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Marlins restock pond with draft
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2004 First-Year Player Draft
06/08/2004  8:56 PM ET
Marlins restock pond with draft
Pitching, speed and defense remain priorities
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CLEVELAND -- Mirroring what made them successful at the Major League level, the Marlins emphasized pitching, speed and defense in their First-Year Player Draft.

The past two days, the Marlins' personnel people put a premium on taking the types of players that helped the organization win its second World Series championship in 2003.

"I think it is kind of geared to what we try to do with the pitching, speed and the defense," director of scouting Stan Meek said.

On the first day of the draft Monday, the Marlins selected left-handed college pitchers Taylor Tankersley (University of Alabama) and Jason Vargas (Long Beach State), with their top two picks. They followed those choices up with a pair of speedy high school center fielders: Gregory Burns (Walnut H.S., Pomona, Calif.) and Jamar Walton (Greensville County H.S., Emporia, Va.) in the third and fourth rounds.

Considering their draft position, 27th in the first round, Meek feels fortunate to land a pair of quality college arms early.

"Then we said, 'Let's go for some athletes who can play in the middle of the field and can really run.' They are athletic, and they have a chance to hit. We feel like we got that in them. We feel like we hit needs, and we hit athletes and we hit on the philosophy that we go by."

From the Major League level on down, the Marlins aren't a power-hitting organization. They rely heavily on strong pitching and a solid defense around them. Offensively, they use speed to disrupt the opposition and help manufacture runs.

Winning the World Series altered the organization's thinking this season. In the past few years, the Marlins were building into a contender. They were picking much higher and went with high school talent, which takes longer to develop.

To win it all in 2003, the Marlins depleted a good bit of talent in the minor leagues in three separate trades. Top prospects were dealt for pitchers Mark Redman, Ugueth Urbina and outfielder Jeff Conine.

Replenishing the farm system with experience was a priority in this year's draft. And with 15 of the first 18 players selected being from the college level, the Marlins feel they have talent that could not only improve the Double-A and Triple-A teams, but they could also rise more quickly to the Major Leagues.

On Tuesday, the Marlins completed their draft by selecting 21 pitchers (16 right-handers), two catchers, three outfielders and five infielders.

The team continued to go with college-groomed players, picking 19 more players from junior colleges, small colleges or major universities.

The Marlins are hopeful their top two picks can make a fast rise to the big leagues.

Adding depth at catcher was a priority as the Marlins followed up their Monday picks of Brad Davis (fifth round) and Barry Gunther (17th round) by taking John Wilson from Hoover High School in Alabama in the 19th round. And in the 49th round, they went with catcher Chris Kirkland from South Doyle H.S. in Tennessee.

The sleeper of the draft could be fourth-rounder Jamar Walton from Greensville County H.S. in Virginia. The outfielder, a left-handed hitter with power potential and speed, is a three sport All-State performer in baseball, football and basketball.

Tankersley will be looked at initially as a starter, probably at short-season Class-A Jamestown. But with the Marlins in need of relief help, he could find himself in the mix for a bullpen spot, perhaps even this season.

"How close Taylor will be will be determined by how he pitches," Meek said. "He's a tough kid, a college kid. We hope he moves and has progress. But that will kind of be determined by how good a job he does."

Marlins vice president of player development and scouting, Jim Fleming, said the organization's approach to the draft was dictated by the talent available.

"This draft, there were more college players," Fleming said. "There was a lot of college pitching in it. I would say, generally, we've been a little more high school oriented because the last two drafts had more high school players. Some teams like to fit the draft to what they want. What we do is look at the draft and try to get the most out of it."

The players selected in Day 2 are mostly to fill the Gulf Coast and Jamestown squads. A number of them will also be draft-and-follow players.

On Monday, the Marlins announced the signings of two draft-and-follow players from 2003, right-handed pitchers Kurt Koehler (17th round) and Stuart Alexander (29th round).

The Marlins had been after Koehler for a couple of years, taking him in the 30th round in 2002. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder was 7-1 with a 2.13 ERA for Sacramento City College.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Alexander went 4-1 with a 2.94 ERA at Santa Rosa Junior College.

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

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