Fishing for the best available talent

Fishing for the best available talent

MIAMI -- Based on how the Marlins have drafted the past few seasons, it should be no secret what the organization prioritizes.

Pitching, pitching and more pitching.

A year ago, all three first-round picks were pitchers. What's more, so were the two additional sandwich picks before the second round, making five pitchers among the first 44 overall picks.

In 2003 and 2004, not only were the first-round choices pitchers, the second-round selections were too.

So when the Marlins are on the clock with the 19th pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, don't be surprised if they add another arm.

"There's always a need for pitching," said Jim Fleming, the vice president of player development and scouting. "We'll do this draft as we've always done, we'll take the best player."

Now that doesn't automatically mean the tiebreaker goes to somebody who throws balls and strikes.

"Players of equal evaluation, we may slant toward a need," Fleming added.

The Marlins acknowledge there is a need for some more bats in the organization. A position player was last taken in the first round in 2002, when outfielder Jeremy Hermida went 11th overall.

Through past drafts, and the number of trades made before the 2006 season, an abundance of arms were obtained.

The team is in an enviable position because, from Triple-A Albuquerque on down, the farm system has a number of pitchers with a good chance to make it to the big leagues.

"We could use some bats, hitters at all positions," Fleming said.

In general, the organization is searching for more catching and outfield depth. Catchers are always difficult to find, as are middle infielders.

Because of their financial limitations, the Marlins put a great deal of emphasis on developing talent from within.

A year ago, with so many extra picks, the organization feels it had a watershed draft. But it will take a few more years for some of that talent to surface in the big leagues.

Now with one first rounder, and a sandwich pick (36th overall) as compensation for A.J. Burnett signing with the Blue Jays, the scouting department isn't spread as thin as a year ago.

Fleming and Stan Meek, the director of scouting, are the organization's point men on the draft. Meek especially is combing the country, scouting what's available. As past drafts have shown, the Marlins won't hesitate taking high school or college players.

Overall, this year's draft isn't viewed as strong as some of the previous years.

That wasn't the case in 2005, when the dozen or so blue chippers were taken early, allowing the rest of the first round to pretty much settle as many evaluators expected. So this draft is more unpredictable.

"It's a good year to pick 19th," Fleming said. "There isn't a lot of separation from the top of the round."

As the Marlins get ready for another draft, here's a look back at the club's first-round picks the past three years.

2005: Chris Volstad, RHP, pick No. 16; Aaron Thompson, LHP, pick No. 22; Jacob Marceaux, RHP, pick No. 29: Thanks to two compensatory picks, the Marlins had three first-round choices a year ago. Toss in two sandwich picks, and the club made five picks before the second round. All those choices turned out being pitchers. Volstad was taken out of Palm Beach Gardens High School. The 6-foot-7 right-hander is regarded as a future ace. Marceaux, out of McNeese State University, can either start or relieve. Volstad and Thompson, from Second Baptist High in Houston, Texas, opened this season in low Class A Greensboro. Marceaux, with his college experience, is at Class A Jupiter. The two sandwich choices -- right-hander Ryan Tucker and 6-foot-8 left-hander Sean West -- are worth watching. Both are part of that Greensboro rotation.

2004: Taylor Tankersley, LHP, pick No. 27: Drafted out of the University of Alabama, Tankersley is being groomed as a reliever. Now at Double-A Carolina, Tankersley could be in line to make his Major League debut in June or before the All-Star Break. Rebounding from a shoulder problem early last season, Tankersley was in big league camp in Spring Training, and he is shaping up to be a lefty specialist.

2003: Jeff Allison, RHP, pick No. 16: Numerous off-field problems have put the right-hander's career in jeopardy. Allison unexpectedly left the organization in Spring Training and he has been suspended indefinitely. Drafted out of high school in Peabody, Mass., he has battled substance issues since turning pro. He did pitch in low Class A Greensboro last year, but his days with the organization most likely are over.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.