Big Expectations

Prep lefty Chad James hopes to move quickly with Marlins

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FORT LAUDERDALE—Chad James didn't quite meet what appeared to be a Redwood-sized height requirement for Marlins pitchers, but otherwise he's exactly what they were looking for with the 18th overall pick.
The Marlins went back to the Oklahoma well again, this time for prep LHP Chad James, who's blossoming into a power pitcher. Most of their other picks went earlier than we had them on the BA draft board.

As widely prognosticated, the Marlins selected the 6-foot-4, 201-pound James, a projectable lefthander from Yukon (Okla.) High.

"It's hard to find 6-8, 6-9 guys every year, so we're going to have to settle for 6-4," said Jim Fleming, vice president of player development and scouting. "If you're drawing it up for a high school lefthander, this is kind of how you draw it up, at least for us. We look for arm action, easy delivery and he has the body and frame that should project to a good big leaguer. He's much like the guys we've taken in the past."

James transformed himself into a first-rounder thanks in part to an offseason workout program with Oklahoma City-based trainer John Carey, who's also worked with major leaguers Matt Holliday and Luke Scott. James weighed 180 pounds at the end of his junior year. By draft time, he was carrying an additional 20 pounds.

As far as repertoire, James experimented with a slider during the early part of his senior season. He abandoned it to concentrate on his curveball and changeup, his out pitch, which complement a low- to mid-90s fastball.

That was fine with the Marlins.

"We have some guys with two breaking balls, but generally if they have two we'll settle in on one, especially early in their career," Fleming said. "I'd rather have a three-pitch guy, especially a high school guy, because there's less to do. Generally, a guy that has both breaking balls they kind of blend together and you don't get one good or the other."

James, who has committed to attend Oklahoma State, has an ambitious goal of reaching the majors within three years. He knows what to expect in the minors, considering older brother, Justin, was a fifth-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2001 out of Missouri.

"I have all the confidence to get there that quick and that's what I believe is going to happen," James said.