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Who Will Win the WAR?

Who, if anyone, could surpass Giancarlo Stanton as Miami’s career leader in WAR?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Miami Marlins Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

Giancarlo Stanton’s eight-year tenure with the Florida/Miami Marlins (2010-2017) was fraught with injury and teamwide dismality. Miami won 80 games in 2010—his rookie season—but hasn’t matched or bettered that total since.

Despite the team’s consistently poor showings in the standings, Stanton emerged in those years as one of the most exciting players in the sport. A four-time All-Star and the 2017 NL MVP, we was also extremely productive as measured by wins above replacement. Stanton’s 35.7 rWAR (Baseball-Reference) in that span placed him in a tie for 10th with Ian Kinsler among all MLB position players.

As visualized by Greg Harvey, Stanton established a new Marlins franchise record for position player career rWAR. He surpassed Hanley Ramírez (26.9) in that department in 2016. Luis Castillo (22.4) and Miguel Cabrera (18.3) are the only other former Fish to accumulate even half as much value. Here’s the top 50 for those curious.

Meanwhile, no current Marlin is even remotely close to Stanton. A player would not only have to perform but do so in a way that encourages the front office to invest in keeping them around long term.

Among all of the active Marlins—position players and pitchers combined—who has the most realistic chance of dethroning Stanton? In no particular order, here are five Fish we think could be the new king of WAR.

  1. Brian Anderson - 3B/OF

Current rWAR: 9.1

Brian Anderson smiling and pumping his fists in celebration Fish Stripes original GIF

Anderson’s tenure in Miami, to a lesser degree than Stanton’s, has seen the third baseman struggle to stay on the field. And while, not exactly a superstar offensive player—as noted by a career 109 OPS+ and a peak of 116—Anderson is a productive player, and easily one of the true bright spots in this now-four-year rebuild. He owns a career 3.4 WAR/162. Barring more physical setbacks, or even a possible change of scenery, Anderson chasing Stanton’s mark is somewhere within the realm of possibility, as one could argue he is still yet to hit his true ceiling.

2. Sandy Alcantara - SP

Current rWAR: 7.8

Netting a 5-year/$56M contract extension will certainly land you on this list, but so will being the caliber of pitcher Sandy Alcantara has shown he can be. While the 20-34 win-loss record may lead traditionalists to cast him off, modern analysis has discounted the importance of evaluating pitchers based on win totals, as seen by Alcantara’s career 3.49 ERA (121 ERA+). Alcantara is still far from approaching Stanton’s 35.7 rWAR, but he’s now under club control through 2027 (option year included at the end of his deal) and coming off a 3.8 rWAR year. The flame-throwing sinkerballer’s durability can allot him more chances to accrue value. The anticipated universal designated hitter rule would work in his favor as well—batting for himself has deducted more than half a win from his career value thus far.

3. Pablo López - SP

Current rWAR: 5.3

Maybe not a name most would expect to see here, López’s selection is based on a hybrid of recent progression and age. Entering his age-26 season, the changeup specialist has been among the more under-the-radar pitchers in the sport, sporting a 160-inning stretch over 31 starts since 2020 where he owns a 3.26 ERA (3.22 FIP), and 9.8 K/9. His 2021 campaign was interrupted by a stint on the 60-day IL with a right shoulder injury, so it’s still fair to question his potential to take the mound every fifth day. However, building on this past season’s breakout—3.07 ERA (2.7 rWAR) in 102.2 IP—could give further cause for Miami to explore an extension with López.

4. Trevor Rogers - SP

Current rWAR: 3.3

Trevor Rogers #28 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the 91st MLB All-Star Game at Coors Field on July 13, 2021 Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The runner-up in 2021 NL Rookie of the Year voting, Rogers wasn’t merely among the best rookies in baseball: he was among the best pitchers in the National League. In his 133 innings, Rogers finished with a 2.64 ERA, striking out an impressive 10.6 batters per nine, with peripherals such as FIP (2.55) loving him even more thanks to a sparkling 0.4 HR/9. Of all the names here, I’d pose the take that Rogers has the highest ceiling. He has the dominant attributes to contend for a Cy Young award as soon as next year.

5. Jazz Chisholm Jr. - 2B/SS

Current rWAR: 2.5

Maybe it is too ambitious to put Chisholm here, but he has all the makings of an impact player who can supplement his immense international popularity with star-caliber production. While a 96 OPS+ and 34-145 walk-to-strikeout ratio may not give much credence to this thought, Chisholm has already displayed above-average power (18 home runs), speed (23 stolen bases), and advanced defense at second base (+5 DRS, +7 Total Zone). Give Father Time another year to work its magic on Chisholm, and we could be seeing the beginnings of a franchise cornerstone for what hopes to be an era of winning Marlins baseball.

Wild Cards

Sixto Sánchez - SP

Current rWAR: 1.6

Sánchez falls here simply because the questions surrounding him are merited. How will he respond following a shoulder surgery that cost him all of 2021? Beyond that, all we’ve seen of the prize in the J.T. Realmuto trade has been limited to 39 regular season and 8 playoff innings. Trepidation aside, Sánchez possesses everything one would want in a potential frontline starter, so it’s merely a matter of health for the 23-year-old.

JJ Bleday - OF

Current rWAR: 0.0 (Yet to Debut)

For Bleday to even have a chance to challenge Stanton, his first assignment is getting to the Major Leagues. Following a disappointing 2021 at AA Pensacola (.212/.323/.373 slash line). Bleday reminded many why he was the fourth overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, hitting .316/.435/.600 in the Arizona Fall League, walking away with league Co-Hitter of the Year honors. A hot start to his 2022 season could force Miami to insert him into their everyday lineup where hopefully he’ll stick for the next handful of years.