Video: Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez
The Marlins found generational players in the first round of the amateur draft in Christian Yelich in 2010 and the late, great Jose Fernandez in 2011.
There has been far less success since, the byproduct of misevaluations, trades and bad luck.
But there is some hope that a few of these picks will develop.
The left-handers selected in back-to-back drafts — Braxton Garrett in 2016 and Trevor Rogers in 2017 — are part of a promising rotation at Single A Jupiter.
Garrett, selected seventh in the 2016 MLB Draft, debuted in 2017 but pitched in only four games after signing before requiring Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him for the remainder of 2017 and all of 2018.
He’s working his way back at Class A Jupiter and is 0-2 with a 3.10 ERA in six starts. He has allowed 21 hits and 13 walks in 29 innings, with 40 strikeouts (an encouraging number coming off Tommy John).
Baseball America rated him 76th among all prospects before the Tommy John surgery. He’s still a premier talent with a high ceiling.
“He’s close [to his old velocity],” Marlins president/baseball operations Mike Hill said recently. “I saw him in high school in Alabama, and I want to say he was up to 94-95. He may flash that now but he’s probably been pitching in the 92, 93 range.”
Rogers, the cousin of former Marlins outfielder Cody Ross, was selected 13th overall by the Marlins in 2017 draft after a spectacular prep career in New Mexico.
He struggled last season, going 2-7 with a 5.82 ERA in low-level Class A Greensboro (North Carolina), relinquishing 113 baserunners in 72 2/3 innings, with 85 strikeouts.
He has been better this season, with a 2.58 ERA in seven starts. He’s 1-3, with 43 hits and 10 walks allowed in 38 1/3 innings, with 35 strikeouts.
“He’s turned into a man,” Hill said. “You can see that physically and mentally where he’s grown so much with every aspect of who he is. You see that with young players as they develop. Throws 97. Three pitches. It’s a level of consistency every young pitcher has to get.”
As for last year’s first-round pick, outfielder Connor Scott had back-to-back two-hit games last week. But for the season, the former 13th overall pick is hitting only .190 with 12 RBI and 28 strikeouts in 126 at-bats at Single A Clinton (Iowa). He’s a .207 hitter in 82 career minor-league games.
The Marlins say they need to be patient, considering he’s only 19 and a year out of high school.
“We knew there would be adjustments his first full season,” Hill said. “Our development staff is extremely happy with his progress and confident he will continue on his path to being a successful major league player.”
Yelich, of course, won a National League MVP for Milwaukee last season, nine months after the Marlins traded him. Fernandez died in a September 2016 boating accident.
Here’s a look at how the other Marlins’ first-round picks have fared since the Yelich/Fernandez picks:
▪ 2012: Left-hander Andrew Heaney, traded in the Dee Gordon deal, is on the Angels’ disabled list with arm problems. The Marlins ultimately flipped Gordon to Seattle for several prospects, including promising right-hander Nick Neidert.
Heaney is 16-20 with a 4.31 ERA in his career. The Marlins got three good years out of Gordon (one of those seasons marred by a PED suspension) and have hopes for the three players acquired for Gordon: pitchers Neidert and Robert Dugger and infielder Chris Torres.
▪ 2013: Colin Moran: Miami traded him to Houston in 2014 in the regrettable Jared Cosart deal and he has had a middling big league career (.266, 15 homers, 78 RBI in 198 games). He’s hitting .239 with 15 RBI (which would lead the Marlins) in 38 games for Pittsburgh this season.
▪ 2014: Tyler Kolek, the hard-throwing Texas right-hander, has been victimized by poor performance and major injuries (Tommy John surgery) and is out indefinitely after offseason thoracic outlet surgery, resulting from a disorder that occurs when blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and a rib are compressed.
His career numbers to date: 5-15, 5.34 ERA.
The Marlins took Kolek second overall, ahead of three pitchers selected in the top 10 of that draft who all have pitched extensively in the majors: Carlos Rodon (29-31, 4.08 career with White Sox), Aaron Nola (44-28, 3.47 with Phillies) and Kyle Freeland (30-23, 3.67 with Rockies).
“We’re hopeful [he will pitch this season],” Hill said of Kolek. “We have to get him healthy before we’re able to get him back on the field.”
Barring a turnaround, Kolek stands to be one of the biggest draft busts in South Florida history.
▪ 2014: Blake Anderson. The catcher, selected with a compensatory pick at No. 36 overall, was a bust, hitting .173 with 78 strikeouts in 196 at-bats. The Marlins tried him as a pitcher, but that didn’t work out either. He was out of baseball by the end of 2017.
▪ 2015: Josh Naylor. The power-hitting first baseman was dealt to San Diego in the regrettable Andrew Cashner deal.
Naylor has shown promise in the minors (he’s hitting .289 with eight homers and 28 RBI in Triple A El Paso), but hasn’t made his major-league debut. Tayron Guerrero (1-1, 3.12 ERA) remains on the Marlins roster from that trade.
The Marlins, incidentally, have the fourth selection in the amateur draft June 3-5.