06/07/2004 3:00 PM ET
Marlins go for Tankersley
Versatile left-hander brings poise and experience
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
|Taylor Tankersley won two games and saved four more for Alabama this season. (courtesy U. of Alabama)
MIAMI -- With the 27th overall pick, the Florida Marlins weren't certain who would be available in Monday's First-Year Player Draft.
But the defending World Series champions certainly knew what they wanted: a versatile pitcher with potential to move through the system quickly.
They feel they addressed a need in University of Alabama left-hander Taylor Tankersley.
"Right away, he gives us the versatility that we're looking for, as a starter or a reliever," Marlins vice president of player development and scouting Jim Fleming said. "We'll go as a starter at the beginning and see where it goes from there."
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior from Alabama went 2-5 with a 2.00 ERA with four saves in 20 games (seven starts) for the Crimson Tide this season. He allowed 15 earned runs on 50 hits in 67 2/3 innings while striking out 70 with 26 walks.
The Marlins clocked their first-rounder's fastball from 88-93 mph, and like his mound presence and the fact that he throws strikes.
Physically, he resembles lefty Denny Neagle.
"He's a quality guy with three pitches: fastball, hard breaking ball and a changeup," Fleming said. "He's a strike-thrower and a competitive guy. He's someone who can move, not real fast, but fast through a system. We like everything about him."
Tankersley anticipates signing with the Marlins and ending his college career, although he says he plans on continuing his studies towards his degree in education.
The left-hander is the third Alabama player ever to be selected in the first round, joining infielder Joe Vitiello (seventh pick overall with the Royals in 1991) and catcher Jeremy Brown (31st pick by the A's in 2003). He is also the highest-drafted pitcher in school history. That distinction previously went to football great Kenny Stabler, who opted against signing with the Astros as a second-round pick in 1967 to pursue an NFL career.
Opponents batted .213 off Tankersley in a season where he was nominated for the Roger Clemens Award, presented annually to the top college pitcher.
Position: LHP B/T: L/L
H: 6-1 W: 220
Born: 1983-03-07 Class: SR
MEDIUM FRAME. SOLID, STRONG, RAW-BONED BUILD. STRENGTH THROUGHOUT. BUILD SIMILAR TO DENNY NEAGLE. 3/4 TO LOW 3/4 DELIVERY. FB MOSTLY 89-91 W/ OCCAISIONAL RIDING LIFE. ARM WORKS GOOD W/ SOME DECEPTION. HARD BREAKING SLURVE-SLIDER, LATE BREAK. GOOD MAKE-UP & ARM STRENGTH.
"I tried not to play favorites coming into this whole process," Tankersley said. "There really is nothing you as a player can do. You're at the mercy of the draft and at the mercy of whatever team drafts you. But, I will say going into this whole thing, I was leaning on the Marlins, hoping I'd get a chance to play for them.
"One, because it's a young ballclub. I think it would be a great clubhouse to be in, especially with the young talent they have. They seem like they play with a lot of emotion. I enjoy that.
"Being a fan of baseball and seeing the players they have on their team, I feel like I would fit in very well."
Tankersley was previously drafted in the 39th round of the 2001 draft by the Royals after going 13-0 with an 0.44 ERA as a senior at Warren Central High School. But despite his success, he didn't seriously consider signing with Kansas City and became a draft-and-follow player.
"I think I've grown up more as a person than I have as a pitcher," he said. "I think the talent was there coming out of high school. But I'm very thankful I came to college for three years because I've grown up a lot as a person. ... I feel much more ready than I would have out of high school."
Fleming said there weren't too many surprises in the first round, noting it went more according to the team's script than any first round he has seen in years.
Winning the World Series in 2003 has changed the organization's focus this year. While the franchise remains committed to drafting and developing pitching, they were looking for a more seasoned pick who has a quicker chance to reach the Major League level.
The past two seasons, the Marlins selected high school prospects in the first round. Tankersley gives them a player further along in his development.
Fleming wouldn't put an exact time frame on Tankersley's expected progress, but did say he has the skills and experience to make it to the big club in a year or two.
"We're not in a hurry," Fleming said. "But he is capable. Any college guy from an SEC school has been tested and has been tested under fire. They are a little farther along."
Tankersley was difficult to scout, considering how Alabama would use him as a closer one day, then start him the next. But a number of the Marlins' personnel got a good look at him in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, and are convinced that he can help a system thin on left-handed pitching.
"This is an all-business guy," Fleming said. "He works fast, is very competitive and very aggressive."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.