RALEIGH — The connection is almost too obvious; it makes you wonder if anything ever really works out that easy.
The Miami Marlins, based near Little Havana and with a significant Cuban following in south Florida, own the No. 2 pick in the Major League Baseball draft Thursday.
N.C. State pitcher Carlos Rodon, who played for Holly Springs High School, was born in Miami, is of Cuban descent, and will probably be on the board for the Marlins to take him.
Just to throw another cherry on top, the Marlins already have Jose Fernandez, one of the best young Cuban pitchers. For a franchise perpetually struggling in attendance, it would make a lot of sense to take Rodon and pair him with Fernandez.
“That would be a story and a half,” said Rodon’s father, Carlos Sr., who was born in Cuba.
But will the Marlins, who took North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran with the sixth overall pick last year, go with a college player with their pick for a third consecutive year?
“All I know is there are a lot of Cuban fans who would like it if they took Carlos,” his father said.
“Either way, it’s an honor to go in the first round and especially the top 10.”
The Houston Astros have the first overall pick and are projected by Baseball America and USA Today to take high school pitcher Brady Aiken, a left-hander from San Diego. Both media outlets have the Marlins going with high school catcher Alex Johnson, from suburban San Diego.
There are only questions before the draft’s first round begins Thursday night with Rodon and N.C. State teammate Trea Turner expected to go in the top 10 and injured East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman also expected to go early in the first round.
The draft will continue with rounds No. 3 through 10 on Friday and 30 more rounds Saturday. N.C. State catcher Brett Austin and UNC shortstop Michael Russell are projected to hear their names early on Friday.
Pitchers Drew Van Orden (Duke), Logan Jernigan (N.C. State) and Benton Moss (UNC) are among area players expected to be selected by the end of the draft Saturday.
If Miami doesn’t take Rodon, he almost certainly will end up in Chicago. The White Sox have the third pick and the Cubs have the fourth.
Turner, a shortstop, is projected to go ninth overall to the Toronto Blue Jays, the second infielder off the board, behind high school shortstop Nick Gordon, the son of former Boston closer Tom Gordon.
Hoffman, who was shut down near the end of ECU’s season and will have Tommy John surgery, began the season as one of the top pitchers in the draft. He’s still expected to go early Thursday.
Baseball America has him joining Turner with the Blue Jays, who also pick 11th and have some room to gamble with that pick. USA Today has the San Francisco Giants taking Hoffman, who went 6-4 for the Pirates this season, with the No. 14 pick.
Turner, who grew up a Marlins fan in south Florida, said he has no preference about which team picks him. He does prefer to remain at shortstop in the pros, though.
“I’ll play wherever,” Turner said. “If they got Derek Jeter at shortstop and I have to play second, I’ll play second.”
This is the second time through the draft process for the junior class of college players. Rodon went in the 16th round in 2011, Turner went in the 20th and Austin went in the supplemental portion of the first round.
“Even though I got drafted out of high school, this one seems more legit,” Turner said.