MIAMI—The Marlins were unsure whether lefthander Andrew McKirahan would be available when their turn came up in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. They were prepared to move up to get him, but the teams they engaged either were uninterested or the asking price was too high.
The sit-tight strategy did not backfire. The Marlins plucked McKirahan off of the Cubs' Double-A Tennessee roster. A product of the University of Texas, McKirahan split his 2014 season between High Class A Daytona and the Cubs' Southern League affiliate, going a combined 2-4, 2.08 with 14 walks and 57 strikeouts in 65 innings. All 44 of last season's appearances—and his 89 career games—have come out of the bullpen.
“As far as reports within our organization, we probably had more solid reports on this kid than I can remember as far as selecting possible Rule 5 people," vice president of player development Marty Scott said. “I saw him when Jacksonville played Tennessee the next to last time in. He threw two innings, and it was six up, six down."
The Cubs' 21st-round selection in 2011, McKirahan's fastball sits in the low 90s, and he complements it with a plus overhand curve. He also throws two different types of changeups, one of which is a traditional circle change.
“For a reliever to have four pitches is different," said Scott, noting McKirahan did not make any starts as a collegian, either. “Some lefthanded hitters try to cheat a little bit and get out front and off balance."
McKirahan doesn't profile as a lefty specialist. Lefthanded hitters last season batted 69 and 127 points higher than righthanded hitters at Daytona and Tennessee, respectively. Scott thinks those numbers will change if McKirahan works the inner half more to lefties.
Though he's entering his fifth pro season, McKirahan has totaled just 121 innings. Nine games into his first full campaign McKirahan learned he needed Tommy John surgery. He did not return to the mound until midway through the 2013 season.
Other than losing development time, the procedure did not hamper McKirahan's effectiveness. He has a 3.7-to-1 strikeout/walk ratio to go with a lifetime 1.08 WHIP in the minors.
“Nothing that he throws is straight," Scott said. “He's not cocky or arrogant, but he's got great mound presence. He's very aggressive. The mechanics are good. "
• The Marlins had gone five years without losing a player in the major league phase. The Rockies picked first baseman Mark Canha, a career .285/.375/.474 hitter in 1,750 minor league at-bats.