clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

All-Time Marlins Countdown: Chapters 121 & 122

A double dose of the countdown!

San Diego Padres v Miami Marlins Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

The Florida and Miami Marlins have used a total of 630 players in on-field action at the major league level through their first 28 seasons of existence.

Of those, 128 of them registered at least 800 batters faced and/or plate appearances with the team. We’re halfway through them with today’s double-feature.

Players are ordered by ascending bWAR divided by PA/BF while with the team. That being said, these players are not ranked on longevity or by collected accolades, but by value per individual plate transaction.

65. Emilio Bonifacio

While a member of the Florida and Miami Marlins, switch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio was a second baseman/shortstop/center fielder/right fielder/left fielder/third baseman. It’s a pattern that has pretty much held through his now 12-season major league career.

Bonifacio is a five-foot-10 native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He started his professional career at the tail-end of the 2001 calendar year, when he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks at the age of 16.

Bonifacio got to the majors with the D-Backs in 2007, playing in 19 contests over the next two seasons before getting traded to the Washington Nationals for Jon Rauch in mid-2008. After 41 games for the Nats, during the 2008-09 offseason, he was flipped to the Marlins with Jake Smolinski and minor leaguer P.J. Dean for Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham.

Although it’s true that Bonifacio had a lot of utility for the Marlins with his defensive versatility, he averaged out to be a replacement-level defender over his four years with the club. While his modularity was a particularly valuable trait, his offense proved more of an asset for the team.

Bonifacio has played for eight major league teams in total during his career, but played almost exactly half with the Marlins, with 416 of his 834 career appearances with the good guys (49.9 percent).

Bonifacio enjoyed his career-best campaign in 2011, when he set career highs in every offensive category. He slashed out a .296/.360/.393 line with a 107 OPS+, the only time he has thus far finished with a mark above 100. He also stole 40 bases in 51 attempts and drove in 36 in 152 contests.

On the all-time Marlins leaderboard, Bonifacio is one of only six players with over 100 stolen bases, ranking sixth with 103. He’s also eighth with 20 triples, despite ranking 32nd with 1625 plate appearances.

Bonifacio’s Marlins career started off with a bit of a hot streak in 2009, going 14-for-24 through his first five games, with multiple hits in each of them. On August 1 of that season, he posted his highest single-game WPA during his tenure with Florida, with a mark of .605 in a 9-8 Marlins loss to the Chicago Cubs. He drew a walk and scored in the fifth, singled in the sixth, and when down by two with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, he hit a two-run triple to tie the score at eight. The rest, as they say, is history. Former Marlins standout Derrek Lee led off the 10th with a home run, the eventual game winner, but more on Lee next week.

After the 2012 season, Bonifacio was involved in the 11-player trade between the Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. After his time north-of-the-border, he has also appeared with the Kansas City Royals, the Cubs, the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago White Sox, and again with the Nationals.

64. Al Leiter

Left-handed starter Al Leiter is a six-foot-two native of Toms River, New Jersey. In 1984, the New York Yankees drafted him in the second round. He made the majors with them in 1987, and over his first six seasons started 23 games, appearing in 31 overall between the Bombers and later with the Jays. It wasn’t until 1993 when Leiter finally pitched over 100 innings for the first time (he topped the century mark in each of his final 13 seasons, ending in 2005).

Granted free agency by Toronto following the 1995 season, Leiter signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the Marlins. That very first season in Florida was a keeper for Leiter, who despite leading the majors with 108 walks also led with only 6.4 hits allowed per nine innings. He made the All Star team for the first time, and finished ninth in National League Cy Young Award voting. He was 16-12 with a 2.93 ERA (third-best in the NL). His 1.26 WHIP was the best of his career to that point, and he struck out 200 for the first time. A quarter-century later, no other Marlins lefty has even come close to that many Ks in a single season.

In Leiter’s second start for the Marlins, he made quick work of the San Diego Padres, striking out eight in nine innings of shutout work, while allowing only four hits. The Marlins were also held scoreless by Fernando Venezuela and two relievers through nine innings. Florida won, 5-2 in 10 innings.

Despite Leiter’s ridiculous .681 WPA in that game, he was even better a month later, on May 11 against the Colorado Rockies. Leiter threw a 103-pitch no hitter (the first in Marlins history), striking out six and walking two in an 11-0 Marlins victory.

On July 28, 1997, Leiter struck out 11 over eight shutout, two-hit innings against the Cincinnati Reds, but the Marlins lost, 4-0 when Jay Powell couldn’t build on Leiter’s excellence in the ninth.

In 27 starts for the Marlins in 1997, Leiter went 11-9 with a 4.34 ERA and 132 K’s in 151 13 innings. He also started four postseason contests, appearing once in relief. He struck out 19 in 23 innings, but also gave up 30 hits and 15 walks for a WHIP just south of 2. No matter, as the Marlins took home their first World Series title.

Just before 1998 Spring Training, the Marlins traded Leiter with Ralph Milliard to the New York Mets for Rob Stratton, A.J. Burnett, and Jesus Sanchez. Leiter pitched seven seasons with the Mets, making his second All-Star team in 2000. He returned to the Marlins on a one-year, $7 million deal for the 2005 season.

Leiter proved a shadow of his former self with the Marlins, posting a 6.64 ERA and a 1.850 WHIP in 80 innings, with 60 walks and 52 strikeouts. Two weeks before the trade deadline, Florida sent Leiter back to the Yankees as a part of a conditional deal. Leiter retired after the season with a career 162-132 record, 1,974 career strikeouts, and a 3.80 ERA.

63. Caleb Smith

Caleb Smith is a six-foot left-handed pitcher from Huntsville, Texas. In 2013, the Yankees chose him in the 14th round of the drat out of Sam Houston State University.

It was with the Yankees for whom Smith made his major league debut four years later, appearing in nine games and striking out 18 in 18 23 innings. He also allowed 16 earned runs. After the 2017 season was in the books, the Yankees traded Smith along with Garrett Cooper to the Marlins for minor league pitcher Michael King and international bonus slot money.

Smith started 45 times for the Marlins in his two-plus seasons with the franchise, striking out 259 in 233 23 innings for a 10.0 overall K/9 rate. He was 15-17 with a 4.39 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He also “led” the majors in 2019 with 33 home runs allowed. It’s this propensity to surrender the long ball that keeps Smith from ranking amongst the game’s elite pitching tier.

Smith relies on a four-pitch mix, with an average four-seamer. According to Mike Picardi in Fish Stripes two years ago:

His overall pitch repertoire, in the general sense, is pretty pedestrian—92-95 mph on the four seam fastball, with an average but inconsistent slider, and a changeup that works for him at times but can be rather fringy. Pitch quality data also corroborates this, as his overall 4.35 QOPA (Quality of Pitch Average) was just below the MLB average of 4.50.

On April 29 in his first season with the Marlins, Smith put up his best Game Score of his time with the club against the Colorado Rockies. He earned his first win of the year by striking out nine over seven two-hit innings in an eventual 3-0 Marlins victory.

Smith was also a pretty good hitter (for a pitcher), going 10-for-43 with a pair of doubles and three RBI in 2019. After one start in the belated 2020 campaign, Miami traded him to the Diamondbacks with Humberto Mejía and PTBNL Julio Frias for Starling Marte. He enters 2021 as Arizona’s projected No. 3 starter.

62. Benito Santiago

Benito Santiago is a 20-season major league veteran, and a Miami Marlins original. A six-foot-one right-handed hitting and throwing catcher from Ponce, Puerto Rico, Santiago signed with the Padres in 1982 at the age of 17.

Santiago played his first seven major league seasons with the Friars, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1987, making the All Star team four times, and winning three NL Gold Gloves and four NL Silver Sluggers at catcher. Santiago earned his fame by his ability to throw out baserunners at will, sometimes from his knees.

Santiago played 240 games for Florida through their first two seasons of major league play, hitting .248/.304/.398 with 24 home runs and 91 RBI. He also threw out a career-best (and NL second) 47 percent (40-of-85) of base stealers in 1994.

After his time with the Marlins, Santiago went on to play for the Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto, the Cubs, the San Francisco Giants, the Royals, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He retired following the 2005 season with 1978 career games in the books, 217 homers, 920 RBI, and a career 35 percent CS rate (530-of-1528).

This enormous series will continue tomorrow with Chapter 123.