Pitching key point in Marlins' Draft

Pitching key point in Marlins' Draft

MIAMI -- No matter the year, the priority for the Marlins remains the same. So that means, when assessing the First-Year Player Draft, pitching once again is high on the priority scale.

Recent history shows that, and the club makes no secret about its quest to bring in as many promising arms as possible. Although that is the understanding, it isn't automatic that the Marlins will go for pitching in the first round, even though recent history indicates otherwise. From 2003-06, the Marlins (with sandwich picks included) had nine total first-round picks. Eight of those choices were pitchers.

So even if the Marlins look at other positions in the first round, they will still seek their share of pitchers, in hopes of finding another Josh Beckett -- their top pick in 1999.

The Marlins will draft sixth in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.

Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front-office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.

Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.

Here's a glance at what the Marlins have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
Indications are that this Draft is loaded with quality position players, especially at the college level. Compared to previous years, there were more elite college pitchers, but that doesn't seem to be the case right now. College infielders also appear strong.

In general, there are a couple of catchers expected to go in the top 12 selections.

The scoop
"We just feel that every Draft has its own flavor, and the key is to find the strengths of the Draft, and then try to make that the strength of your Draft," said Jim Fleming, the team's vice president of player development and scouting. "It's like the year that we took all the high school pitching [in 2005], well that was the strength of the Draft."

First-round buzz
As important as pitching is to the club, there is a recognition that an impact catcher is needed. A name gaining momentum is Kyle Skipworth, a 6-foot-3 left-handed-hitting catcher from Patriot High School in California.

If the team looks for a more seasoned catcher, Buster Posey out of Florida State University is a candidate. He's a right-handed hitter with power.

Some other names worth keeping an eye on are first baseman Yonder Alonso from the University of Miami and University of Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham.

"The key is, you've got to have good area scouting," Fleming said. "I think that we have. They do their homework, and their evaluation on the players, not only physically, but how they are mentally and in the community.

"We try to do the whole thing, and it's not easy. You're never 100 percent right. But we've got a process. I believe in anything you do, whether it is coaching, scouting or running a company, you've got to have a process and a plan, and then if you follow that diligently, then you will have better results."

Shopping list
The organization's overall pitching was upgraded, thanks largely to recent Drafts and the December trade that sent Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers. In return, four pitchers were brought in, with two currently in the big leagues and two in the Minor Leagues.

With some arms in the system, there is more of a focus on catching, corner outfielders, along with some impact bats. First base is an area that will be looked at.

Trend watch
Without question, there is an emphasis on pitching, but other than that, the Marlins aren't too trend oriented. They don't buy into a belief that college picks are necessarily safer choices than high school talent.

The past shows that. A year ago, third baseman Matt Dominguez was taken out of high school, but in 2006, pitcher Brett Sinkbeil was a college selection. In 2005, four of the five top-round pitchers chosen were high school picks.

It's trite, but the team says it focuses on the best player available.

Recent top picks
2007 -- Third baseman Matt Dominguez (Chatsworth High School, Calif.) -- Compared defensively to Ryan Zimmerman, Dominguez had a recent battle with mononucleosis. He was just cleared to begin baseball activities, and he is spending a couple of weeks in Jupiter, Fla., getting back into shape. He will start off at low Class A Greensboro.

2006 -- Right-hander Brett Sinkbeil (Missouri State) -- One of the top pitching prospects in the system, Sinkbeil is at Double-A Carolina, where he was off to a strong start until a rough six-inning, seven-run outing on May 3. A starter now, his role down the line may end up being as a reliever, but the team certainly would like him to be an option for the rotation.

2006 -- Infielder Chris Coghlan (University of Mississippi) -- A left-handed hitter, Coghlan was selected as a third baseman, but he has been moved to second base. Not considered a real power threat, Coghlan is regarded as more of a pure hitter, who will get on base and hit his share of doubles. He is off to a solid start at Double-A.

2005 -- Right-hander Chris Volstad (Palm Beach Gardens High School, Fla.) -- Along with Dominguez, Volstad is regarded as the top prospect in the organization. He was in big league camp during Spring Training, and the now 21-year-old is on the fast track at Double-A Carolina. At 6-foot-7, he has a clean delivery, and he has front-of-the-rotation ability.

2005 -- Left-hander Aaron Thompson (Second Baptist High School, Texas) -- The second of five first-round choices in '05, Thompson is a promising lefty who also is on the Double-A staff. He should get a serious look to win a rotation spot in Spring Training of 2009.

2005 -- Right-hander Jacob Marceaux (McNeese State University) -- The 24-year-old broke in as a starter, but he now is throwing relief for Double-A Carolina. The right-hander is still dealing with command issues, as he tries to reduce his walk totals.

2005 -- Right-hander Ryan Tucker (Temple City High School, Calif.) -- The hardest thrower in the team's Minor League system, Tucker's fastball reaches the 98-mph range, and he's off to a fast start at Double-A Carolina, where he has been dominant. If he doesn't end up in the rotation in a year or two, with that fastball, he could emerge down the line as a closer.

2005 -- Left-hander Sean West (Captain Shreve High School, La.) -- At 6-foot-8, West is an opposing figure on the mound. He has tremendous upside, but he's battling back from some injuries. Shoulder surgery caused him to miss all of the 2007 season. The 44th overall choice in the first round of '05, West is now battling through a blister problem. He is on the Class A Jupiter roster.

Rising fast
Michael Stanton, a second-round pick in 2007, is a special athlete at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds. The 18-year-old already is showing terrific power, and hitting for a good average at low Class A Greensboro. Although he has high strikeout numbers, the outfielder also is showing he can drive in runs.

Cinderella story
Outfielder John Raynor, a ninth-round choice in 2006, is making steady progress at Double-A, where he has shown some solid numbers, and he plays excellent defense.

In The Show
The most recent first-rounder to reach the big leagues is lefty reliever Taylor Tankersley, who came out of the University of Alabama in 2004, where he was the 27th overall pick.

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