The 72nd edition of our offseason-long every-Marlins player series focuses on another four heroes from times past.
Three pitchers and Jeff Baker are featured in today’s article. Each of the 630 players to take the field for the Florida and Miami Marlins have been ranked. Sorted first into brackets defined by plate appearance transactions, that is PA or BF. We’re in the middle of the players who totaled between 250 and 799 BF/PA while with the team. They’re then further sorted by ascending brWAR divided by BF/PA. These four were pretty much at replacement level.
226. Jeff Baker
Jeff Baker was a right-side infielder from Bad Kissingen, Germany. In 1999, he went to the Cleveland Indians in the fourth round out of high school, but instead matriculated to Clemson University. In 136 contests over two seasons with the Tigers, Baker slashed .319/.403/.578, with 36 home runs and 151 RBI. The solid showing at Division 1 didn’t help his draft stock any. He was again chosen in round four in 2002, but the Colorado Rockies.
Prior to making his way to the Miami Marlins, Baker played for the Rockies, the Chicago Cubs, the Detroit Tigers, the Atlanta Braves, and the Texas Rangers. In 617 games, he hit .267/.321/.440 and clubbed 48 round-trippers with 199 RBI. Prior to 2014 Spring Training, the Marlins extended Baker an offer.
Baker appeared in 90 games for the 2014 Marlins, going 55-for-208 from the plate, with 10 doubles, four triples, and three homers with 28 RBI. He scored 27 times, drew 13 walks, whiffed 51 times, and stole one base, the final one of his 11-season major league career. Fun fact—Baker stole 14 bases through his career, but was only caught once.
For the Marlins, Baker played mainly first and second base, with a few appearances at the hot corner. He was used in the batting order at second, fifth, sixth, and seventh, collecting multiple hits 11 times including two three-hit games. In a 13-5 win over the Rockies on August 22, Baker hit two doubles and a single, scoring a run and somehow not collecting an RBI.
In 2015, Baker played the first four months of the campaign with the Marlins once more. In 41 games, he went 15-for-72 at the dish, with three doubles, three round-trippers, and eight RBI. After not finding any takers at the trade deadline, the Marlins released Baker on July 31. Baker hasn’t signed a professional deal since that time.
225. Ricky Bones
Salinas, Puerto Rico native Ricky Bones was a five-foot-10 right-handed starting pitcher when he signed his first professional deal, with the San Diego Padres just past his 17th birthday in 1986. In a tiny twist, he was born one day before the Friars played their first ever major league game (April 7 and April 8, 1969, respectively).
Bones got to the majors for the first time in 1991 with the Padres, as their fifth ranked overall prospect according to Baseball America. Over the next nine seasons, he also played with the Milwaukee Brewers, the New York Yankees, the Cincinnati Reds, the Kansas City Royals, and the Baltimore Orioles, making the National League All Star team in 1994 with the Brewers. His pre-Marlins career figures were generally comparable to the numbers he later put up for Florida. He went 57-75 in 258 games, including 164 starts, while posting a 4.86 ERA and a 5.17 FIP. In 1137 innings, he struck out 464 and put up a 1.46 WHIP.
Nine days before the turn of the millennium, Bones signed with the Marlins through free agency. Although he earned his stripes as a starter, he joined the team as a relief pitcher and put up slightly above replacement level figures in his first year with the team. He came out of the pen 56 times and went 2-3 with a 4.54 ERA. His 3.78 FIP ranked him as better than league-average, although his 1.565 WHIP placed him slightly under the watermark.
Bones placed 60 percent of his offerings over the plate in 2000, as opponents managed to hit a healthy .303 off him. His better than average control (27 walks in 77 1⁄3 innings) helped him keep his OBP down to .358, and he also limited extra base hits enough to rack up a .413 opponent SLG. He had also become somewhat more of a strikeout pitcher by this point in his career, whiffing 59 for a career-best 6.9 K/9 (as opposed to a 3.7 mark prior to joining the team).
Through his first 15 2⁄3 innings with Florida, Bones didn’t allow a run, limiting his opponents to seven singles and one double. His most impressive outing of the season may have been his first Marlins appearance, in their second game of the season. On April 4, he came in to pitch against the San Francisco Giants with Florida trailing, 3-0. He pitched three scoreless innings, allowing only a hit. The Marlins lost by the same score, in a game saved by former Marlins closer Robb Nen.
The 2001 season would see the Marlins extend Bones a second contract. In 61 relief appearances, he went 4-4 with a 5.06 ERA and a 4.88 FIP. A decrease in control (33 walks in 64 innings) led to an increase in WHIP to 1.63. He plated 59 percent of his offerings, while opponents hit .286/.374/.460. Bones did strand 68 percent of his 38 inherited baserunners through the campaign.
Going by WPA, Bones best outing of the season happened on July 24. He earned the win after inheriting a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth inning with the Marlins clinging to a 4-3 lead by striking out Mike Piazza and inducing a Todd Zeile double-play ball. He then pitched a perfect sixth with only seven pitches, getting three Mets to ground out in an eventual Florida victory.
Florida decided against giving Bones a third season. He instead played in 2002 at the Triple-A level for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He retired as a player following three games for the Saltillo Saraperos in the Mexican League in 2003. He’s been a pitching or bullpen coach since then, spending eight of the last nine seasons as the Mets bullpen coach.
224. Sean West
Sean West is a six-foot-eight left-handed pitcher from Houston, Texas. In 2005, the Marlins took him in the Competitive Balance round of the draft, 44th off the board out of Captain Shreve HS in Shreveport, Louisiana.
By 2007, West was ranked as the number four prospect on the Marlins, as well as the number 96 prospect in all of baseball. Unfortunately, he went down for the entire season after labrum surgery. In 2008, he went 6-5 with a 2.41 ERA for the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads. In 2009, he made his major league debut.
That season, West appeared 20 times in the rotation for the Marlins, going 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA. In 103 1⁄3 innings, he struck out 70 and put up a 1.539 WHIP. Opponents slashed .280/.351/.450, as West struggled to keep the ball from going over the wall. He surrendered 11 through the campaign, and put 62 percent of his pitches in the strike zone.
On June 8, West had the best outing of his career, besting Hall of Fame Randy Johnson by a 4-0 final over the San Francisco Giants. West struck out six over eight shutout innings, scattering two singles and a walk. With his pitch count at 104, he gave way to Juan Carlos Oviedo (then known as Leo Núñez) for the final three outs.
West spent most of his 2010 season with the New Orleans Zephyrs for the Marlins at the Triple-A level. He made two starts for Florida in August, but allowed nine runs on 15 hits and four walks in 9 1⁄3 innings. He then spent 2011 back with New Orleans, and didn’t appear with another affiliated system. In 2013, he signed with the Washington Nationals in January, but he did not make the cut out of Spring Training.
223. Austin Brice
Austin Brice was a ninth-round choice of the Florida Marlins in 2010 out of Northwood HS. A native of Hong Kong, the six-foot-four right-hander took his time getting to the majors, finally ranking as a prospect in 2016 (he was the number 23 prospect, according to the MLB Pipeline that season).
That season, he made his major league debut for the Marlins, appearing 15 times out of the bullpen between August 12 and the end of the campaign. He posted a 7.07 ERA in 14 innings of work, striking out 14 batters and walking only five. Unfortunately, he also gave up 11 runs on nine hits. Despite that, his WHIP was a tidy 1.000, and opponents managed only an anemic .173/.271/.327 slashline, as he plated 67 percent of his offerings.
Brice didn’t allow a baserunner through his first four innings of work, and only allowed baserunners in one of his first six appearances. In over half of his outings, he didn’t surrender a base hit. Before Spring Training the following year, the Marlins traded him along with Zeek White and Luis Castillo to the Cincinnati Reds for Dan Straily.
Brice appeared in 55 games over the next two seasons for the Reds, striking out 58 and putting up a 1.314 WHIP in 70 innings of work. Despite the good work, he was thrice waived between the end of the 2018 season and the beginning of 2019, by the Reds, the Los Angeles Angels, and the Baltimore Orioles. The Marlins got him from the latter on February 4.
In his second go-round with the Marlins, Brice made 36 trips out of the pen, and went 1-0 with a 3.43 ERA and a 4.87 FIP. He posted a 1.231 WHIP by surrendering 37 hits and 18 walks in 44 2⁄3 innings, striking out 46 in the balance. Opponents hit .214/.312/.364 in 199 plate appearances, hitting seven home runs while Brice made strikes on 64 percent of his pitches. On July 2, Brice struck out three in as many shutout innings, allowing only a single in an eventual 3-2 loss to the eventual Champion Washington Nationals.
In January, 2020, the Marlins traded Brice to the Boston Red Sox for Angeudis Santos. Although we have yet to hear from the 19-year-old shortstop, Brice struck out 25 in 19 2⁄3 frames for Boston.
Thanks for reading. Check back tomorrow for Chapter 73, where we get a look at Donnie Murphy and John Cangelosi, amongst others.