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All-Time Marlins Countdown: Chapter 89

Today’s chapter is headlined by current Marlins first baseman/right fielder Garrett Cooper.

Division Series - Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves - Game Two Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Florida and Miami Marlins have used 630 players through their first 28 seasons of major league play.

This offseason-long series is focusing on each player in turn. Players are first sorted into preliminary brackets defined by their total “plate transactions” while with the franchise. The current bracket includes players who totaled between 250 and 799 plate appearances and/or batters faced with the Marlins.

Players are further sorted by ascending brWAR divided by BF/PA. Today’s batch of players were/are above replacement level by a comfortable margin while wearing a Marlins uniform.

158. Clay Hensley

Clay Hensley is a five-foot-11 right-handed pitcher from Tomball, Texas. In the eighth round of the 2002 draft, he went to the San Francisco Giants out of Lamar University. In 20 games for the Cardinals at the Division 1 level, including a dozen starts, Hensley was 8-6 with a 2.97 ERA and 127 K’s in 100 frames.

After turning pro, Hensley joined the Low-A Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the Northwest League. In 15 starts he was 7-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 84 whiffs in 81 23 innings. Clearly, his collegiate success was translating well to the professional game, albeit at one of the lower levels of the minors.

Florida Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

In mid-2003, while pitching at the High-A level for the Giants, Hensley was traded cross-state to the San Diego Padres for Matt Herges. By 2005, he made his big-league debut with the Friars. In 47 2/3 innings, he collected a 1.70 ERA totaling 1.049 WHIP over 24 appearances, all but one in relief.

Hensley went into the 2006 campaign ranked as the Padres number six prospect, according to Baseball America. He responded with a solid 3.71 ERA and a 1.337 WHIP in 29 starts and eight relief appearances for San Diego. He started an additional 10 games with 35 more trips out of the bullpen over the next two years. In 2009, he played minor league ball in the Houston Astros system.

After the 2009 season, the Marlins signed Hensley through free agency. In 2010, he tied for the team-lead with 68 appearances, all out of the bullpen, and straight up led the club with a 2.16 ERA. He struck out 77 in 75 innings, and posted a 1.107 WHIP. In consecutive appearances on April 28 and 30, Hensley struck out 13 in five shutout innings, giving up a double, a single, and stranding a runner. He held the opposition to a .200/.286/.281 slashline overall, stranding 17-of-23 baserunners, and putting 61 pitches over the plate.

Hensley played with Florida again in 2011, putting up a 5.19 ERA and a 1.360 WHIP in 67 23 innings. He struck out 46 and walked 30, going 6-7 and coming out of the bullpen in 28 of his 37 appearances. The Marlins granted his free agency once more after the season.

In 2012, Hensley pitched 50 23 innings for the San Francisco Giants, the team that drafted him in the first place. He finished with a 4.62 ERA in what would be his last major league season.

157. Garrett Cooper

Six-foot-five first baseman/right fielder Garrett Cooper is a native of Torrance, California. In 2013, he hit .354/.481/.540 with the Auburn Tigers. Born on Christmas Day, 1990, Cooper was later that year a sixth-round choice of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Cooper was never regarded as a top prospect, but after hitting 17 homers with 82 RBI in 75 games with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 2017, the New York Yankees sent Tyler Webb to the Brewers for his services. Later that year, he made his major league debut and went 14-for-43 in 13 games. After the season, the Yankees sent Cooper along with Caleb Smith to the Marlins for Michael King.

Cooper sent seven-for-33 for the Marlins in 2018, his official rookie season, with two RBI in a very short look. In 2019 he made a solid impact at the major league level with Miami. He earned 1.6 of his 2.3 career brWAR by playing in 107 games.

Cooper slashed .281/.344/.446 with 16 doubles, a triple, 15 round-trippers and 50 RBI. He drew 33 walks, scored 52 runs, and struck out 110 times. Thirty times through the season, he had multiple hit games, including seven times with three or more. One of only two players on the team to finish with an above-average OPS+, Cooper ranked second on the team with a 109. On June 12, in a 9-0 Marlins victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Cooper fell a double short of the cycle, collecting four RBI in the contest.

In 2020, Cooper went 34-for-120 with six home and 20 RBI. He again ranked second on the team with his OPS+, finishing at 130. He slashed .283/.353/.500, and struck out 31 times while drawing 11 walks.

Cooper’s been really solid, and would have collected a lot more counting stats if he hadn’t been the chance victim of several bad-luck injuries during his time with the Marlins. I still expect big things from him in the future, as I believe he has 35 home run potential over the course of a full season.

156. Justin Ruggiano

Austin, Texas native Justin Ruggiano is a right-handed outfielder. In 2004, the Los Angeles Dodgers chose him in the 25th round of the draft out of Texas A&M University. In 62 games in 2003 with the Aggies, he had slashed out a line of .322/.403/.555 with 10 homers and 49 RBI. He ranked 10th in the Big 12 with 31 extra base hits. oth the Triple-A and the International League All Star Team.

While still at the Double-A level in mid-2006 (with the Jacksonville Suns, no less), the Dodgers traded Ruggiano to the Tampa Bay Rays as a player to be named later in an earlier deal. His performance in 2007 at the Triple-A level with the Durham Bulls would land him on both the Triple-A and the International League All Star Team. To wit, he slashed .309/.386/.502 in 127 games, hitting 20 homers with 73 RBI and stealing 26 bases. That season he also made his major league debut, going three-for-14 in seven games with the Rays.

In 2008, Ruggiano was 15-for-76 in limited action for the Rays, and actually spent most of the season in Durham. In fact, he also spent the entirety of the 2009 and 2010 campaign with the Bulls before getting back to the Show in 2011. In 46 games that year, he was 26-for-105 with four home runs.

Prior to the 2012 season, Ruggiano signed on with the Houston Astros through free agency. After spending the first several weeks of the regular season with their Triple-A affiliate, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Astros flipped Ruggiano to the Marlins for minor league catcher Jobduan Morales.

During his time with the Marlins, Ruggiano spent none of it at the minor league level, appearing in 219 major league games with Miami between 2012 and 2013. He put down a .258/.329/.452 slashline with 31 homers, 86 RBI, and 29 stolen bases.

Defensively, Ruggiano appeared at all three outfield positions while with Miami, mostly in center field. In 1607 13 combined innings, he fielded at a .984 clip, with six outfield assists. He was considered a well-above average outfielder in 2012, turning in more pedestrian advanced metrics in 2013.

Ruggiano totaled 55 multiple hit games for the Marlins. On April 29, 2013, he started a game versus the New York Mets batting sixth in the order. After striking out twice, he hit a single in the sixth, added a double and scored a game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth, walked in the 11th, singled in the 13th, and drew a walk in the 15th. He scored the walkoff game-winning run on a Nick Green sacrifice fly.

In December following the season, the Marlins traded Ruggiano to the Chicago Cubs for Brian Bogusevic. Ruggiano went on to play for the Seattle Mariners, the Dodgers, the Texas Rangers, the Mets, and the San Francisco Giants after his season with Chicago. He has been a free agent since mid-2017.

155. Ronny Paulino

Catcher Ronny Paulino is a six-foot-three native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He signed his first professional deal in 1997 with the Pittsburgh Pirates at the age of 16. In 2002 while with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats, he made the Carolina League All Star team at catcher by hitting .262/.321/.412 in 119 games.

In 2004, Paulino again made his league’s all star team while catching at the Double-A level for the Altoona Curve. In 99 games, he hit .285/.344/.480, clubbing 15 homers with 60 RBI. The following season, he made his major league debut with the Bucs, going two-for-four in two appearances.

In 2006, Paulino led the National League with 38 runners caught stealing. He maintained a 36 percent CS rate, which put him eight percent above the league average. He also racked up a .310/.360/.394 slashline with six jacks and 55 RBI in likely his best offensive campaign. Paulino spent another two seasons as the Pirates everyday catcher.

During the 2008-09 offseason, Paulino was traded to the Phillies for Jason Jaramillo, then to the San Francisco Giants for Jack Taschner, and finally to the Marlins for Hector Correa. After joining the Marlins, Paulino basically served as a co-number-1 catcher with John Baker. Paulino started 63 games to Baker’s 99. In 2010, Paulino was the clear-cut number one, with 85 starts. None of the other five catchers to start a game for the Marlins that year had more than 32 (Brad Davis).

In 171 total games for Florida, Paulino hit .265/.323/.384 with a dozen homers and 64 RBI. He collected 28 doubles and a triple, stealing two bases, drawing 50 walks, scoring 55 runs, and striking out 99 times. Defensively, he threw out 31 percent of base-stealers in each season, slightly above the N.L. average.

Paulino finished with multiple hits in 36 of his games for the Marlins, but going by WPA, his most positively impactful game with the team was one in which he only had one. With nobody out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, trailing by a 6-4 score, Paulino pinch-doubled two runs home in an eventual 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After getting granted free agency following 2010, Paulino went on to play two more major league seasons, one each with the New York Mets and with the Baltimore Orioles. He’s been a free agent since 2014.