Morehead City, N.C. - - - The 2017 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft took place over the last three days and former Marlins littered the draft boards. Twelve total Marlins from the last three years were drafted throughout the 40 round event, starting with Matt Winaker in the 5th round and ending with Ricky Negron in the 34th. The total was good for tops in the East division and second in the entire Coastal Plain League, just one behind the Florence RedWolves.
Matt Winaker became the first Marlin picked in this year's draft when he was taken by the New York Mets in the 5th round (157th overall). Winaker, a junior outfielder, was a starter all three years for Stanford University. He had a .308/.432/.514 slash line for the Cardinal product this spring, hitting 14 doubles, nine home runs, and walking 42 times as opposed to just 36 strikeouts. Winaker played on the Crystal Coast during the 2015 season, hitting three round trippers while driving in twelve runs in 32 starts.
John Luke Curtis might have been the most ecstatic player on this list when he received the call, joining his favorite team when the Atlanta Braves drafted him in the 8th round (230th overall). Curtis, a junior left-handed pitcher from Lenoir-Rhyne University, was a strikeout machine for both the Bears and Marlins. Over his last two seasons in Hickory, NC, he struck out 121 batters in just 85.2 innings with a 3.25 ERA. As a Marlin during the 2016 season, he pitched to the tune of a 3.02 ERA in 47.2 innings while striking out 72 batters and holding them to just a .237 batting average. He also led the team with five wins, helping them reach the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season.
Keith Weisenberg was the first Marlin taken on day three of the draft when the Atlanta Braves took him in the 14th round (410th overall). He has been a teammate of Winaker's the past three years at Stanford, and very soon he could once again be on the same team as Curtis in the Atlanta organization. The junior right-handed pitcher joined Morehead City midway through the 2016 season, and became a reliable starter for the rotation. He won three of his five starts, striking out 35 batters in just 26 innings, and holding opponents to a 3.81 ERA.
Colton Hathcock was the next fish out of water when he was drafted just a round later by the Colorado Rockies in the 15th round (446th overall). The junior right-handed pitcher has been the definition of consistency for the Memphis Tigers, throwing more than 40 innings in each of his three years there and never having an ERA higher than 4.00. He struck out 62 batters this spring in 48 innings for a team that finished above .500. Hathcock pitched for the Marlins during the 2015 season, winning four of his seven starts and finishing with a respectable 4.17 ERA.
Tanner Kirwer continued the trend of Marlin juniors being taken when he was drafted by his native land's team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto took the Sherwood Park, Alberta native in the 20th round (609th overall). Kirwer was a menace this spring for the Niagara University Purple Eagles, hitting .335 with 20 doubles, two homeruns, and 23 steals in 25 attempts. The goofy center fielder hit .302 in 39 games for the Marlins in 2016, and led the team in sacrifice bunts with seven.
Connor Hoover was signed to play for this year's team, but the Seattle Mariners had other plans when they drafted him in the 21st round (633rd overall). The junior North Georgia shortstop absolutely dominated his opponents this year with a .361/.481/.704 slash line that made him a finalist for the Tino Martinez Award, which is the Division II Player of the Year. He mashed 39 extra base hits in 58 games (16 doubles, 5 triples, 18 homeruns), driving in 72 runs while walking 53 times. Hoover led North Georgia to the Division II College World Series but fell just short of a national title.
Sam Delaplane was the first senior Marlin and the first member of the 2014 team drafted when the Seattle Mariners took him in the 23rd round (693rd overall). The right-handed pitcher from Eastern Michigan led his pitching staff this spring with a 3.27 ERA, striking out 92 batters in 85.1 innings. Delaplane only appeared in three games for Morehead City, but he struck out eight batters in his seven innings of work.
Jordan Knutson was also a member of that 2014 team, and he was taken by the Detroit Tigers in the 24th round (725th overall). The junior left-handed pitcher from Missouri State appeared in 16 games for the Marlins, holding batters to a .250 batting average in 29.1 innings. This year for the Bears he appeared in 23 games, starting 15 of them. He won eight games and struck out 90 batters in 93.1 innings for a team that won 43 games and won the Fayetteville, AR regional before falling to TCU in the super regionals.
Quincy Nieporte was added to the growing list of Marlins drafted when The Philadelphia Phillies tabbed him in the 26th round (773rd overall). As a young Marlin, he recorded 19 hits in 18 starts. The senior first baseman was a monster in the ACC this year for Florida State, hitting .305 with 20 doubles and 10 homers while leading the team with 75 hits and 78 RBIs. His Seminole team has won 42 games so far, but Nieporte will appear in the College World Series before his collegiate career concludes.
Ramsey Romano was the last of this string of 2014 Marlins taken when the Chicago Cubs took him in the 31st round (945th overall). The junior shortstop from Long Beach State had a very brief career on the Crystal Coast, but made the most of it, hitting .444 for the Fish. For the Dirtbags however, his success lasted much longer. This spring, Romano led the team in batting with a .313 average and 78 hits. His squad won 42 games and made it all the way to a super regional before falling to rival Cal State Fullerton.
Matthew Batten was the last one from the 2016 team to be selected in this year's draft when the San Diego Padres selected him with their 32nd round pick (948th overall). Batten ended a storied career at Quinnipiac University as their all-time leader in hits and stolen bases with 248 and 64, respectively. He also finished second all-time in program history with 136 runs scored, just three behind his head coach's record. For Morehead City, Batten started 46 games, collecting 50 hits, 10 doubles, two triples, and a homerun. He scored 32 runs, drove in 26, and successfully stole 14 bags in 16 tries, as he was the catalyst for a Marlin offense that broke many team hitting records.
Ricky Negron rounds out this list of Marlins drafted when the Tampa Bay Rays picked him in the 34th round (1,010th overall). The senior infielder played for Morehead City during the 2014 season, appearing in just eight games. He played for Division II powerhouse University of Tampa and hit five homeruns in just 67 at bats over the last two years.
About the Coastal Plain League
The Coastal Plain League is the nation's premier summer collegiate baseball league. Celebrating its 20th season in 2016, the CPL features 16 teams playing in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The CPL has had nearly 1,300 alumni drafted and 94 of those – including 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander – make their Major League debut; while another notable alum – Russell Wilson – won Super Bowl XLVIII. For more information on the Coastal Plain League, please visit the league website at www.coastalplain.com, like us on Facebook at Coastal Plain League and follow us via Twitter and Instagram @CPLBaseball.