Written By: Jon Giles
Follow him on Twitter: @pumarevived
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The Miami Marlins weren’t keeping it a secret: they wanted more pitching, and they wanted it now. While the farm is running deep with talented arms, many of them are either already in Miami (or soon to be called up), so it was time to make sure the pitching well never ran dry. For all five of the six selections, they chose from the college ranks, with a lone high school hurler selected in the second round.
Round One, Pick 3: RHP Max Meyer
Age: 21 B/T: : L/R Height: 6’0” Weight: 185 lbs
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Max Meyer is certainly the crown jewel of the Marlins 2020 Amateur Draft. Armed with one of the best ceilings in the NCAA ranks, and a fastball/slider combo that could decimate big league hitters tomorrow, there’s no doubt that this former Minnesota Golden Gopher has the tools necessary to be an impact pitcher at the Major League level. It will however always be a curious selection, as the near-consensus top college arm, Asa Lacy, was still on the board as the Marlins were drafting Meyer. Meyer will certainly be held with high expectations.
His repertoire centers squarely around his fastball and slider, both plus-plus pitches that are desired across every bullpen in baseball. The fastball sits between 94 and 97, with the occasional triple-digit scrape. With a spin rate of 2500+, he sits above league average and manages to stretch his 6-foot frame out to the maximum. He throws with a 6.69’ extension (roughly 6’8”) which maximizes his perceived velocity. That means that 100 mph heater that he’s periodically whizzing by the plate, looks like it’s going an extra 1-2 mph in the eyes of the batter.
The slider is his wipe-out pitch, with a whopping 2750 rpm (roughly 250 rotations above average) and, according to Prep Baseball Report (1), it carries a 47% whiff rate. He can put it left and right in the zone, either coming right at the batter and breaking toward the plate at the last second or centering it to start, only having it fall out of the zone right as the batter swings blindly.
Both the slider and fastball, while being currently elite, could always be improved upon by a Major League pitching coach, so I hesitate to max out either pitch-allowing for room to grow in each of them.
The changeup requires some refining. Throughout his years at Minnesota, he consistently relied on his top two plus pitches, but recently has begun developing a projectable changeup. Sitting around 10 mph slower than his fastball, it requires a bit more touch as it just doesn’t have enough movement to be effective at this stage. It stands to reason though that since he has mastered this other two pitches, he should be able to develop the changeup into a more than serviceable offering.
Overall, his command has been respectable-but nothing too outstanding. Averaging roughly 3 walks a game is not bad, but Meyer tends to get in far too many deep counts, which leads to him having an enormous workload on his arm. Over his last two seasons (well…season and a quarter…) Meyer consistently finds himself taking 17 or 18 pitches to get through innings when a starting pitcher should want to sit below 15. While that doesn’t seem extreme, no pitcher has an unlimited number of pitches in their arm—and for each extra throw, that’s one more millimeter toward arm problems, one more inch toward surgery. Efficiency is king in the world of pitching, and Meyer just needs to improve slightly.
Overall, Meyer offers enough lethality out of his two main pitches, that he will almost certainly be a major player on the Marlins for years to come. The only question is if his durability will hold up. As a starter, he could easily be an Ace, but even if he’s forced to the bullpen, his pure stuff will unmatched.
Round Two, Pick 40: LHP Dax Fulton
Age: 18 B/T: :L/L Height: 6’6” Weight: 225 lbs
Right off the bat, we should note that Dax Fulton is recovering from a Tommy John surgery in September. That being said, TJ surgery is no longer the terror it once was, and we should expect him to miss this entire season, coming back fresh and strong in ‘21.
Fulton was the consensus top prep lefty in the draft, and it’s easy to see why as you see him standing 6’6” on the mound, with an advanced breaking curveball. The curve offers a ton of late movement and will consistently be his go-to strikeout pitch. His fastball currently just sits in the low 90s. Being that he is a thin 6’6” teenager, he does have plenty of projectable growth as he better fills out his frame, and that will undoubtedly lead to an increase in velocity on his heater. Additionally, with that height, he can release the ball closer to home plate with his downhill extension. Similar to Meyer, this will make his fastball be perceived as a tick faster than in reality. The changeup is only adequate for now, and it will have to improve for Dax to remain a starting pitcher. The command seemed to be improving before his surgery, but the ball still gets away from the zone with his fastball.
A scout’s dream, he has all the peripherals people want to see: a 2600 RPM fastball, a massive curve that registers in the high 70’s, excellent pitch tunneling, and good sequencing.
Fulton carries with him all the building blocks of a future starter in the league: his big frame, a great curveball, a downhill fastball with late delivery, and projectability on future pitches while advancing what he already has.
Round 2 (CBB), Pick 61: RHP Kyle Nicolas
Age: 21 B/T: :R/R Height: 6’4” Weight: 225 lbs
Kyle Nicolas has a fastball that many considered to be one of the best in the country last year, lighting it up at Ball State University. While it sits consistently in the mid-90s, it hit 100 several times. The high spin pitch likes to stay at the top of the zone and has had a solid swing-and-miss ability. His slider spins even more, sitting mid-80s with a tight break. The combination of the two plays off of each other nicely, keeping batters on their toes. In college, his numbers never came together, and he took the good with the bad. On one hand, he struck out 11.6 per nine, but that was joined with an astonishing 6.8 walks per nine to go alongside it.
Last offseason he worked diligently on his mechanics, control, and delivery—focusing on making his movements more fluid and effortless, which came with much better results in the early parts of the shortened season.
With his improved delivery and timing, he played well in his first few starts, giving up 7 runs in 16 IP, with 20 Ks and only 7 walks. Most impressively, he only gave up only 3 extra-base hits during that stretch. Then, on the cusp of the season-ending, he put together one final outing. Against Sacred Heart he solidified his draft stock: 7 innings pitched, 1 single, 1 walk, no runs, and 17 strikeouts. His newfound mechanics have lowered his walk rate from 8.3% to 3% and has helped him find consistency with the break of his slider. What he did with a new pitching coach in a single offseason is astounding, and now he will have an entire organization’s resources to continue improving. It is potential for change that will be the catalyst for where he falls in the big leagues: anywhere from setup or middle relief to a potential mid-rotation piece.
Round Three, Pick 75: RHP Zach McCambley
Age: 21 B/T: :L/R Height: 6’1” Weight: 220 lbs
McCambley is yet another hurler with primarily a two-pitch arsenal. The 6-1 righty has a plus fastball and an even better curveball—and similarly to those Marlins picks the preceded him—a meddling changeup that needs to improve with development. His curveball is one of the best in the draft class and its packaged with a fastball that touches 96 mph. Typically a two-pitch mix like McCambley’s would certainly warrant a future in the bullpen, but it seems he will be tested early in his career as a starter. His delivery is smooth and repeatable, and he’s athletic with good mechanics; it’s no wonder the Marlins liked him here.
McCambley has steadily been improving his numbers since his freshman year at Coastal Carolina. What once was a 2.00 strikeout per walk rate now blossomed into an impressive 4.57. The same type of improvement can be said of his hits per 9, his WHIP, and his ERA. One issue that may arise: he tends to allow a bit too many home runs, with 9 in 67 innings his Sophomore year, and already 2 in 4 starts in the COVID-shortened season. Spring Brooks Stadium, where his collegiate Chanticleers call home, is considered a hitter-friendly park, so take those home run numbers with a grain of salt.
Round Four, Pick 104: LHP Jake Eder
Age: 21 B/T: :L/L Height: 6’4” Weight: 220 lbs
Eder, at times, is an electric pitcher with lights out stuff that will play at the Major League level. The problem is, that ‘lights out stuff’ has proved to be scarce, only occasionally finding it, and leaving us wanting for more the majority of the time.
His fastball touches 97 out of the pen, but typically sits between 92 and 95 when he starts. Couple that with his above-average curveball, and developing changeup, and Eder looks the part. In recent years, Vanderbilt has adjusted his mechanics by forcing him to a higher arm slot, in hope to find better control. Unfortunately, even the development Mecca that Vanderbilt has become hasn’t been able to improve the control enough, as he only improved his walk rate slightly in three years, going from 6 walks per game, down to roughly 4 walks per game.
There are certainly games where he proves himself to be a capable starter. In his final three games as a Commodore, he averaged nearly 6 IP, over 7 Ks, 2 BB, and 2 ER; all while hitting the strike zone more consistently, at a 65% rate. If Eder can find that consistency, over the full workload of a Major League season, he could easily see himself sitting in the middle of a future Marlins rotation.
Round Five, Pick 134: RHP Kyle Hurt
Age: 22 B/T: :R/R Height: 6’3” Weight: 215 lbs
If you were to look solely at Kyle Hurt’s career statistics at Southern Cal, you could certainly be dubious of the Marlins pick here. With a career ERA over 5, and a K/BB of 8.9/5.6, he has consistently been undistinguished to say the least.
Looking deeper, the Marlins may have found a player that can develop quite nicely, beyond the career stats. His Freshman year, he threw a no-hitter against Utah (albeit with 6 walks), and the next year against Oregon State we struck out 9 in 7 innings, allowing only 4 hits and no runs. We know his pitches have the ability to miss bats, its just a matter of doing it consistently. The lack of consistency is seen easily in the table below. You can see three strings of games, one each from his Freshman year, Sophomore year, and Junior year—and the day to day inconsistency.
As you can see, some days, he puts his USC team on his back and gives them the best possible shot of winning, and other days, he falls flat early. The Marlins are hoping their development staff can make his MLB box scores look a lot more yellow, and a lot less red.
When it comes to his pitches, Hurt has a solid arsenal he can work with. His fastball sits in the low 90s (pumping it up to 96), though with very little movement, making it easy to locate as a batter. He has two breaking pitches, a curve and slider that both play. It should be noted that his slider is more advanced between the two. His changeup truly is his best pitch, locating it the best out of all his offerings. Meyer Advanced Analytics
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