The Miami Marlins' trend of drafting a high school player with their first-round pick continued in 2016, when the club selected right-hander Braxton Garrett with the No. 7 overall pick. He was named the organization's new top prospect the following month, passing over 2014 first-rounder Tyler Kolek in the rankings despite having never thrown a pitch as a professional.
Though Garrett has yet to make his professional debut, the No. 37 overall prospect is finally getting his first taste of pro ball this fall in the Marlins' instructional league camp in Jupiter, Fla., where it's taken him all of a few weeks to make a strong impression on his new organization.
Using his commitment to Vanderbilt as leverage, Garrett held out until the July 15 signing deadline before agreeing to an above-slot bonus of $4,145,900. But after a lengthy senior campaign for Florence (Ala.) High followed by a month-long layoff before signing, the Marlins ultimately decided not to rush Garrett into competitive action, postponing the 19-year-old left-hander's debut until 2017.
"We had to build him up to where he could understand our throwing program, the stuff we do on flat ground, all the routines," Marlins vice president of player development Marc DelPiano said. "We wanted to make sure he'd have a good foundation in place before getting on the mound."
Marlins Top 30 Prospects at instructs
With an impressive 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and three pitches that all project as at least above-average offerings, Garrett utterly dominated against prep competition in 2016, posting a 0.53 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings. Miami has managed his workload carefully in the camp so far by limiting the southpaw to short outings and offering him additional rest, but Garrett has shown enough in those small sample sizes to have team officials excited about his future.
"From his athleticism and delivery to the impact of his pitches, he's really stood out," DelPiano said. "He has the maturity, too, and we like the ease of operation in how he does things."
Top Draft picks on display
Garrett isn't the Marlins' only early-round Draft pick participating in instructional league this year, as he's joined by outfielders Thomas Jones and Sean Reynolds, the club's third- and fourth-round selections in 2016.
Jones, the Marlins' No. 8 prospect, was slated to join Garrett at Vanderbilt in 2017 before Miami lured him away from the commitment with a $1 million signing bonus. As a three-star football recruit at Laurens (S.C.) High who had offers to play safety from numerous college programs, Jones, 18, stands out most of his athleticism and plus-plus speed. His projectable 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame suggests that he will add significant strength as he matures, and the Marlins believe his baseball skills could develop quickly with his focus no longer divided between two sports.
"He has all the ingredients to hit and the athleticism to play the center of the diamond," DelPiano said. "He's also an intelligent kid with a high baseball IQ. He's just made right."
Reynolds, meanwhile, is the Marlins' No. 26 prospect as well as the tallest position player in camp, listed at 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds. He spent his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League, where he batted just .155 with 64 strikeouts in 42 games. Miami views the 18-year-old as a high-risk, high-reward player who has huge potential but may require extra time to be developed.
"He's athletic in spite of his size and does a lot of things with ease," said DelPiano. "With him, he'll need to continue to work on his setup and remaining athletic in the batter's box. When he does that, you see the signs of him being able to adjust the barrel and use all fields."
Holloway back on track
A strong showing in the New York-Penn League followed by a brief taste of full-season ball in 2015 landed Jordan Holloway, whom Miami selected in the 20th round out of the Colorado prep ranks in '14, in the top half of the Marlins' preseason Top 30 Prospects list. But the 20-year-old righty didn't progress as expected in his return to the Class A Greensboro and then continued to struggle following a demotion to short-season ball in late June.
It would turn out that Holloway had been pitching with a right triceps injury for much of the season, and the Marlins, erring on the side of caution, decided to shut him down late in July for the remainder of the season. Now fully healthy, Miami's No. 18 prospect is back on the mound and looking more like the pitcher who made waves during his first full pro campaign.
"He's healthy and throwing the ball well," said DelPiano. "He's athletic and physical, knows how to repeat his delivery and has some weapons. We think he can develop into a power right-handed starter."
Position change brings success for Twine
Marlins No. 23 prospect Justin Twine scuffled during his 2015 full-season debut with Greensboro, batting just .206 while also committing 29 errors at shortstop. The latter prompted the club to shift Twine to second base in the spring, with the hope that the move from shortstop might take some of the pressure off of his bat. The 20-year-old took to the position quickly and improved from there, ultimately finishing the season with only seven errors in 96 games at the position. More importantly, Twine began to blossom at the plate.
"He made big strides in cleaning up his approach -- seeing and taking more pitches, identifying strikes versus balls, not chasing and expanding his zone like he did a year ago," DelPiano said. "He's a guy whose arrow definitely is pointing in the right direction."