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Marlins Bet On Volstad's Future

June 7, 2005
By Mike Berardino

FORT LAUDERDALE--Move over, Graeme Lloyd and Bill Hurst.

In a few years, you could have company as the tallest pitchers in Marlins history. In fact, if righthander Chris Volstad grows just one more inch, the kid from nearby Palm Beach Gardens could blow right by you.

"Actually, I think I'm done growing," Volstad said after the Marlins took him with the 16th overall pick. "I got to 6-7 my junior year and I haven't grown since then."

Volstad's bank account could enjoy a growth spurt, however, if the University of Miami signee opts to start his professional career. His draft slot cost $1.6 million last year, and Volstad sounded eager to sign with the Marlins.

"It's not going to be tough at all," said Volstad, the first prep pitcher taken. "Fair slot money, that's what we're expecting. We've talked to the Marlins, gotten to know them. They're men of their word. It should be no problem."

Similar statements came from the club's other two first-round picks: Houston high school lefty Aaron Thompson (22nd overall) and McNeese State righthander Jacob Marceaux (29th). Unlike Volstad, both were drafted higher than some expected, in part for their willingness to sign. Of their eight picks in the first three rounds, the Marlins used six on pitchers.

"You can never have enough pitching," said Jim Fleming, who oversees the Marlins' farm and scouting departments. "Look around the major leagues and look at the problems people have with pitching. Pitching will always get you something else."

Volstad had a shaky final outing, allowing four runs and eight hits in four innings of the Florida state high school semifinals. He threw just 48 strikes in 92 pitches, which was alarming considering his reputation for excellent control.

That didn't scare off the Marlins, who had at least one scout at all but two of his 13 starts this spring. Most often it was area scout John Martin. Volstad also pitched for the Marlins-sponsored team at last summer's Area Code Games.

Volstad, 18, was a basketball standout through his junior year, when he averaged double figures in points and rebounds. He gave up the sport to concentrate on baseball this year, but credits his hardwood background with improving his footwork.

"Playing basketball helped me out a lot," he said. "It kept me little more coordinated. Some of the taller guys get uncoordinated or goofy or gangly. I guess I was pretty coordinated, and the Marlins liked that."

They also liked his 94 mph fastball, solid makeup and all-around polish, teeth included. His father is a dentist and his mother a hygienist in the same office.

Thompson, meanwhile, has a pair of Marlins connections. Dontrelle Willis made a recruiting call to him last fall on behalf of his agents, but Thompson chose a different adviser. A bigger influence has been ex-Marlin Kevin Millar, whom Thompson has known since he was 5. When Millar played at Lamar in Beaumont, Texas, in the early 1990s, Thompson's grandparents served as his host family.

As a Lamar batboy, Thompson used to ride around on Millar's shoulders in the dugout. Millar, now with the Red Sox, used to do cannonballs off Carol Chilton's roof into the swimming pool.

Marceaux, who was home-schooled through the 11th grade, improved markedly this season to become the highest draft pick in McNeese State baseball history. Fleming talked about his bulldog approach and Marceaux, who throws 95 mph with a sharp slider, said he looks forward to breaking wood bats in the pros.

FISH BAIT

The Marlins took a pair of high school pitchers in the supplemental first round--righthander Ryan Tucker of Temple City, Calif., and 6-8 lefty Sean West of Shreveport, La.--before taking their first position player in the second round.

The position player was Clemson outfielder Kris Harvey, the power-hitting son of original Marlins reliever Bryan Harvey, who went 64th overall. His 24 homers this season were tied for second in the nation. Later in the second round the Marlins took Nevada catcher Brett Hayes, who played seven different positions for Team USA last summer.

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