D.J. Svihlik, the Miami Marlins’ director of amateur scouting, had a simple strategy entering this month’s MLB Draft: Take advantage of the offensive depth that this year’s class provided … unless a potential star pitcher landed into their hands.
The latter happened.
Indeed, when the Marlins landed on the clock with the No. 10 pick, the nation’s top high-school pitcher was still on the board. So, it was no-brainer for Svihlik to select Noble Meyer.
A 6-foot-5 right-hander from Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, Meyer was originally committed to play baseball at the University of Oregon. When the Marlins called, those plans were scrapped, and last week, on a visit to loanDepot Park, he signed his first professional contract, one that included a $4.5 million signing bonus. He was then assigned to Miami’s minor-league complex in Jupiter.
The No. 8 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, Meyer won the Gatorade Oregon Baseball Player of the Year award this season, going 10-1 with a 0.33 ERA, 128 strikeouts and just 19 walks. He also led the Saders to the state championship.
Meyer’s efforts in baseball showcases — gatherings of pro prospects in one location that includes games and skills competitions — helped his draft stock. He attended the National High School Invitational in March, which brings together 16 of the top high school teams in the country.
While there, he threw a seven-inning complete game, allowing three unearned runs on two hits and 10 strikeouts in front of a host of MLB scouts.
“Noble Meyer is a complete pitcher,” Svihlik said after his selection on July 9. “He’s very, very well balanced. He’s highly technical, but he’s got a great feel. He’s very intelligent, but he’s also very practical and logical. And he doesn’t really overthink things. So, there was just a wonderful balance with him.”
Marlins area scout Scott Fairbanks was assigned to the Pacific Northwest, and watched all of Meyer’s starts during his senior year, something Svihlik stressed to be important if the team were to select him as high as it did … and with the price tag he commanded. Miami, in fact, came in a little under Meyer’s MLB approximated value, which was $5.48 million.
“At this part in the draft, we really force the pitchers to bully their way to the front and push the position players out of the way,” Svihlik said. “When you’re a high school pitcher, we’re asking for strikes, and we’re asking for consistency. There’s a lot of pitchers on the board that have plenty of stuff. The thing that separated Noble was just his ability to use his stuff to pitch, to throw strikes, and then do it on just a consistent basis.”
At the draft, Marlins general manager Kim Ng was confident there would be no issues in signing Meyer and wooing him away from college baseball. She was right.
“Very excited about this pick,” Ng said. “First of all, I guess I would say we were surprised that he fell to us. That was great. This is a pitcher who we believe will be a top-of-the-rotation type pitcher. One of the things that struck me — as we talked about him, watched video — was the confidence and poise that this particular pitcher has. He’s just a real polished kid.”
The Marlins kept up the pitching progress in later rounds. In fact, they used four of their first six selections on hurlers.
One of those is left-hander Thomas White, also a high school pitcher, who was selected at No. 35. From Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, White has also already signed with Miami, taking home a $4.1 million signing bonus.
In keeping with a theme, Ng and the Marlins were again “surprised” by White’s availability at No. 35, especially given he was MLB Pipeline’s No. 24 draft prospect. But the two-time Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year fell to them, after he finished his last prep season with a 5-2 record, a 1.66 ERA, and 95 strikeouts.
“The way the draft fell, we’ve always employed ‘take the best player available,’ and it was a huge spread from our first to our 35th pick,” Svihlik said. “A lot of the best hitters in the country, much like in 2020, went off the board. So, given some of the things that we do well, and how we felt about these players, we were opportunistic, and we took what we think are clearly the two best pitchers in the country.”
There’s a track record for success utilizing that philosophy in Little Havana. This year’s Marlins, in fact, have two draft selections in their current rotation, Braxton Garrett and Jesus Luzardo, and another, Trevor Rogers, on the injured list.
Garrett was taken in the seventh round by the Marlins in 2016, and Luzardo was chosen in the third round that year by the Washington Nationals. The pair has combined for 40 starts and 13 wins this season. Rogers was selected No. 13 overall by Miami in 2017.
There are other Miami stars on the mound, of course, but most of them came by way of international free-agent signings. Sandy Alcantara, last year’s National League Cy Young Award winner, is among them.
On Wednesday, Alcantara tossed a complete game in St. Petersburg, as the Marlins raced past the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-1. Alcantara allowed just five hits, as the Marlins stopped a 10-game road losing streak.
The win also shook the Marlins out of some offensive woes, as All-Star infielder Luiz Arraez, among Miami’s notables to meet Meyer last week in Little Havana, had two hits and improved his league-leading batting average to .376.
Developmentally, Miami’s offense — though perhaps not as deep as its pitching — is on solid ground, as well. The day before the draft, in fact, Double-A shortstop Nasim Nunez won the MVP of the All-Star Futures Game in Seattle.
Nunez, rated as Miami’s No. 20 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, hit a three-run double as the National League shut out the American League, 5-0.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a shock, but last year, I wanted to come here really bad and I wasn’t selected,” Nunez said after the win. “This year. I said ‘I’m not going to focus on this, and just play my game, and work on my development.’ but when my coaches told me I was selected, I was like ‘this is crazy!’ but it’s an honor, and something I’ve worked for, and I enjoyed every moment.”