Throughout the 2020-21 offseason, Fish Stripes is bringing you daily articles as part of the All-Time Marlins Countdown.
Today and every Saturday for the foreseeable future, I will be a “pinch-hitter” for the Fish Stripes staffers who ordinarily handle this series.
108. Mark Gardner
The third time was the charm for Mark Gardner as an MLB Draft prospect. He didn’t sign with his hometown California Angels when selected by them out of Fresno City College in 1983, nor did he join the Cleveland Indians the following year as a 17th-round pick. The right-hander finally turned pro in 1985 when the Montreal Expos came calling.
Before establishing himself as a staple of the Expos starting rotation, Gardner posted some jaw-dropping stats with their upper-level minor league affiliates. Consider the 1988 and 1989 MiLB seasons with Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A Indianapolis—in 360 combined innings, he had a 2.23 earned run average and racked up 376 strikeouts with 11 complete games (five shutouts).
Gardner was a reclamation project when the Marlins scooped him up entering the 1994 season. At age 31, he had struggled mightily with the ‘93 Royals through the All-Star break and barely pitched for them during the second half of the year. Even for a Florida team whose starting rotation was extremely young and unproven (outside of Charlie Hough), he opened the regular season in a mop-up relief role.
Gardner pinballed between starting (25 appearances) and relieving (34 appearances) during his two seasons with the Marlins. In 1995, he became the first Marlins player to ever wear uniform No. 28. On Sept. 3 of that year, he was credited with the first—and what would prove to be the only—save of his major league career.
As a free agent, Gardner re-signed with Florida for the 1996 campaign, but the club cut him shortly before Opening Day. He latched on with the Giants after that, pitching six more years in the Bay Area and finishing just one shy of 100 lifetime wins.
107. Jesús Sánchez
Don’t confuse this man with the other Jesús Sánchez, who’s currently a promising outfielder in the Marlins organization. He was covered earlier in the countdown.
This is Nizao, Dominican Republic native Jesús Paulino Sánchez. The petite left-handed pitcher came to the Fish during the post-1997 championship fire sale. The Mets packaged him with A.J. Burnett and one other prospect in order to receive World Series Game 7 starter Al Leiter and infielder Ralph Milliard. Humiliating as some of those cost-cutting transactions were, this one actually panned out well for both sides.
DID YOU KNOW: Sánchez pitched the fourth-most innings of any lefty in Marlins history. He trails only Dontrelle Willis, Kevin Olsen and Chris Hammond on the all-time list, and he’s one spot ahead of...Al Leiter!
However, tonnage isn’t everything. Sánchez owned a mediocre 84 ERA+ in his Florida career (100 represents the league average). Adjusting for context, he actually did more harm than good. He had a knack for allowing home runs at the worst possible times (4.7 HR% for Marlins in high-leverage situations; 2.5 HR% for Marlins in all other situations).
Lowest Career Win Probability Added for Pitchers in Marlins History
The Marlins traded Sánchez in December 2001 which sent him on a dizzying journey, from the Cubs to the Astros to the Rockies to the Reds to the Blue Jays, then internationally to the Dominican Republic and México. He briefly returned to affiliated ball with the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate in 2010, but had more success that year in the independent Atlantic League and Taiwan’s CPBL before spending another winter in the D.R.
All in all, Sánchez enjoyed two full decades as a professional ballplayer.
106. Jacob Turner
What do Jacob Turner and Cameron Maybin have in common?
- Drafted in the first round out of high school by the Tigers and made their big league debuts with them at age 20
- Traded away shortly after those debuts in exchange for more established players
- Had two separate stints with the Marlins under two different ownerships (Jeffrey Loria and Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter)
Miami had plummeted out of the postseason picture as the 2012 MLB trade deadline approached. To cut costs and replenish their farm system, they packaged Aníbal Sánchez and Omar Infante to Detroit for a trio of prospects. The then-21-year-old Turner was the headliner of the return package, widely regarded as one of the sport’s most talented up-and-coming pitchers. Turner initially reported to Triple-A New Orleans, but after a few effective weeks in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (1.98 ERA in 5 GS), the Fish called him up to enter their starting rotation.
Turner was a bright spot down the stretch during an otherwise deflating Marlins season. He showed good control despite his inexperience, walking just 5.3% of batters faced with zero hit by pitches in 42 2⁄3 innings.
Long story short, the six-foot-five right-hander never improved from there. Turner’s fastball velocity steadily increased through the years, but didn’t translate into more whiffs. The 3.89 fielder independent pitching mark as a Marlins rookie still stands as his personal best for any partial or full MLB season.
The GIF above comes from June 29, 2013 when Turner tossed a complete game versus the Padres, setting career highs in innings, strikes and strikeouts that night. He made 14 more starts in his sophomore season—his team lost 12 of those.
The Marlins severed ties with Turner before he totally bottomed out, receiving prospects José Arias and Tyler Bremer from the Cubs. Neither of them reached the majors, though.
Turner arrived to 2018 spring training on a minor league deal. The new administration had barely any familiarity with him. Expectations were low for both him and the Marlins themselves, now on the ground floor of an arduous rebuild. He did adequate enough in exhibitions games to make it onto the Opening Day roster as a reliever. That experiment was short-lived.
As of this writing, Turner, incredibly, is not yet 30 years old (he’ll reach that milestone in May). Too soon to close the book on his playing career, but he’s likely nearing the final pages of it.