Throughout the 2020-21 offseason, Fish Stripes is going over all the history.
In their first 28 seasons, the Marlins have played a total of 4,364 regular season games. This series focuses on each of the 630 players to have appeared in any of those. Players are first sorted into brackets—and we’re currently somewhere in the middle of the 250-to-799 PA/BF stack o’ players. Today’s Gang of Four all closed the Marlins’ leg of their baseball journey smack dab at replacement level.
218. Ramón Castro
Right-handed catcher Ramón Castro is a native of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. In 1994, the Houston Astros took him in the first round out of high school, 17th overall off the board. By 1996, he was the Astros sixth ranked prospect, according to Baseball America.
In 1998, nearly four years to the date after being drafted, and without him having yet made his major league debut, Castro found himself traded to the Marlins for minor league catcher Scott Makarewicz and reliever Jay Powell (read about him in February, in Chapter 107).
Castro took another year before getting to the majors with the Marlins, but once there he ended up playing parts of six seasons with the parent club. In 207 appearances in total, he slashed .212/.296/.365 with 18 homers and 53 RBI. As a backstop, he threw out 35.2 percent of basestealers in 1,077 innings behind the plate. He made a total of 10 errors in 859 chances for a .988 fielding percentage.
Going by WPA, Castro’s best appearance with the Marlins was on August 12, 2003, with Florida in the midst of a pennant race. He entered the game in the 11th inning of a 4-4 tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a defensive replacement. In the bottom of that inning, he struck out (sad face). When he came up again in the bottom of the 13th with two out and nobody on, he launched Paul Shuey’s third pitch of the plate appearance into the left field seats for a walk-off victory.
I submit that Castro is probably the most accomplished third-string catcher in Marlins history, but he didn’t stay with Florida past 2004. Granted free agency, he signed on with the New York Mets, and later also played for the Chicago White Sox. After his time with the Marlins, he put up a .249/.316/.453 slashline with 49 homers and 164 RBI in 360 contests. Although technically still a free agent, Castro hasn’t appeared in a playing capacity since 81 games for the 2013 Long Island Ducks, in the Atlantic League.
217. Gregg Zaun
Gregg Zaun is the only first named “Gregg” in the series, although the Marlins have employed four players named “Greg,” not to mention Kevin Gregg and Tommy Gregg, but I digress.
Zaun is a five-foot-10 catcher from Glendale, California. A switch-hitting righty, Zaun was the 17th round choice of the Baltimore Orioles in 1989, out of high school. In 1993, he earned an All Star nod on the Eastern League team, after hitting .306/.373/.380 in 79 games for the Bowie Baysox. In 1995, he made his big league debut, and played in 90 games for the Orange Birds over parts of two seasons.
In August 1996, the Orioles traded Zaun to the Marlins to complete an earlier deal for Terry Mathews (read about him in Chapter 86). Although Zaun only appeared in 10 games for Florida down the stretch, the results were promising. He went nine-for-31 from the plate with a double and a home run with two RBI.
The 1997 campaign would see Zaun hold down the backup catcher spot for Charles Johnson. He appeared in 58 games, catching in 50 of them, and hit .301/.415/.441 with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs, and 20 RBI. He also drew more walks (26) than he struck out (18), which is unfortunately a real rarity these days. Zaun earned a World Series Champion ring despite only getting into two games in the postseason, going 0-for-2 overall.
In 1998, Zaun was more-or-less the Marlins starter behind the plate, with 88 defensive games at the position out of his 106 total appearances. Unfortunately, his offensive hot-streak didn’t keep up through what would be his final season with the Marlins. He only slashed .188/.274/.292 with five home runs and 29 RBI.
Defensively, Zaun gunned down 32.3 percent of runners trying to steal, which puts him slightly above the National League average for that time. In 1142 1⁄3 innings of defensive work, he totaled 16 errors for a .984 fielding percentage.
On June 15, 1997, Zaun had his best game with the Marlins. He hit a ground-rule two-out double in the second off Dwight Gooden, trailing the New York Yankees by a 3-0 margin. In the bottom of the eighth, he hit his second double of the day, driving in two runs for a 4-3 Marlins lead off Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson. Unfortunately, Derek Jeter tied the game in the ninth with an RBI-groundout, and Pat Kelly followed with an RBI-triple to take a 5-4 lead. The story wasn’t done yet — Moises Alou drove two home in the bottom of the ninth on a ground-ball error (by Kelly, no less) for a 6-5 victory. Good game.
Zaun was sent to the Detroit Tigers during the 1998-99 offseason as part of a conditional deal. After leaving the Marlins, he played for the Texas Rangers, the Kansas City Royals, the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles (again), the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Milwaukee Brewers. After 16 seasons of major league ball, he had collected a .252/.344/.388 line with 88 home runs and 446 RBI.
Zaun went into broadcasting after the end of his playing career, with Rogers Sportsnet. He was dismissed in 2017 after allegations of sexual harassment came to light.
216. Randy Messenger
Randy Messenger is a six-foot-six right-handed pitcher from Reno, Nevada. In 1999, the Florida Marlins chose him in round 11 of the draft out of Sparks HS.
Messenger spent the first few seasons of his professional career mostly as a starter. In 2002 with the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads, he went 11-8 with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in 156 2⁄3 innings. Despite that, he made the transition to reliever some time later, saving 21 games for the 2004 Carolina Mudcats int he Southern League.
In 2005, Messenger got to the major leagues, and appeared in 111 games in relief for the Marlins over the next three seasons. He was 3-8 with a 4.98 ERA and 86 K’s in 121 frames. Never used as a closer, Messenger totaled a 1.661 WHIP during his time with Florida. His K/BB ratio finished up at 1.37 after hovering around one-to-one through his first season, although opponents hit .273, .296, and .329 through his time with the team, respectively.
On May 2, 2006, Messenger was pitching out from near the back of the bullpen when he had arguably his best Marlins appearance for the 6-17 club. He relieved starter Scott Olsen with the bases loaded, no outs, and a 3-1 fourth inning deficit to the Philadelphia Phillies, then struck out David Bell and got Sal Fasano to ground into a double play to end it. Although he allowed two singles over the next two innings, he also racked up three more strikeouts while allowing zero runs in an eventual 7-5 Marlins loss.
On May 31, 2007, Messenger departed for points west when the Marlins traded him to the San Francisco Giants for Armando Benitez (more on him in Chapter 96). After finishing out the season with the Giants, he played two more seasons in the majors with the Seattle Mariners.
Messenger had a robust post-major league career, playing 10 seasons in the Hanshin Tigers rotation. He pitched 1,606 1⁄3 innings in the NPB, going 98-94 with a 3.13 ERA and 1,475 strikeouts.
215. Kevin Slowey
Although Kevin Slowey was never confused for an All Star, he did manage to build a 4.46 lifetime K/BB ratio in 137 career major league appearances, and that’s something.
A six-foot-three right-handed pitcher, Slowey is a native of Conroe, Texas. In 2005, the Minnesota Twins took him in the second round out of Winthrop University. In three seasons of division 1 collegiate play, Slowey had racked up a 29-8 record, a 3.00 ERA, and 328 K’s in 342 innings. All that while maintaining a sub-1 WHIP.
By 2007, Slowey was regarded as the number 71 prospect in baseball, and the number three in the Twins system. He also got to the majors for them that year, and joined their rotation for the greater part of the next five seasons. Through the first four years of that, he put up a 39-21 record and a 4.41 ERA before bottoming out in 2011 with an 0-8 record and a 6.67 ERA.
Before Slowey got back to the majors, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies and then the Cleveland Indians. After getting free agency granted to him following the 2012 regular season, Slowey signed on with the Miami Marlins.
Slowey made 16 starts for Miami over the next two seasons, appearing an additional 21 times out of the bullpen. In 129 1⁄3 innings, he struck out 100 while walking only 27. Slowey was 4-7 with a 4.45 ERA, and a 1.44 WHIP overall for the Fish.
On May 5, 2013, Slowey had his best start with the Marlins, pitching seven shutout two-hit innings against the Phillies. He struck out seven, as Miami’s offense erupted for a 14-2 victory.
The Marlins released Slowey on June 24, 2014. He later signed on through free agency with Philadelphia, but didn't again get back to the major leagues.