Throughout this offseason, Fish Stripes will be going over the Top 100 Marlins to ever pitch, hit, or field while with the Florida / Miami franchise. The players are ranked in order of cumulative WAR rating during their time with the Marlins, with the floor of the list set at 2.0 WAR. Today’s featured player stayed with the team long enough to rack up a value of 2.2.
Clay Hensley was a 5’11”, 190 lb. right-handed pitcher from Tomball, Texas. Born on August 31st, 1979, he went to Pearland High School, eventually getting drafted by the San Francisco Giants after attending Lamar University. The Giants took him in the eighth round of the 2002 amateur draft with the 247th overall selection.
Hensley made his professional appearance soon after the draft with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the low-A Northwest League, going 7-0 with 84 whiffs in 81.2 innings. In 15 starts, he posted a 2.53 ERA and a 1.188 WHIP. He went 4-3 the following season with the single-A Hagerstown Suns in the South Atlantic League, with a 3.18 ERA, 74 strikeouts in 68.0 innings, and a 1.118 WHIP over a dozen starts.
As 2003 went on, Hensley earned a promotion to the high-A San Jose Giants in the California League, taking five turns in the rotation and going 2-3 with a 5.83 ERA, 25 K’s in 29.1 innings, and a 1.602 WHIP. The Giants traded Hensley on July 13th of that season to the San Diego Padres with cash for Matt Herges. After the trade, Hensley didn’t have to change leagues, just moving slightly north to the Lake Elsinore Storm. In eight starts, he posted a 3-4 record, a 3.45 ERA, 40 whiffs in 44.1 innings, and a 1.444 WHIP.
Hensley spent the entirety of the 2004 campaign with the double-A Mobile BayBears in the Southern League, going 11-10 over 27 starts, a 4.30 ERA, a 1.352 WHIP, and 125 K’s in 159.0 innings pitched. He earned his first callup to the big leagues after going 2-2 over 14 starts in 2005 with the triple-A Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League, with a 2.99 ERA, 71 strikeouts in 90.1 innings, and a 0.941 WHIP.
In 24 games with the Padres, including 23 relief appearances, Hensley racked up an attention-getting 1.70 ERA and a 1.049 WHIP, with 28 K’s in 47.2 innings and a 1-1 record. In four seasons with San Diego, he would rack up a 15-18 record overall in 106 appearances, including 40 starts. He had a 4.09 ERA, a 1.406 WHIP, and 206 K’s in 323.2 innings.
Hensley signed a contract with the Houston Astros through free agency in January of 2009, but was released in April after posting an 8.10 ERA over 10 innings with the Round Rock Express in the PCL. The Marlins signed him in May, and he ended up starting 19 games for the New Orleans Zephyrs, going 8-4 with a 3.24 ERA, a 1.254 WHIP, and 82 strikeouts in 114 innings.
Hensley joined the Marlins for the full season in 2010, leading the team with 68 appearances and going 3-4 with seven saves. He whiffed 77 over 75.0 innings, with a team-best 2.16 ERA, a team-third 1.107 WHIP, and a team-second 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. The Marlins would go 45-23 in Hensley’s games, and just 35-59 when he did not appear, which represents the highest player-to-team win correlation of any non-closing pitcher not named Jose Fernandez in team history.
On April 28th, in a 6-4 loss to the Padres, Hensley pitched the fifth and sixth inning, recording all six outs by strikeout. Two days later, he struck out seven batters in three innings, pitching the fifth through the seventh inning of a 7-1 defeat to the Washington Nationals. For the season, he was worth 2.6 Wins Above Replacement, good enough for sixth on the club.
2011 would again see Hensley join the Marlins for the entire season. He didn’t have nearly the positive impact from the season prior, going 6-7 with a 5.19 ERA in 37 games, including nine starts. He struck out 46 in 67.2 innings with a 1.360 WHIP. The Marlins went 20-17 in his appearances, and 52-73 in his un-appearances.
Hensley’s best start came on July 18th, when he struck out three and pitched five innings of one-hit shutout ball to earn a win against the New York Mets, 4-1 (see below). On September 4th, he came on in the 13th inning and pitched two perfect frames against the Philadelphia Phillies, earning the win when Matt Cameron drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 14th to score Emilio Bonifacio. Eight days later, he earned another win in extra innings, pitching the 10th and 11th innings and allowing only two walks as the Fish defeated the Braves, 5-4.
Hensley followed his time with Florida with a season for the Giants, going 4-5 in 60 games with a 4.62 ERA, a 1.579 WHIP, and 42 K’s in 50.2 innings. Since then, he’s spent time in the minors with the Cincinnati Reds, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Washington Nationals, but failed to get back onto a major league roster. The Nats released him during 2014 spring training.
Check back here on Monday for a look at a switch-hitting third baseman from Miami’s first World Series Championship.