Our quest to cover every Marlins player is creeping toward the team’s top-100. Check out today’s trio below.
111. Vladimir Núñez
Núñez, a right-handed pitcher, was born in Cuba and played in the Cuban National Series as a teenager before defecting to the Dominican Republic. He signed an amateur free agent deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1996. Within just two and a half year, Núñez was on the mound for his major league debut. He made four appearances for the Diamondbacks in 1998, mostly in the late innings of blowout games.
Mid-way through the 1999 season, the Florida Marlins received two pitchers, Núñez and Brad Penny, and an outfielder, Abraham Núñez, from the Diamondbacks in a trade for pitcher Matt Mantei. Although he was used strictly in relief with the Diamondbacks, the Marlins had Núñez start 12 games for the club after acquiring him.
Núñez struggled mightily the following season. He made 12 starts in which he collected six losses without recording a win. In 60 innings, he allowed 59 runs on 82 hits. Núñez returned to Triple-A for 15 starts, then returned for a few relief appearances with the Marlins at the end of the season.
From 2001-2002, Núñez had success pitching almost exclusively out of the bullpen. He threw 189 innings over the two season, holding a 3.08 ERA and recording 20 saves. 2002 was also the first and only time that Núñez did not spend any time in the minor leagues.
He struggled at the start of the 2003 season, however, allowing 18 runs in less than 10 innings and returned to Triple-A. The Marlins would end up cutting ties with Núñez at the beginning of October, just a few weeks before they won their second World Series.
Núñez would grind it out in the minor leagues with different ballclubs over the next few years. He made 22 relief appearances with the Colorado Rockies in 2004, but wouldn’t make it back to the big leagues until 2008 with the Atlanta Braves. After 23 games with the 2008 Braves, Núñez played one final game with the Braves in 2009.
110. Logan Morrison
The Florida Marlins drafted Morrison in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft, but he bet on himself and turned down his initial signing bonus to attend a junior college. The left-handed hitting first baseman played well enough to sign a draft-and-follow contract with the Marlins for more than double what the Marlins initially offered him.
By his third season in professional baseball, Morrison flourished and found himself the league leader in batting average, hits, doubles, and on-base percentage which earned him an All-Star nomination at first base and the Florida State League MVP award. Baseball America took notice, naming him best in multiple scouting categories, rating him the league’s third-best prospect, and the #19 prospect overall in 2008. Still impressive the following year after he moved up to Double-A, Morrison was named the league’s #7 prospect behind, most notably, Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton. He rose quickly in 2010. His promotion to Triple-A led to a spot on the U.S. team in the 2010 Futures Game and very quickly his MLB debut.
Long-time Marlins fans may remember the unfortunate 2010 injury Chris Coghlan sustained while attempting to shove a shaving cream pie in the face of a teammate during a celebration of an extra-inning, walk-off win. Coghlan, the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, required season-ending knee surgery and the Marlins needed someone to fill the unexpected void in left field. Enter: Logan Morrison. Although he was a first baseman, the Marlins called upon Morrison to learn to play leftfield on the fly. He made his debut and got his first major league hit on July 27, 2010.
Morrison put up above average numbers during his rookie season which earned him a spot in the 2011 Opening Day lineup. He flashed power that wasn’t seen the year before, swatting 23 home runs and driving in 72 runners over 123 games. He also became a vocal leader in the clubhouse and on Twitter (you may remember him as @CupOfLoMo). Morrison’s brash nature and questionable decisions drew criticism from the team’s manager and front office, leading to a mid-season demotion to Triple-A due to a need to work on all aspects of being a major leaguer, per ESPN.
The next two seasons, Morrison dealt with an injury which kept him off the field for months at a time. He put up below average numbers in 2012 and 2013, leading to a trade to the Seattle Mariners which landed the Fish the double-hopping pitcher Carter Capps.
After two average years with the Mariners, Morrison was traded to the Tampa Bay Ray. He hit a career high 38 home runs in 2017 with the Rays in what has been the best season of his career. The success was short-lived, however. Over the past three seasons with three different teams, Morrison hit .183/.271/.365 in a combined 133 games.
During his brief stint with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2020, a reporter asked Morrison about playing with no fans due to the pandemic. Morrison said it wouldn’t be difficult because he played for the Marlins and Rays.
Morrison would only get to play nine games in empty stadiums for the 2020 Brewers before getting designated for assignment. Fish Stripes’ very own Ely Sussman referenced the role Morrison’s was expected to play as the Brewers’ designated hitter and what really happened:
109. Donovan Solano
The St. Louis Cardinals signed Solano, a 17-year-old infielder from Colombia, in 2005. Solano progressed through the minor leagues and had success in 2008, where he was named a mid-season All-Star in the High-A Florida State League. He struggled a bit the following season, going between Double- and Triple-A. The Cardinals invited Solano to spring training in 2010 and 2011, but he would not reach the big leagues with the organization.
Shortly after becoming a free agent, the Florida Marlins signed Solano to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training in 2012. Solano began the season in Triple-A, but would soon join the newly-branded Miami Marlins to make his major league debut. Entering as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning on May 21, 2012, Solano became the 12th Colombian-born player in major league history. Eight days later, Donovan’s brother Jhonatan Solano made his debut and became the 13th Colombian-born player in the game’s history.
Solano saw action in 93 games during his rookie year after the team traded key members of the starting infield and other players went down with injuries. Solano’s offensive line of .295/.342/.375 was enough to be named the Marlins Rookie of the Year. Baseball America also named Solano to the Major League All-Rookie Team.
Solano’s rookie numbers didn’t hold up, though. He put up almost identical below-average numbers in 2013 and 2014 before having a dismal 55-game stretch the following season which ended his stretch with the Marlins.
Solano signed with the New York Yankees for the following season but would play only nine games in pinstripes. He didn’t return to the big stage until 2019.
During this stretch of attempting to battle back to the big leagues, Solano donned Team Colombia’s jersey for the country’s first ever appearance in the World Baseball Classic. Alongside both Solano brothers on the 2017 Team Colombia roster was future-Marlins catcher, Jorge Alfaro. Although Team Colombia would get knocked out of the tournament, Solano wasn’t finished just yet.
The revival of Solano’s career seemingly came out of nowhere, but the numbers prove he didn’t just get lucky: he made concrete adjustments. Solano was a groundball machine with the Marlins. With the San Francisco Giants in 2019 and 2020, however, Solano put the ball in the air more. Below are Solano’s average batted ball percentages and BABIP with the Marlins (2012-2015) and with the Giants (2019-2020):
Donovan Solano’s Batted Ball Profile
So what does this mean and why does it matter? Solano wound up winning the 2020 Silver Slugger Award among NL 2B, beating out Ozzie Albies, Jake Cronenworth, and Jeff McNeil. He also had the 4th most doubles (15) and the 5th-highest batting average (.326) in the National League.
I’m not saying Solano is in the same category as those guys, but I am saying he’s come a long way and his fantastic adjustment is one we should celebrate. He may no longer be a Marlin, but he’s someone I’m still rooting for.