Throughout the 2020-21 offseason, Fish Stripes is bringing you daily articles as part of the All-Time Marlins Countdown.
Kevin Kraczkowski and Nicole Cahill have been capably leading this extensive series the past two months, but today and every Saturday for the foreseeable future, I will be a “pinch-hitter” for them. Enjoy...
265. Rob Brantly
There wasn’t much of a celebration surrounding Brantly’s arrival in Miami. The Marlins were a 44-51 ballclub, on pace for roughly the same mediocre record they had posted in 2011, when the five-player trade delivering him from the Tigers was made official on July 23, 2012. Unacceptable in the first year following the franchise’s rebranding and move into a new ballpark.
While the low-revenue Marlins occasionally need infusions of controllable, young talent like they got in the form of Brantly and pitching prospects Jacob Turner and Brian Flynn, this transaction signaled unequivocally that they were punting on the 2012 campaign. Parting ways with right-hander Aníbal Sánchez and second baseman Omar Infante in the deal would leave them without the firepower for a second-half surge. Sure enough, several more impact veterans would follow them out the door over the next week-plus.
The 23-year-old Brantly made his major league debut on Aug. 14 of that same season, forming a battery with the mighty Josh Johnson. On the second pitch of his Marlins catching career, Brantly helplessly watched Jimmy Rollins put the visiting Phillies ahead with a leadoff home run. That would make all the difference in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel.
Brantly quickly found his offensive groove—.290/.372/.460, 126 wRC+ in 2012—and took over as Miami’s primary catcher in September. He remained atop the depth chart entering the 2013 campaign. However, the league made its adjustments. His strikeout rate soared by more than 50% compared to the previous year while his walk rate was practically sliced in half. The Southern California native only blasted one ball over the fence in 243 plate appearances.
A Baseball America scouting report from around the time of the trade insisted Brantly “has made strides with his receiving and blocking technique.” But that failed to translate at the highest level. His framing stats in ‘13 were among the worst on record for a Marlins catcher, according to FanGraphs. Also, he couldn’t fully get in sync with fellow rookie José Fernández. In nine starts together, Fernández allowed 18 earned runs in 44 1⁄3 innings (3.65 ERA); meanwhile with veteran backstop Jeff Mathis, Fernández allowed 19 earned runs in 109 1⁄3 innings (1.56 ERA).
Brantly was squeezed off the Marlins roster in December 2014 and got claimed by the White Sox. In total, he has ventured to eight different MLB organizations in his six years since departing the Fish, earning brief big league time with three of them.
264. Andre Dawson
Dawson is among a handful of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees who spent a portion of their playing careers with the Marlins. “The Hawk” was far removed from his MVP peak when he committed to them for the 1995 season, but it was a feel-good pick-up, nonetheless. The Miami native would get to compete in his own backyard!
The right-handed-hitting outfielder took the field for 121 games from 1995-1996, playing only 24 of them start to finish. Ichiro Suzuki, Tim Raines and Dawson are the only players to ever hit a home run for the Marlins at age 42 or older.
For the entirety of the Jeffrey Loria era, Dawson served as a special assistant in the Marlins front office. Championships eluded him as a player, but he earned a World Series ring for his role with the 2003 team.
As part of his effort to disassociate the Marlins from all things Loria-related, Derek Jeter fired Dawson in late 2017 upon taking over as CEO. After that decision was met with loud public backlash, Jeter reportedly offered to keep him around at a reduced salary. They couldn’t patch things up, unfortunately.
263. Bryan Petersen
The Marlins’ 2007 MLB Draft class had a chance to be the greatest in franchise history. You can make the case that it was, anyway—Giancarlo Stanton is their all-time leader in Wins Above Replacement and Steve Cishek enjoyed several good seasons of high-leverage relief work. But we would’ve remembered it even more fondly if Petersen had panned out.
The fourth-rounder made a big splash in 2008, combining for 23 homers and 23 steals across three minor league levels in his first full season out of the University of California, Irvine (not to be confused with Brantly’s alma mater, UC Riverside). Despite posting more pedestrian numbers during his time with the Jacksonville and New Orleans affiliates, he continued to be regarded as a consensus Marlins Top 30 prospect.
Petersen ascended to The Show in 2010, a full month before Stanton, but didn’t get anything resembling regular playing time. He was utilized off the bench in 22 of his 23 major league contests, finishing with a .203 OPS in 25 plate appearances.
His 2011 season was sneakily impressive (105 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR in 241 PA). Petersen even succeeded on the mound. Those contributions went under the radar because he homered only twice over the course of that half-season workload.
Buried on the outfield depth chart entering 2012, “Petey Pipes” eventually moved up the chain as teammates’ injuries piled up. But he couldn’t replicate the previous summer’s moderate offensive success.
The Marlins kept him in the organization for 2013 as Triple-A filler. Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna both leapfrogged ahead of him as the year progressed, joining Stanton to form MLB’s most electrifying outfield.
262. Darren Oliver
Winning a World Series often compels MLB owners to spend lavishly the following offseason. Reward some key players for their contributions! Put your team in a position to defend its title!
Loria was unamused by that tradition. The 2003-04 winter had more high-profile departures than acquisitions. The Marlins lost Pudge Rodríguez in free agency and elected to trade Derrek Lee, Juan Encarnación and Mark Redman.
In Oliver, Florida thought it was adding starting rotation depth. Adjusting for Coors Field’s environmental conditions, he had been more or less a league-average starter the prior season. He opened the 2004 campaign in the No. 5 slot, a durable veteran presence behind talented youngsters Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis and Carl Pavano.
Oliver gave the Marlins seven solid innings in his debut for the team, then six more in the following start. He would never again work that deeply into a game, though. The 33-year-old’s performance deteriorated over the next month. Through eight outings, he owned a horrific 7.94 ERA and 1.69 WHIP, allowing a 1.026 OPS to opponents. Manager Jack McKeon relegated him to the bullpen. The Fish shipped him to the Astros in late July for a minimal return.
From 2006-2013, Oliver had a fascinating second act as a setup man with the Mets, Angels, Rangers and Blue Jays, making six trips to the MLB postseason. Maybe he wouldn’t have accepted that role without first being humbled by his Marlins struggled?
261. Ryan Jackson
This first baseman/corner outfielder was the first and remains the only Duke University player that the Marlins have ever drafted themselves (1994, seventh round).
Jackson swung a good bat at each rung of the minor league ladder, seemingly putting it all together at the Double-A level in 1997 (.312/.380/.544, 26 HR, 98 RBI). The post-World Series firesale cleared a path for him to make the Marlins’ Opening Day roster in 1998.
Jackson was stuck with just one extra-base hit through a month of action and was optioned to Triple-A. He resurfaced in mid-May with a torrid .355/.400/.806 stretch, mashing three of his seven career home runs during those 10 games. But he had a drought of 168 plate appearances before his next long ball.
Jackson still owns the lowest single-season fielding percentage (.973) for a Marlins first baseman among those with at least 300 defensive innings at the position. Nobody else has even come close, actually.
The Marlins cut ties with Jackson on the eve of the 1999 season. He played more than 800 professional games after that, mainly for Triple-A teams with a few more cups of coffee in the majors and then two years in the Korea Baseball Organization. He just couldn’t consistently tap into his raw power when it mattered.