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All-Time Marlins Countdown: Chapter 53

Today’s article features five Marlins from the first 28 seasons of the franchise.

Colordao Rockies v Florida Marlins Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

The Florida and Miami Marlins have been around for 28 seasons now.

In that time, they have utilized 630 players in a regular season game for at least one plate appearance or batter faced. Today’s group of five all totaled between 75 and 274 PA/BF while with the team, and finished their Marlins’ careers above WAR, according to Baseball Reference. We’ve already covered 315 of them, and we have 315 to go.

(I’d also like to go off-book for a moment here and thank Ely and Nicole for pitching in with articles over the past few days. Since I retired from the military, I’ve found employment with the U.S. Post Office, and as you could possibly imagine, it’s been an overwhelming month. Writing these stories is purely a labor of love, and I would likely do it if I had as few as two readers. Now, back to the show...)

315. Willie Banks

Willie Banks played nine seasons of Major League Baseball split between seven franchises. Born in Jersey City, NJ, Banks was a first round pick of the Minnesota Twins way back in 1987, third off the board out of St. Anthony’s HS.

Over the next five years, Banks was consistently ranked highly in the Twins system, ranking no lower than fourth according to Baseball America. In 1989, he led the High-A California League with four shutouts and with 173 strikeouts for the Visalia Oaks. Unsurprisingly, Banks then opened the 1990 season as the number 13 prospect in all of baseball.

Banks made his major league debut with Minnesota in 1991, joining their rotation in earnest by 1993. In 52 appearances, including 45 starts, he posted a 16-17 record with 191 strikeouts in 259 23 innings. The Twins sent him to the Chicago Cubs for Dave Stevens and Matt Walbeck after the 1993 season. They later flipped him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor leaguer Dax Winslett.

On August 10, 1995, the Marlins claimed Banks off waivers from L.A., and folded him neatly into their starting rotation for the rest of the campaign. He started nine games for Florida, striking out 30 in 50 frames while posting a 4.32 ERA and a 1.460 WHIP. On August 26, Banks had his highest GameScore for the Marlins, putting up a 64 in a 6-2 victory over the Houston Astros. Banks struck out four while allowing only one run on a solo shot over seven strong innings.

Banks converted 55 percent of his 711 total pitches for strikes while with the Marlins, and made 11-of-12 defensive plays on the hill. What was perhaps unexpected of him was his competency at the plate. He went six-for-17 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored.

Just after the season closed, the Marlins placed Banks on waivers, and lost him to the Philadelphia Phillies. Although he didn’t make the team out of Spring Training, and didn’t play any organized baseball for the 1996 season, Banks did come back to play for the New York Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Boston Red Sox. In 2010, Banks served as the pitching coach for the independent Newark Bears in the Atlantic League.

314. Alejandro De Aza

Alejandro De Aza is a left-handed outfielder from Guaymate, Dominican Republic, and currently a free agent. In 2001, he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers through free agency at the age of 17. After four seasons in their minor league system, the Marlins took De Aza in the 2004 rule 5 draft.

In 2007, De Aza made his major league debut with the Marlins, appearing in 45 games and going 33-for-144 form the plate with eight doubles, two three-baggers, and eight RBI. He drew six walks, scored 14 runs, and stole two bases in two attempts. He also struck out 37 times.

Florida Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

De Aza started his Marlins career with a nine-game hitting streak, and hits in 14 of his first 15 appearances. Over that time, he hit .333 with seven of his 10 extra base hits for the season.

De Aza injured his ankle in the final game of 2008 Spring Training, and ultimately didn’t appear in a single game for the franchise at any level through the season. When he did return to the parent club, in May, 2009, he ended up going five-for-20 with a double, five runs, and three RBI. He also drew five walks and struck out five times. It was during this run that De Aza posted his best game as a member of the team.

On May 20, in just his third game back from the extended layoff, De Aza hit an RBI single and scored in the second, then hit a leadoff single and scored in the fourth in a contest against the Diamondbacks. Down by a run and leading off in the bottom of the 12th, De Aza doubled down the left field line, and tied the score at eight when Chris Coghlan singled him home one batter later. Despite the heroics, the Marlins lost, 11-9 in 13 frames.

Defensively while with the team, De Aza played 343 23 innings in the outfield, most of it in center. He made a pair of errors out of 109 chances in total for a .982 fielding percentage.

Following 2009, the Marlins surrendered De Aza to the Chicago White Sox via waivers. He spent four-and-a-half seasons with the Pale Hose, later playing a year-and-a-half for the Baltimore Orioles, splitting a season between the Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants, and playing a year each for the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals.

Most recently, De Aza played in 35 games for the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A club of the Twins. He hit .352/.432/.609 with six homers and 31 RBI and was granted free agency following 2019.

313. Allen Levrault

Allen Levrault, from Fall River, Massachusetts, was a six-foot-three right-handed pitcher who was originally taken in the 11th round in 1995 by the Toronto Blue Jays. Instead of signing, he played one season with the Community College of Rhode Island. The gamble was moot, as he went in round 13 the following season to the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 1998, Levrault posted a 1.06 WHIP for the High-A Stockton Ports, going 9-3 with a 2.87 ERA. This resulted in him getting ranked as the Brewers number 10 prospect entering the following season. He repeated his success at Double-A in 1999 with the Huntsville Stars, going 9-2 with a 1.10 WHIP over 16 starts.

Levrault made his major league debut with Milwaukee in 2000, joining the Brewers rotation for 20 turns in 2001. Over those two seasons, he struck out 89 in 142 23 innings, with a 5.94 ERA, a 1.56 WHIP, and a 6-11 record. Going into 2002 Spring Training, he was taken off waivers by the Oakland Athletics. After posting a 6.39 ERA for their Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats that season, he was granted free agency.

In November, 2002, Levrault signed with the Marlins through free agency, and spilt the 2003 campaign between Florida and the Albuquerque Isotopes. In 19 trips out of the bullpen for Florida, he struck out 21 in 28 frames, and allowed 12 runs on 15 walks and 38 hits. So, it was a decent 3.86 ERA with a very concerning 1.89 WHIP. High enough that the Marlins released him on July 12.

Levrault’s best game with the Marlins, by far, was in his debut on April 27. He totaled a game-best .555 WPA when he pitched shutout ball in innings 15 through 18 against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Marlins lost that one in 20, by a 7-6 final score.

The Marlins resigned Levrault five days later, but he didn’t make his way back to the majors.

312. Billy Koch

Rockville Centre, New York native Billy Koch is a right-handed reliever. In 1993, he was a fourth round choice of the New York Mets. Instead, he joined the University of Syracuse for three seasons of Division 1 ball. He went 21-9 with a 3.75 ERA and 338 whiffs in 276 23 innings, an 11.01 K/9 rate.

Unlike for Levrault, Koch’s gamble paid off in the form of a first round selection by the Toronto Blue Jays, fourth overall in 1996. He started the 1997 season as the number 74 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America. In 1998, he went 14-7 with a 3.75 ERA over 25 starts, with 108 K’s in 124 23 innings for the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays.

Koch debuted in the majors for the Jays in 1999 and was immediately plugged in as a closer. In his first four major league seasons, three for Toronto and one for the Oakland Athletics, he saved 144 games. In 215 games, overall, Koch was 22-17 with a 1.32 WHIP and 265 strikeouts over 305 13 innings.

Florida Marlins vs Pittsburgh Pirates - July 18, 2004 Photo by Sean Brady/Getty Images

Koch pitched 76 13 innings for the Chicago White Sox over the next year-and-a-half, with 67 K’s against 44 walks and only 19 saves in 79 games. At the 2004 trade deadline, they sent him to the Marlins for Wilson Valdez and cash.

Koch finished out the 2004 season coming out of the bullpen 23 times for Florida. He wasn’t used a a closer, instead working mostly in eighth inning situations. He went 1-2 with a 3.51 ERA, collecting 25 strikeouts in 25 23 innings and putting up a 1.60 WHIP. He was at his best on July 11, when he struck out four over 1 23 innings of perfect pitching in a 9-7 victory against St. Louis.

Koch signed with the Blue Jays through free agency prior to the 2005 season, but never again appeared at any level of affiliated baseball after his time with the Marlins.

311. Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson is a six-foot-three left-handed first baseman from Sacramento, California. In 1996, the New York Yankees spent their third round pick on him.

Prior to making his way to the Marlins, Johnson played at the major league level for three seasons with the Bombers and four-and-a-half seasons for the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. In 770 games, he slashed .273/.402/.447 with 87 homers and 381 RBI. At the 2009 trade deadline, Johnson was traded from the Nats to the Marlins for Aaron Thompson.

Colordao Rockies v Florida Marlins Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

In 35 games for Florida, Johnson went 29-for-104 with eight doubles, two homers, and 18 RBI. Most impressively, he drew double the amount of walks (36) as he struck out (18), resulting in a lopsided .279/.477/.413 slash line. Defensively, he made five errors in 260 23 innings, resulting in a .977 fielding percentage.

Johnson later played another season with the Yankees, and played in 2012 with the Baltimore Orioles.

Check back here tomorrow for the 54th chapter, starring Nick Anderson and Darren Daulton.