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Marlins catch Skipworth in first round

Skipworth caught by Marlins in first round

ATLANTA -- Books and baseball merged together for Kyle Skipworth on Thursday.

The 18-year-old senior at Patriot High School in Riverside, Calif., was actually taking a final exam when his name was being mentioned as the sixth overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft.

A left-handed hitter with a 3.8 GPA, Skipworth now is regarded as the Marlins "catcher of the future."

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On the organization's radar for most of the spring, Skipworth regularly had Marlins scouts and evaluators watching him for months. The mutual interest was understandable. Skipworth draws comparisons to Minnesota star Joe Mauer, and Florida was looking for an impact catcher to develop.

Skipworth had three exams on Thursday, as he prepares to graduate on June 11. At one point during a test, his teacher, who was monitoring the Draft on MLB.com, interrupted the 18-year-old as he was concentrating on his exam.

The day went according to script for Skipworth, who by the time he returned home was informed by his representatives that the Marlins had made a contract offer. The sides have reached a tentative agreement on a contract, which he expects to officially sign shortly after he graduates. The slot for the pick is in the $2.4 million range.

If all goes according to plan, Skipworth hopes to begin his pro career between June 15-20. The Marlins will place him, like just about all their high school choices, in the Gulf Coast League. Should he progress, he could wind up at short-season Class A Jamestown in the New York-Penn League sometime in August.

"The Marlins targeted me more than any other team had," Skipworth said. "There would be games where they'd have four or five guys there. I saw them going into the Draft as the best fit for me. I felt it was the best possibility for me to fit in, and move up through the system. I couldn't be happier right now."

As for his pending contract, Skipworth said both sides are basically crossing T's and dotting I's.

"I was blown away by what they would offer me," he said. "It's great to have peace of mind."

After he graduates, the contract should be finalized. By league rules, all teams have until Aug. 15 to sign their picks. If nothing is done by then, the club loses the players' rights, but in return, they receive the same slot in the Draft the following year.

Skipworth was determined not lose the year.

Marlins vice president of player development and scouting, Jim Fleming, said: "We still have a contract to finish and he still has school to finish. Both sides are hopeful this will happen early in June."

What the Marlins envision is an impact catcher with power potential.

At 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, he is of similar size to when Mauer was in high school.

"There are similarities," Fleming said. "They are the same size, and left-handed hitters. I saw Joe Mauer in high school, and Kyle has a little more power then Joe showed in high school.

"If he turned out to be another Joe Mauer, we'd obviously be pleased."

Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Mauer is mind-boggling to Skipworth, who had a letter of intent to play for Arizona State had a professional deal not worked out.

"It's hard to put into words to be put in the same category as Joe Mauer," Skipworth said. "He's an All-Star every year. To be put on a pedestal with Joe Mauer is a great honor. It just comes from hard work, and I'm sure Joe Mauer is an extremely hard worker. I think my calling card is I'm a very hard worker to get to where I'm at."

The son of Spencer and Kathy Skipworth, Kyle Skipworth has a brother and sister who also played sports at the college level.

Kyle's older brother, Spencer Ryan, currently is a corporal in the U.S. Army, who in a few months is scheduled to head to Iraq.

Spencer Ryan, 29, called to congratulate his younger brother on Thursday.

"He's sorry he couldn't have been here, but we totally understand," Kyle said.

For a franchise that has leaned heavily toward pitching in previous Drafts, going with Skipworth marks the second straight season Florida has gone with a position player first. A year ago, third baseman Matt Dominguez, another California prep product, was taken 12th overall.

"He's a big strong kid -- he's a left-handed hitter, which is a real plus if you can get a catcher who can swing a left-handed bat," Marlins director of scouting Stan Meek said. "We like him at the plate, we like him defensively -- he's got a real strong arm -- he's a real strong kid, and he's performed. He's performed at all the showcases, and I think we have a guy that can fit in the middle of our lineup and stay behind the plate every day."

From 2003-06, the Marlins used their top pick or picks on pitchers in each of those Drafts.

Not since 1992, when Charles Johnson was their first-round choice, have the Marlins gone with a catcher as their top pick.

Skipworth and Buster Posey of Florida State University were the top two catchers on the board. The Marlins were guaranteed to get one of them after left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz of the University of San Diego was taken fourth by the Orioles.

That made both Posey and Skipworth available. With the fifth pick, the Giants went with Posey, and the Marlins moved quickly on Skipworth, who set a California high school record this season with 18 consecutive hits.

"The combination of getting a left-handed hitter, and an every day catcher, it's rare," Fleming said. "It doesn't come along in the Draft very often. We scouted him very heavily and we liked what we saw."

Marlins' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
6.CKyle SkipworthPatriot HS (Calif.)
52.LHPBrad HandChaska HS (Calif.)
83.LHPEdgar OlmosBirmingham HS (Calif.)
118.RHPCurtis PetersenBilly Ryan HS (Texas)
148.RHPPeter AndrelczykCoastal Carolina U
Complete Marlins Draft results >

The Marlins were well represented at the Draft in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Representing the organization is former team manager and now special adviser Jack McKeon.

As part of an MLB initiative, each of the 30 teams held a special draft of surviving Negro League players, who represent every player who did not have an opportunity to play in the Major Leagues.

The Marlins selection is former Kansas City Monarchs pitcher Enrique Maroto, who broke into the Negro League in 1954.

Here's a look at the Marlins' first-day picks:

Round 1: Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot High School (Riverside, Calif.).
A left-handed-hitting catcher with power potential, Skipworth, 18, had an impressive senior season: .543 batting with 13 home runs with 47 RBIs in 30 games. Named the 2008 Gatorade National Player-of-the-Year. Set a California prep record of 18 consecutive base hits from March 17-29. Also reached base safely in 25 consecutive plate appearances.

Round 2: Brad Hand, LHP, Chaska High School (Chaska, Minn.).
A hard-throwing left-hander, Hand has raw talent. Picked 52nd overall, Hand has a college commitment to Arizona State. His next step is refining his delivery and gaining more mound savvy. Stock went high in a Draft lean on high school pitching. The Marlins tend to lean heavily toward pitching in the Draft. A year ago, they didn't pick a pitcher until the fifth round.

Round 3: Edgar Olmos, LHP, Birmingham High School (Van Nuys, Calif.).
Taken 83rd overall, Olmos is a 6-foot-5, slender left-hander who had an 8-5 record along with an ERA of less than 2.00. His fastball in the 88 mph range. He mixes in a sweeping breaking ball. Considered an under-the-radar prospect, but the Marlins obviously had long looks at him. Olmos has a commitment to Arizona.

Round 4: Curtis Petersen, RHP, Billy Ryan High School (Denton, Texas).
Another high school product, Petersen was picked 118th overall. A native of Aubrey, Texas, the right-hander played for a strong program, and he was an All-District selection. While the Marlins are hopeful of signing him, he has committed to Nebraska.

Round 5: Peter Andrelczyk, RHP, Coastal Carolina University (Conway, S.C.).
Adrelczyk was a redshirt junior at Coastal Carolina. The right-hander was a First-Team All-Big South choice as a reliever. He had nine saves in 29 appearances to go along with a 6-1 record and 3.40 ERA. He struck out 56 in 45 innings.

Round 6: Graham Johnson, RHP, Westlake High School (Westlake Village, Calif.).
Johnson was an early commitment to Fresno State. At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he threw 43 2/3 innings and had a 3.37 ERA. The right-hander struck out 39 and walked 19.

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

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