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Marlins open, close Draft with pitching

MIAMI -- The Marlins wrapped up the 2012 First-Year Player Draft much like they started it -- on the mound.

After making Oklahoma State left-hander Andrew Heaney their first overall selection (No. 9 in the first round), the Marlins added even more pitching depth to the farm system during Days 2 and 3 of the Draft, taking pitchers with 20 of their 40 selections during the three-day event, including 14 on Wednesday.

While Heaney figures to be a strong No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher in the Marlins' future rotation, the team feels it added a few more arms with starter potential in their seventh- and eighth-round selections Ryan Newell and Drew Steckenrider -- a pair of righties with three years of college experience apiece.

Newell had 110 strikeouts and a 3.53 ERA as a junior at Shorter University this spring, while holding opponents to a .167 average, and his fastball touches 96 mph. Steckenrider started just three games at Tennessee, but appeared in 27 contests this season, holding opposing batters to a .197 average. Stan Meek, Marlins' vice president of scouting, described both pitchers as strong kids with solid arms and three quality pitches.

"We like them," Meek said. "Both of those guys we consider starter-type guys."

The team was also pleased with Illinois righty Matthew Milroy, who was picked in the 11th round and was referred to by Meek as a "power arm that far down in the Draft" with the potential to start if he works on his command. The Marlins also feel they got a strong reliever in ninth-rounder Nicholas Wittgren, a righty from Purdue.

"We liked his mentality out of the bullpen," Meek said. "His stuff plays up out of the bullpen."

Of the 14 pitchers Miami selected Wednesday, one was a home-grown product: St. Thomas University right-handed reliever Dane Stone, who grew up in South Florida and graduated from Miami's Southridge High School.

To go along with the 20 pitchers, the Marlins added seven outfielders, four third basemen, three catchers and six shortstops, including LSU's Austin Nola, who went in the 31st round a year ago, but improved his stock thanks to a solid senior season and was taken with Miami's fifth-round pick. Now, the Marlins believe he can be an everyday shortstop in the Majors.

"We've always liked him, and I think he's kind of put his game together a little bit better than it ever has been," Meek said. "He's swinging the bat better. He's a solid defender, has a really good baseball rhythm, plays in a really good rhythm and we think he's got a chance to be a true shortstop."

Of the 40 selections, 26 were players who had college experience and 14 were high school players.

Meek said because of the new Draft rules, it would be more difficult to sign some high school prospects who were selected in the later rounds, which is why the team picked high school bats with its first three selections on Day 2, including third-round pick Avery Romero, an infielder with a big bat from St. Augustine, Fla. That didn't stop the Marlins from tabbing eight prep players on Day 3, though.

While most of the position players the Marlins selected were middle infielders and outfielders, Meek said the team was seeking the best available prospects for much of the Draft.

"As long as we have bigger prospects, we're not really concerned about the position. We always look up the middle of the field if we can," Meek said. "As long as there are prospects on the board, we're going to take them wherever they are ... but we're always looking for middle-of-the-field players, power arms and we try to get a catcher along the way, too, which we did."

Miami Marlins