MILWAUKEE -- The Marlins took a major step forward in addressing their power shortage.
With the fourth overall pick on Monday in the 2019 MLB Draft, the home-run starved organization selected Vanderbilt University outfielder JJ Bleday, who paced all NCAA Division 1 players with 26 home runs in the regular season.
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Miami stuck with the high-impact college outfielder theme by taking Kameron Misner from the University of Missouri with the No. 35 pick, its Competitive Balance Round A pick.
And with their third and final pick of Day 1, the Marlins selected shortstop Nasim Nunez from Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Ga., in the second round (No. 46 overall).
Bleday, a left-handed hitter, made his presence felt at one of the top programs in the nation. Across the board, Bleday delivered eye-popping statistics in 2019. His slash line is .354/.468/.747, and his 26 home runs were the most in the country. He added 68 RBIs.
“We always go for the most impactful piece,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “There were some very impactful college bats at the top of the Draft. So, good for us that we had the opportunity to evaluate those college bats. We're happy to add one to the mix, and to give us another potential impactful position-player piece that will help us win championships here.”
Bleday had been a priority for months, and when the White Sox selected University of California-Berkeley first baseman Andrew Vaughn with the third pick, Hill noted there was rejoicing in the Marlins’ Draft room.
In an age of high home run and high strikeout numbers, Bleday’s junior season was far from all or nothing. He walked more than he struck out -- 51 to 50.
"It started with the mentality going into the year," Bleday said. "It was fun having that conference in Cape Cod. I tried to carry that over into the preseason and into the regular season. A lot of growth taking place during that time, especially after I finished my sophomore year. I felt more comfortable in the box. Felt more mature. I was missing less pitches. Staying within myself, not trying to get too big. And naturally, the results happened."
Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter, accompanied by other team officials, got a close look at Bleday, attending a Vanderbilt game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament recently in Hoover, Ala. Bleday had five hits that day against Auburn University.
The Marlins also have another connection to Bleday. DJ Svihlik, Miami's director of amateur scouting, previously was a hitting coach at Vanderbilt, and he has a history with Bleday.
“Given my track record with Vanderbilt, my history with JJ, and a first-year scouting director, that was a special pick one,” Svihlik said. “He's an extremely talented player. He's always been a very gifted hitter. I've seen him grow over the years. To select a premium college bat that's as established as him is really exciting, for both myself personally, but more importantly, this organization. I think we got a really exciting player.”
In the wood-bat, Cape Cod League last year, Bleday hit .311 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 36 games.
“He was one of the best hitters in the Cape,” Hill said. “You saw gap power when you saw him in the summer.”
Bleday is the first collegiate player the Marlins have selected in the first round since taking former University of North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran (now with the Pirates), with the sixth overall pick in 2013.
“JJ was a guy who was on our short list, dating back to our baseball operations meetings all the way in October,” Svihlik said. “He separated himself this year. One of the biggest things we had questions on was his power. I think he answered that.”
Misner, ranked 30th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 list, was still on the board for the Marlins at the start of Competitive Balance Round A. In his three-year college career, he hit .301 with 21 home runs and 91 RBIs. But he dealt with a right foot injury at the end of his sophomore season. His production dipped to .286 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs as a junior.
“With Kam, his ability, tools and athleticism, we viewed him as a middle to second-half of the first-round talent,” Svihlik said. “So, we weren't surprised that he was there. These things happen a lot. We were really excited to select him there.”
He has the athleticism to move around the outfield, and perhaps play center field.
The Marlins have a pool of $13,045,000 to spend on their first 10 round picks, including $6,664,000 for the No. 4 pick. The recommended slot for the No. 35 pick is $2,095,800. The pool value of the 46th pick is $1,617,400.
Nunez, an 18-year-old University of Clemson commit, is ranked 51st by MLB Pipeline.
“He’s an exciting, dynamic player,” Svihlik said. “He plays plus shortstop, with a well above average arm. He borders on elite defensively. There’s a lot of things to like about him.”
With Vanderbilt still playing, the Marlins will have to wait until Bleday’s season is finished before engaging in serious contract negotiations.
“I hadn't been around him directly over the last 15 months,” Svihlik said. “To see how he has grown and matured as a man, as he's changed his game. That was really important to me. It gave us a lot of comfort that this is the guy we wanted to select.”
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.