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Marlins drafted this top slugger as a pitcher

Blackmon didn't sign out of high school; arm woes led to position switch
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- Charlie Blackmon could always throw. Little did anyone know how well he could hit.

A pitcher in high school and early in his collegiate career, Blackmon has since emerged as an All-Star center fielder with the Rockies. But before he revealed his talents at the plate, the now 31-year-old once was drafted by the Marlins as a pitcher.

MIAMI -- Charlie Blackmon could always throw. Little did anyone know how well he could hit.

A pitcher in high school and early in his collegiate career, Blackmon has since emerged as an All-Star center fielder with the Rockies. But before he revealed his talents at the plate, the now 31-year-old once was drafted by the Marlins as a pitcher.

In 2004, the Marlins took a flier on Blackmon by selecting him in the 28th round out of North Gwinnett High in Suwanee, Ga. Coming out of high school, Blackmon was considered a projectable lefty with a slender frame who hadn't shown much with the bat.

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"We actually drafted him as a pitcher," said Stan Meek, the Marlins' vice president of scouting. "He was a pretty good looking pitcher. Our scout liked him as a pitcher."

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"He was kind of a command guy," Meek said. "He wasn't an overly hard thrower, but he had pretty good command and a pretty good delivery."

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Being a late-round pick, Blackmon bypassed the chance to go pro in 2004, and instead, he accepted the only scholarship offer he had, which was to attend Young Harris Junior College in Georgia.

"He wanted to go to school," Meek said. "We took him as a high school kid, who was going to JC."

Blackmon stayed at Young Harris for one year, and in 2005 he caught the attention of a big league club. This time, it was the Red Sox, who took him in the 20th round.

Again, Blackmon turned down the chance to play pro ball, and he moved on to Georgia Tech, where he pitched briefly in 2007 and '08. He only logged two innings combined for the Yellow Jackets while dealing with some arm issues.

"Pitching was the only thing I was worried about at that time," Blackmon told MLB.com's Thomas Harding. "I thought I was pretty good. Looking back, I'm glad I did not sign. I was not nearly as good as any of these guys pitching right now."

A classic late bloomer, Blackmon unveiled his talents in center field and at the plate while participating in the Texas Summer League, playing for a team that no longer exits, the Colleyville LoneStars.

"My understanding is [Blackmon] talked to [Georgia Tech] coach [Danny] Hall about letting him swing the bat," Meek said. "The rest is history."

The impact was startling. In 2008, Blackmon had a slash line of .396/.469/.564 with eight home runs, 12 doubles, three triples, 25 stolen bases and 45 RBIs in his final collegiate season.

"I guess we all missed him as a hitter for a while," Meek said. "He didn't really hit until his last year, and then we all kind of dove in there pretty hard."

The Rockies selected Blackmon in the second round in 2008, and he made his MLB debut in '11.

Video: Must C Clutch: Blackmon hits game-tying, go-ahead HRs

What might have been if Blackmon had signed with the Marlins and moved to the outfield will never be known. But in 2011, the Marlins already had Giancarlo Stanton in right field, and Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna were developing into top prospects. Both made their big league debuts in '13.

Blackmon's emergence as a two-time National League All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner is a bit unusual. More common is seeing position players who transition to pitching after struggling at the plate.

"Most of those guys gravitate towards the pitching side," Meek said. "Hitting is such a difficult thing to do. I don't think this guy failed off the mound. I think he found another skill he wanted to try to develop."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Charlie Blackmon