010, has drawn comparisons to Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer as well as Astros outfield prospect Kyle Tucker, who also went to Plant and was selected in the first round in 2015.
Scott figures to fit the mold of speedy, strong defensive outfielders such as Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra, Brian Miller and Braxton Lee that the Marlins have added to their system over the past year.
Hill sees Scott as a future center fielder and compared his combination of power, speed and defensive ability to a left-handed version of Brinson - their current starting center fielder.
Scouts have regarded Scott’s speed both in the outfield and on the base paths as a strong arm. Scott’s fastball on the mound has touched 93 mph and scouts have regarded his curveball highly.
Scott hit .526 with five home runs in 20 games this season for Plant and went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 23 innings on the mound. Scott hit .424 over 72 games in three years in high school.
"In Connor, we were so excited because you're talking about an above average runner that has an above average bat and is going to hit for power," Hill said. "At spacious Marlins Park, you have to cover ground and to know that we've got a guy with his skill set, we couldn't be happier."
In advance of the draft, the Marlins made it clear they hoped to draft the "most impactful" player possible to their franchise with their first round pick regardless of whether it would be a high school or college player. As the Marlins got closer to making their pick in the first round, tempting college pitching options such as Stetson University's Logan Gilbert, whom the Seattle Mariners took with the following pick at No. 14, were on the board.
Scott is the first high school player taken from a Tampa High School since the Marlins drafted the late Jose Fernandez in 2011 out of Alonso High.
Hill said he was confident the Marlins will be able to sign Scott. The value of the 13th pick was slotted at $4,038,200.
"We'll sit down with his representatives and we're hopeful he wants to be a Miami Marlin and start his professional career as soon as possible," Hill said.
▪ The Marlins picked Johnson, a 17-year old shortstop out of Encinal High School in California (former Marlins' pitcher Dontrelle Willis' alma mater) in the second round.
Johnson (6-0, 180), a second cousin of former Philadelphia Phillies star shortstop Jimmy Rollins and a cousin of former major-league outfielder Tony Tarasco, is a Cal State Fullerton signee and was rated No. 103 overall by MLBPipeline.com.
A primarily righty bat, Johnson hit .535 with six home runs his senior season.
“Osiris Johnson is a player we’ve had our eye on since last summer,” said Gary Denbo, Marlins Vice President of Player Development and Scouting. “He has improved substantially over the spring. Osiris is a premium athlete with plus speed and potential for power. We feel he has the tools to be an everyday major league shortstop. He has the potential to be a five-tool player and we’re excited to add him, another middle of the field player to our lineups.”
▪ With their pick in Competitive Balance Round B (69th overall), the Marlins chose Banfield from Brookwood High in Georgia, who is also a Vanderbilt University signee.
MLB.com said Banfield, an 18-year old, may have the highest defensive ceiling of any catcher in the draft.
“He’s an outstanding defensive catcher which is something we really value,” Denbo said. “His throwing arm was among the best in the draft this year for catchers around the plate. We have a guy that’s a potential team leader. He plays the game the right way. He plays it hard and he does a great job behind the plate calling pitches. His defensive ability we felt was one of the best of any catcher in the draft this year."