"It wasn't by design," said Jim Fleming, the Marlins vice president of player development and scouting, about going with three pitchers. "It's because that's what we felt this draft had as its biggest value."
Based on their history, the Marlins have never shied away from taking gambles on high school pitchers. They've found great success in the past, including Josh Beckett, the second overall pick in the 1999 draft. Dontrelle Willis and A.J. Burnett also were drafted out of high school.
So going with two prep stars so early isn't something that troubles the Marlins.
"People will say high school pitching is dangerous," Fleming said. "Sure it is. But let's look at our rotation and let's look around at the rotations in the big leagues, and there are high school pitchers all over it now, whereas seven and eight years ago, that wasn't the case. Is there risk? Obviously, yes. But there is big payoff. And big payoff is the name of the game."
Performing in the shadows of the Marlins' Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Volstad is a rangy 6-foot-7, 195-pounder who has an 88-92 mph fastball. Complementing his fastball, Volstad also has an effective changeup and curveball. Being from South Florida helped give the Marlins more looks at Voldstad, but the right-hander was certainly gaining interest from the rest of the league.
"It's real exciting," Volstad said. "Seeing guys [like Beckett] coming out of high school [and reaching the Major Leagues quickly] makes it more appealing for me, too. Hopefully, in a couple of years, I can pitch alongside them."
All three first-round picks said they are expect to sign with the Marlins, perhaps quickly.
Fleming and director of scouting Stan Meek got to see Volstad play while the Marlins were at Spring Training. The right-hander was 7-2 with an 0.41 ERA, including 98 strikeouts to only eight walks in 69 innings.
"What sticks out about him is for how big he is, he has very good body control," Fleming said. "He has a really nice delivery. This is not a work in progress. This isn't a projection guy, per se. There is always projection in high school kids. But there is a lot of good stuff already in place here with him."
For the third straight season, the Marlins used their first round to go with pitchers. The organization is firm in its
belief to go for as much pitching as possible, because they never know who will pan out.
Their 2003 first-round pick, Jeff Allison, is currently on the disabled list because of a shoulder ailment. Allison, who is pitching at low Class A Greensboro, also is overcoming personal problems. And their 2004 first-round choice, lefty Taylor Tankersley, is recovering from left shoulder tendinitis. Tankersley is throwing simulated games now and soon should be ready to compete in Minor League games.
Palm Beach Gardens High School
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6'7" W: 190
Born: 1986-09-23 Class: HS
Tall, lanky RHP w/ long limbs. Throws strikes w/ all pitches. FB that explodes right out of his hands, he can also sink it into RHH. CB has a sharp, 3/4 break and throws a deceptive change. Mixes pitches well w/ good command. Smart kid w/ a big ceiling, he goes right after hitters.
The Marlins were able to stockpile top picks as compensation for losing a two All-Star pitchers from last year's squad, closer Armando Benitez to the Giants, and starter Carl Pavano to the Yankees.
Thompson is regarded as a polished left-hander who is clocked between 88-91 mph, and he possesses a sweeping curveball. Marceaux, with his college experience, may be in position to move more quickly through the Minor Leagues. He has been clocked at 95 mph, and has a slider and changeup.
When they sign, Volstad and Thompson will start off in Jupiter in the Gulf Coast League. All the high school signings typically open in the GCL. Marceaux, and the other college players the Marlins sign, will start off with short Class A Jamestown in the New York-Penn League.
"In a draft, our philosophy has always been to take the best player," Fleming said. "Line it up and go with what the strength of every draft is. I think where you get into trouble is when you try to get something out of the draft that is not there. This had lots of high school pitching, and good high school pitching.
"Again, it's just our opinion. But in our opinion, the high school pitching was very good, and we had the chance to get the kind of guys that are impact at the big leagues. There is the risk, but we'll take the risk to get the impact."