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Marlins go Oklahoma route, draft lefty Heaney

MIAMI -- Oklahoma ties came in handy for the Marlins in the First-Year Player Draft on Monday.

With the ninth overall pick in the first round, Miami selected left-hander Andrew Heaney from Oklahoma State University.

The decision to go with Heaney was heavily endorsed by Stan Meek, the Marlins' vice president of scouting who spearheads the Draft.

Meek, who has University of Oklahoma ties, couldn't resist bringing up the state rivalry.

"It's a little tougher for a Sooner to pick a Cowboy; I'm a former Sooner," Meek joked. "Those guys were the arch enemy for years. Now we'll make a pact. We're on the same side."

Heaney now joins an organization that drafted Oklahoma-groomed players like Josh Johnson (2002), Chad James (2009) and J.T. Realmuto (2010).

"I knew Miami had a lot of ties to Oklahoma, and that they'd drafted Oklahoma players before," Heaney said. "So I had an idea and a hope, but nothing solid. I was just as surprised as everyone else."

Once the Draft got under way at 7 p.m. ET on MLB Network and streamed on, the Marlins awaited their turn to be on the clock.

But the organization's history with Heaney dates back about seven years.

"We've known him since back when he was a freshman and sophomore in high school," Meek said.

Initially drafted in the 24th round in 2009 by Tampa Bay, Heaney instead headed to Oklahoma State.

"He had a pretty good price tag coming out," Meek said. "He was a leaner, thinner kid. He always has been.

"We thought he was a guy in three years we'd really like, with the makeup and the family. The background of the kid is so good."

The decision to attend college offered Heaney time to develop as a player and a person.

He blossomed into the Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year and a Division I First-Team All-American. The left-hander finished his junior season with an 8-2 record and a 1.60 ERA in 15 starts.

A native of Oklahoma City, he attended Putnam City High School. Heaney paced the NCAA with 140 strikeouts in 118 1/3 innings.

So going to college turned out to be a wise career path.

"I felt like at that time I had room to improve -- physically, mentally, everything from pitching to my body," the 6-foot-2, 174-pounder said. "I felt like three years of college would really help me mature and get to where I am. It was an experience I didn't want to miss. I'm just excited about where it's gotten me."

Being a top 10 pick represented an early birthday present for Heaney, who turns 21 on Tuesday.

A fastball-slider pitcher, Heaney has the reputation of being a strike-thrower.

Because he had more time to develop in college, it could accelerate his clock to reaching the big leagues.

Meek feels Heaney can move quickly through the Minor League system, but the timetable will ultimately fall on the left-hander.

"With all guys, they kind of drive their own train as far as how fast they're going to get there," Meek said. "But it's not like you're waiting for a pitch to come. It's not like you're waiting for command to come. Hopefully, we can get him signed sooner rather than later. We know the process."

Assuming there isn't a holdup getting Heaney signed, he likely will start up at low Class A Greensboro.

Already in Greensboro is lefty Adam Conely, the club's second round-pick in 2011 from Washington State.

Class A Jupiter has James and lefty Rob Rasmussen, a second-rounder in 2010.

In 2009, James and Heaney were regarded as the premier prep lefties in the state. James attended Yukon High School, and he pitched against Heaney in high school.

"I know Chad," Heaney said. "I've pitched against him multiple times and played on a couple of teams with him. Very familiar."

The Marlins' lone pick on Monday was Heaney, because the team doesn't have a compensatory sandwich pick.

Miami also is without a second-round pick, which is going to the New York Mets as compensation for signing free agent Jose Reyes.

The next available pick for the Marlins is their third-round choice, which will be the 104th overall selection.

In many ways, this is a benchmark Draft, because teams are dealing with new guidelines. As part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association, teams now are dealing with a signing bonus pool.

The Marlins' bonus pool is set at $4,935,100, with a slot of $2.8 million for the No. 9 pick. There are penalties for going over the allotted figure, among them is the risk of losing a future first-round pick.

Another change is the timeframe to sign their picks. Previously, teams faced a mid-August schedule.

Now, players and teams are working with a July 13 deadline. If no deal is done by then, the team loses the rights to the player.

The Marlins on Monday almost found themselves in position to make an interesting call at No. 9. Mark Appel, the right-hander from Stanford, was projected by many to be the top overall pick.

But he slid to the Pirates, who picked eighth.

What would the Marlins have done had Appel been available?

"You started wondering where this thing would stop, and it stopped right in front of us with Pittsburgh," Meek said.

The Marlins did have serious discussions in their room regarding Appel, but the scenario never arose.

"There were a couple of other things we could have done, that we were considering if we got the opportunity on Appel," Meek said. "But finally, we decided in the end, this was the way to go."

Miami Marlins