All-Time Best Miami Marlins

Who made our starting lineup?

Welcome to the All-Franchise Starting Lineup, where we review each of the 30 current MLB franchises to determine the best players by position in franchise history. A few weeks ago, we covered the Los Angeles Dodgers and their long, storied history. This week, we’re onto one of MLB’s newest franchises, the Miami Marlins, who have an impressive track record of building and disassembling championship teams. If you like this article, you can find all the lineups we’ve created thus far and other great content here.

 

The Ground Rules

 

  • Each player’s WAR with the franchise was the primary driver of the selections. We used two WAR calculations, one from Fangraphs and the other from Baseball-Reference. When the WAR between players was similar, we considered other factors, such as stats and awards, to break the tie.
  • We only considered statistics earned with the franchise in question for each player. For example, Albert Pujols wasn’t the Dodgers’ first baseman since he only played with them for part of a season near the end of his career.
  • Players with multi-position eligibility can play any position they played for a reasonable period in their career.
  • Outfielders can be shifted between center, left, and right as long as it makes sense defensively – especially for center field.
  • Since we have universal DH now, we will assign one DH per team. Doing so also allows us to get more deserving hitters into the lineup who played at a log-jammed position.
  • Three pitchers will be named – one right-handed starter, one left-handed starter, and one reliever.

 

Franchise Overview

 

The Marlins were an expansion team added to the National League in 1993 along with the Colorado Rockies. The franchise initially went under the “Florida” moniker, not switching to “Miami” until 2012. As with most expansion teams, the Marlins struggled for their first few seasons but took a major step forward in 1996 after aggressively adding veterans like Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, and Devon White to the roster. The following year, they added more talent in the form of Alex Fernandez, Bobby Bonilla, and Moises Alou and shocked everyone by winning the World Series.

It was over as quickly as it had begun for the franchise, which blew up the roster the following season en route to a last-place finish. The trades rebuilt the farm system, though, and by 2003 the club was ready to contend again after adding Ivan Rodriguez, Ugueth Urbina, and Juan Pierre to a group of young players coming off age. Remarkably, the strategy worked again, and the Marlins brought home their second World Championship with an entirely different roster. This time management kept the group together for a bit longer, but after a few years, they were re-stocking again. The Marlins have only made the playoffs once since 2003 but have groomed several All-Stars, most of whom moved on once they were in line for a large contract.

In their 30 years of existence, the Marlins have a losing record, have made only three playoff appearances,  and have never finished first in the NL East. However, they have two World Championships, more than several franchises that have been around much longer can claim.

 

Catcher: J.T. Realmuto

Career Stats with the Miami Marlins

The choice of catcher came down to Realmuto and Charles Johnson. The two backstops had nearly identical WARs with the franchise and were with the club for a similar amount of time. Johnson was a defensive specialist, winning four Gold Gloves in Miami. However, Realmuto is an excellent defender in his own right and a far better offensive player.

Realmuto debuted in 2014, four years after the Marlins drafted him in the third round. He was replacing an injured player, though, and only played 11 games in the big leagues that season. “Real” became the squad’s primary catcher the following Spring and maintained that role through 2018, his last and best season in Miami. Realmuto was an All-Star that year and won the Silver Slugger after batting .277 with 21 HRs, 74 runs and RBI, and a .340 OBP. Despite having one of the best catchers in MLB on the team, the Marlins finished with only 63 wins that season. As such, the club traded Realmuto, who was two years from free agency, to the Phillies in February 2019. Real has made two more All-Star appearances and won two more Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves since joining Philadelphia, and was behind the plate during the Phils’ run to the World Series in 2022.

 

First Base: Jeff Conine

Career Stats with the Florida Marlins

Jeff Conine was one of the original Marlins, taken by the franchise in the expansion draft from the Royals. The 27-year-old played all 162 games for the team in 1993 and finished third in the Rookie-of-the-Year balloting mixing in at first base and left field. Conine represented the Marlins at the All-Star game the following two seasons, hitting over .300 both years. In the 1997 championship season, Conine shifted to first base exclusively with the addition of Moises Alou. He didn’t have a great offensive season that year but was still an important cog in the squad’s post-season run. By this time, Conine was dubbed “Mr. Marlin.”

The moniker didn’t protect Conine from the following season’s fire-sale, though, and he was traded back to the Royals in the offseason. However, Conine wasn’t done with the franchise. On August 31, 2003, the club re-acquired Mr. Marlin in a trade with the Orioles just in time for their second World Series run. It turned out to be an excellent move as Conine mashed in the playoffs, hitting .458 in the NLCS and .333 in the October Classic. Conine played two more seasons in Miami before he was on the move again, rejoining the Orioles via free agency after the 2005 season. He retired two years later and still ranks second in games played for the franchise.

 

Second Base: Luis Castillo

Career Stats with the Florida Marlins

The man ahead of Conine in games played for the franchise is Luis Castillo, who also ranks first among all Marlins in plate appearances, hits, triples, runs, walks, and stolen bases. Dan Uggla also warranted consideration at second base, but Castillo’s long track record of success with the franchise was too much for him to overcome.

Castillo debuted for the club in 1996 but bounced between the majors and minors for three seasons and was not part of the 1997 championship. In 1999, Castillo finally established himself as a regular and hit .302 with 50 stolen bases. He led the NL in SBs the following season and again in 2002 when he made his first of three All-Star appearances. Castillo has three Gold Gloves in his trophy case, taking home the award from 2003-2005. He also owns a World Championship ring from 2003, as one of the speedy table setters with Juan Pierre atop the Marlins lineup.

Castillo hit free agency after the 2003 World Series, but unlike most other Marlins, he re-upped with the club. Two years later, they traded him to Minnesota. Castillo played five seasons after leaving South Florida for the Twins and Mets, retiring in 2010 at the still relatively young age of 34.

 

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez

Career Stats with the Florida / Miami Marlins

The Red Sox traded Hanley Ramirez to the Marlins in November 2005 in a package that sent Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett back to Boston. Those players helped Boston win the 2007 World Series, but it worked out pretty well for the Marlins too. Ramirez was Rookie-of-the-Year in 2006 after hitting .292 with 17 HRs, 119 runs, and 51 stolen bases, and he was just getting started. Ramirez hit .332 with 125 runs scored the following season and was an All-Star from 2008-2010 for Florida. In addition, he won Silver Sluggers in 2008, when he led the league in runs scored, and in 2009, when he won the batting title with a .342 average.

In 2011, things began to sour for Ramirez in Miami. Injuries limited him to 92 games that season, and he had his worst offensive season, slashing .242/.333/.379. “Han-Ram” also took criticism for not hustling, and his defense at shortstop continued to decline. The Marlins wanted to make a big splash the following season as they moved into a new stadium. They rebranded themselves as “Miami” and added a few big-name free agents, including shortstop Jose Reyes. The addition led to a position change for Ramirez, who moved to third base and wasn’t thrilled about it. He continued to struggle at the plate and was traded to the Dodgers in July after the season fell apart for Miami.

Hanley was re-energized by the trade and had several more good offensive seasons with the Dodgers and Red Sox. However, he only made it to the post-season twice and never to the World Series. Injuries caught up with him again in 2008, and Ramirez retired 16 games into the 2019 season. Han-Ram’s career didn’t finish the way it started, but the Marlins were fortunate to have him at his best.

 

Third Base: Mike Lowell

Career Stats with the Florida Marlins

The Marlins acquired Lowell in a trade with the Yankees on February 1, 1999. Eighteen days later, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Lowell immediately underwent surgery and, after a few months of treatment, made his Marlins debut on May 29. He posted solid numbers his rookie season and improved year after year until reaching All-Star status in 2002. Lowell repeated his visit to the Midsummer Classic the following two seasons and took home the Silver Slugger in 2003 after hitting 32 HRs and driving in 105 runs with a .276 average. It was a big year for the third baseman, who finished eleventh in the MVP voting and took home a World Series ring despite missing September and being limited in the NLDS due to a broken hand.

In addition to his power and propensity for knocking in runs, Lowell was an excellent defender and won a Gold Glove in 2005. Unfortunately, his offense dropped off that season, making him an expensive option for a Marlins’ squad trending in the wrong direction. As such, he was included in the trade that sent Josh Beckett to the Red Sox and brought Hanley Ramirez to South Florida. What appeared a salary dump at the time turned into a boon for the Red Sox as Lowell re-gained his form. He made another All-Star appearance with Boston in 2007 and took home another ring. He was no casual contributor to the Red Sox’s championship either; he was the World Series MVP. Lowell retired three years later after the 2010 season. It was quite a journey for a man who beat cancer before his career started.

 

Left Field: Miguel Cabrera

Career Stats with the Florida Marlins

Miguel Cabrera got his first taste of the big leagues on the 2003 Marlins team that won the World Series. Miggy was a big part of that run after debuting in June. He played mostly left field initially but took over for Mike Lowell at third base after he broke his hand in late August. In the playoffs that year, Cabrera hit four HRs, drove in 12, and announced his coming-out party. With Lowell back in 2004, Cabrera shifted back to the outfield and continued to produce exceptional offensive numbers. From 2004 through 2007, Cabrera hit .319 and averaged 32 HRs, 115 RBI, and 102 runs per season. He was an All-Star each season, won two Silver Sluggers, and received MVP votes all four years.

His production led to a high salary via arbitration by the Marlins’ standards, so in December 2007, the franchise traded Cabrera to the Tigers along with another rising star, Dontrelle Willis. Miggy’s accolades in Detroit are even more impressive, particularly the Triple Crown he won in 2012 in the first of his back-to-back MVP campaigns. Cabrera, who has played primarily first base and DH in Detroit, is still active and has already eclipsed 3,000 hits and 500 HRs, making him one of the greatest right-handed hitters of his generation. His offense production led us to include him in our Top-Ten First Basemen of All-Time earlier this year, even though his career statistical line is still in progress.

 

Center Field: Christian Yelich

Career Stats with the Miami Marlins

There were a few options for center field besides Yelich, including Marcell Ozuna and Juan Pierre. We went with Yelich as he had the highest WAR of the three in Miami, not to mention the best career after his time with the club by a wide margin. Yelich debuted midway through the 2013 season and played most of his career with the club in left field. In his last season in Miami, he switched places with Marcell Ozuna, taking over in center. Yelich was an excellent hitter, never finishing with a batting average below .282 in his five seasons in South Florida. He was a young five-tool player sharing the outfield with two other up-and-coming stars, Giancarlo Stanton and Ozuna. Yelich took home a Gold Glove in 2014 and added a Silver Slugger in 2016 after batting .298 with 21 HRs and 98 RBI. The Marlins looked poised for a run after finishing second in the NL East in 2017 (albeit with a sub-.500 record), but then it abruptly came to an end.

A new ownership group took over after the 2017 season, and a fire sale commenced. Yelich, Stanton, and Ozuna all found themselves on new clubs in the Spring. The Marlins traded Yelich to the Brewers, where he became a superstar. He won back-to-back batting titles in his first two seasons in Milwaukee and took home the NL MVP in 2018. Injuries have slowed him the past few seasons, but Yelich remains productive and is still only 30 years old.

 

Right Field: Giancarlo Stanton

Career Stats with the Florida / Miami Marlins

Stanton has the highest WAR of any Marlin in history and is the franchise leader in home runs and RBI. He broke in with the club halfway through the 2010 season, when he was still known as “Mike Stanton.” In only 100 games that year, Stanton slugged 22 HRs. He rapidly became one of MLB’s best power hitters and led the league in SLG in his third season. He also represented the Marlins for the first of four times at the All-Star game that season. In 2014, Stanton led the NL with 37 HRs and a .555 SLG, won his first of two Silver Sluggers, and finished second in the MVP voting. Three years later, he bettered this accomplishment and took home the MVP after a league-leading 59 HRs, 132 RBI, and .631 SLG.

Stanton had signed a massive 13-year contract with Miami a few years prior to his MVP season that many felt was untradeable. That didn’t turn out to be the case, though, as the new ownership group, led ironically by Derek Jeter, traded him to the Yankees in December 2017. Stanton continues to slug when healthy, which has been an issue for him going back to his time in South Florida. Despite missing most of 2019 and half of the short 2020 season, Stanton remains on pace to join the career 500 HR club.

 

Designated Hitter: Cliff Floyd

Career Stats with the Florida Marlins

At DH, we had a few viable choices led by Dan Uggla, Gary Sheffield, and Cliff Floyd. All three merited a place in the lineup, but we ultimately chose Floyd based on WAR, though Sheffield was probably the more productive offensive player. Floyd began his career in Montreal, which traded him to Florida just before the 2017 season began. His first season in Miami was plagued with injury, and he did not play in the first two rounds of the club’s playoff run. Floyd returned for the World Series in a bench role but only managed three plate appearances. He survived the ensuing fire sale, though, and emerged as one of the club’s best hitters until they traded him back to Montreal midway through the 2002 season. Floyd hit over .300 three times during that span and represented the club at the 2001 All-Star game. That season was his best as he batted .317 with 31 HRs, 123 runs, and 103 RBI.

Floyd’s second stay in Montreal lasted only a short time as he was moved again at the deadline in 2002, this time to Boston. He bounced around for several more seasons before retiring in 2009, including a stint with the AL-pennant-winning Rays in 2008.

 

Right-Handed Starter: Josh Johnson

Career Stats with the Florida / Miami Marlins

Several excellent right-handed starters have taken the hill for the Marlins. Most weren’t with the franchise long, though, such as Kevin Brown, Josh Beckett, and the late Jose Fernandez. Current ace Sandy Alcantara may one day deserve this spot in the lineup, but we went with Josh Johnson as our starter, as he had an excellent career and was with the franchise for twice as long as runners-up Brown and Fernandez.

Johnson debuted in September 2005 and was in the rotation the following season. He had an excellent rookie campaign, winning 12 games for a 78-win team with a 3.10 ERA and finishing fourth in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting. He made only four starts in 2007 before succumbing to Tommy John surgery, which kept him out until July 2008. In 2009, Johnson re-established himself, winning 15 games with a 3.20 ERA and making his first All-Star game. He was even better the next year when he led the league with a 2.30 ERA en route to his second All-Star appearance and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting. After an excellent start to the 2011 season, Johnson developed shoulder inflammation and missed the remainder of the year, amassing only 60 innings pitched. He rebounded to throw 191 solid innings in 2012, his last season in Miami.

After the 2012 season, Johnson was part of a large group of players traded to the Blue Jays in another of the infamous Marlins’ salary dumps. Toronto did not agree with him, and he labored through an injury-plagued season which turned out to be his last. The following Spring, now as a member of the Padres, Johnson suffered a forearm strain which eventually led to another TJ surgery. He never recovered to the extent that he could pitch in the majors. Johnson is often overlooked due to his relatively short career, but he was one of the NL’s top pitchers in his day.

 

Left-Handed Starter: Dontrelle Willis

Career Stats with the Miami Marlins

Unlike the case with the righties, Willis was an easy choice for our left-handed starter. The dynamic “D-Train” started his career in 2003 with a bang. He was an All-Star and the Rookie-of-the-Year after winning 14 games with a 3.30 ERA. He struggled in the playoffs, but the Marlins still won the World Series, earning Willis a ring when he was still 21 years old. He dropped off a bit in 2004, but the D-Train rolled in his third season, leading the league with 22 wins, seven complete games, and five shutouts. Willis threw 236 innings with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 2005, made his second All-Star appearance, and finished second in the Cy Young voting.

Unfortunately for Willis, 2005 was his peak. He remained a workhorse and had a pretty good 2006, but he struggled in 2007 and was shipped off with Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers after the season. Injuries and ineffectiveness plagued him for the rest of his career, and he lost control of the strike zone. Willis’s funky mechanics got the best of him, and ultimately he decided to retire after the 2011 season, just a few months before his 30th birthday. It didn’t last long, but the D-Train was a sensation that burned bright for the Marlins.

 

Reliever: Robb Nen

Career Stats with the Florida Marlins

AJ Ramos and Steve Cishek had slightly better statistics with the Marlins, but we chose Robb Nen as our reliever since he pitched during a more meaningful period for the franchise and is their all-time saves leader. Nen began his career with the Rangers, who traded him to the Marlins halfway through his rookie season in 2003. He struggled that year, but as the Marlins were an expansion team going nowhere, they were able to be patient with him. Their patience paid off as Nen posted a 2.95 ERA and saved 15 games in his sophomore season before the player’s strike shut everyone down. Nen was the team’s closer for the rest of his time in Miami, saving 93 games with a 2.99 ERA over the next three seasons.

In the Marlins’ 1997 run to the World Series, Nen saved two games and did not give up an earned run in the first two rounds. He also saved two of the four victories in the series and finished their Game 3 victory, though he was roughed up in the process. After the season, Nen was among the many Marlins traded in their post-championship fire sale. The club sent him to San Francisco, where he was even more successful, making three All-Star appearances and playing in another World Series in 2002. That would be the last time he pitched in the majors, though, as injuries derailed his career after 2002 and ultimately sent him to early retirement in 2004.

 

On Deck

 

In a few weeks, we’ll head to the Midwest and reveal our lineup for the Milwaukee Brewers, one of several franchises born in the 1960s. If you love baseball as much as we do, check out the We Love Baseball section for more great content!

 

Featured Image Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Scott Youngson

Scott is a SoCal native who, after two decades of fighting L.A. traffic, decided to turn his passion for fantasy sports into a blog - the now-defunct Fantasy Mutant. He currently writes for FantasyPros and Pitcher List and will vehemently defend the validity of the Dodgers' 60-game season championship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login