In today’s edition of the All-Time Marlins Countdown, we’ve got a fan favorite, human-highlight reel and a whiff-inducing, set-up man.
51. Alfredo Amézaga
Amézaga’s time with the Florida Marlins was special. He was born in Mexico, but refers to South Florida as his second home. After graduating from Miami Senior High School in 1997 and then after his first year at St. Petersburg College in 1998, Amézaga was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the late rounds of each year’s draft. The third time was the charm for Amézaga, who signed with the Anaheim Angels after they drafted him with the 401st pick in the 1999 MLB Draft. (Fun fact: the 402nd pick that year was future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols.)
By his third professional season in baseball, Amézaga was promoted to Triple-A. He made his major league debut the following season, on May 24, 2002, and became the 88th Mexican-born player in MLB history. He played only a few games with the Angels in 2002, filling in for the injured starting shortstop David Eckstein in May and then a few more that September. The next few seasons, Amézaga cycled between Triple-A and the majors. After tallying 122 big league games, the Rockies showed interest once again when they claimed him off waivers. He played only two games with the Rockies before the Pittsburgh Pirates claimed him off waivers, where he played three games and was then released.
Through 2005, Amézaga had played 127 games across four seasons with three different teams. His .207 batting average and .578 OPS during that stretch was dismal, but the Florida Marlins saw something in the 28-year-old utility man and offered him a free agent contract.
Most of Amézaga’s early action as a Marlin came as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement, but by June he was regularly starting in centerfield. In both of the 2006 and 2007 seasons, he played every position except pitcher and catcher. He logged most of his games in center, but was a familiar face around the infield.
The Marlins gave Amézaga the most playing time he saw in his career. He played in 125 games or more in three consecutive seasons, hitting a combined .262/.323/.352. It was his ability to play nearly every position on the diamond kept Amézaga in the lineup, though. He stole 20 bases in 2006, trailing only Hanley Ramírez for the most on the Fish, and led the team with 9 triples in 2007. He continued to steadily produce through the 2008 season and was on a similar track in 2009, but was sidelined by a knee injury in mid-May. The injury would unfortunately require surgery and end his season.
After recovering from the injury, Amézaga was a free agent and struggled to find playing time. The Marlins re-acquired him in a trade for a brief time in 2011 and he returned to his second-home for a few more games. Aside from his time with the Fish, Amézaga donned Mexico’s jersey for the 2009 World Baseball Classic and played in the Mexican League up until a few seasons ago.
Although it’s been a while, I’m sure fans remember him fondly. Occasionally my dad will bring up a great play that Amézaga made years ago in the Mexican League which wound up on ESPN’s SportsCenter. It seems like every time he brings it up, he embellishes a bit more on how amazing the play was. Well, in writing the segment for our countdown, I came across this video from the Mexican Heritage Night the Marlins hosted in 2016. You’ll never guess who Craig Minervini interviewed on the broadcast and what play he brought up…
You were right, dad. He definitely earned the nickname The Amazing Amézaga.
50. Kyle Barraclough
Initially drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 40th round of the 2011 Draft, Barraclough did not sign and returned to Saint Mary’s College of California for his senior season. He was drafted again, this time by the St. Louis Cardinals, in the 7th round of the 2012 Draft.
After a rocky start in the Cardinals’ minor league system, Barraclough found his groove in Single-A during the 2014 season and kept playing well as he rose to Double-A in 2015. A week before the 2015 mid-season trade deadline, the Cardinals traded Barraclough to the Miami Marlins for pitcher Steve Cishek. Barraclough would go on to make his major league debut two weeks after the trade, pitching a clean inning against the Atlanta Braves. Although he had been a starting pitcher in college, Barraclough has pitched exclusively in relief throughout his five seasons in the big leagues.
By the 2016 season, Barraclough proved to be a key part of the Marlins’ bullpen. In 72 innings, Barraclough walked 44 and struck out 113 batters. His 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings was 5th-best among relievers in MLB, but his 5.45 walks per nine innings was the league’s worst. Much of his success was a result of his high strikeout and walk rates because he was able to limit balls in play. The league average balls in-play percentage in 2016 was 66%—Barraclough’s was 47%. He ended the season with a 2.85 ERA and 29 holds and, despite his astronomical walk rate, was effective in the set-up role for closer AJ Ramos.
Barraclough was dominant in 2016 and (pictured below) found himself atop Baseball Savant’s MLB percentile rankings. He continued to pitch well in 2017, but struggled in 2018. After the season, the Marlins dealt Barraclough to the Washington Nationals for international bonus pool money which ultimately helped secure the signings of Cuban free agents Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr.
After leaving the Fish, Barraclough split the 2019 season between the Nationals and the San Francisco Giants, but it was his worst season by far in the big leagues. He also did not play in 2020 after the cancellation of the Minor League Baseball season due to COVID-19 and his inability to find a spot with a major league club.
Earlier this year, Barraclough signed a free agent contract with the New York Yankees and received an invitation to Spring Training in 2021.