In this edition of the countdown, we examine the careers of indie-Marlin Eric Owens, the ever walk-less Miguel Olivo, and glove-wobbling Ryan Dempster.
This offseason, we’re looking back at the 630 men who got onto the field for at least one regular season game with the Florida/Miami Marlins. All players remaining are in our final bracket—over 800 PA/BF accrued while with the team. Players are sorted in order of ascending bWAR divided by PA/BF. Today’s group of three finished the Marlins’ leg of their baseball journey with a slightly positive bWAR. All prospect ratings courtesy of Baseball America. Statistics culled from Baseball Reference and The Baseball Cube.
96. Eric Owens
Owens is a name only the most ardently loyal baseball, let alone Marlins fans, will remember. A 4th round pick by the Cincinnati Reds out of Ferrum College in Virginia, Owens, an outfielder/infielder, debuted with Cincinnati in 1995 and spent the first three seasons of his big league career with the Reds.
Prior to debuting, Owens showed flashes of talent in the lower levels of the minors, hitting .301 in 67 games in Rookie Ball Billings. He then proceeded to hit 10 home runs and bat .271 for A+ Winston Salem, before struggling at AA Chattanooga in 1994, where hit .254 in 134 games.
Owens enjoyed his best season in the minors in 1995, when, while playing for AAA Indianapolis, hit .314 with 12 home runs and 33 stolen bases.
Owens’ major league debut came on June 1 of that year, appearing as a late-game substitution for Lenny Harris at third base, and drove in the tying run off then-Pirates and future Marlins reliever Dan Miceli for his first career hit and RBI.
Appearing in 117 games from 1995-97, Owens was a well-below average hitter, posting a .220/.293/.242 slash while not hitting a single home run with the Reds.
On March 21, 1998, Owens’ first, albeit, brief tenure with the Marlins would begin, as the Reds traded him for a player to be named later. Less than a week later, on March 25, the Brewers would purchase Owens from Florida, where he would spend the 1998 season. Interestingly enough, the PTBNL in the trade with Cincinnati didn’t come until the following day, March 26, when the Marlins sent Jesús Martinez to the Reds to complete the trade.
Owens appeared in 34 games with Milwaukee in 1998—mostly as a defensive replacement—hitting .125 in 40 at-bats, collecting his first career home run on April 28 in a 6-3 loss to the Dodgers.
Spending 1999 and 2000 with the defending NL Champion San Diego Padres, Owens was given regular playing time while in San Diego, coinciding with the best stretch of his career. In 294 games, Owens hit .282 with a respectable .338 OBP, though his sub-.400 slugging percentage made for a total OPS+ of 89 (100 being league average). His time with the Padres also saw Owens accumulate 2.3 rWAR.
Traded along with Omar Ortiz and Matt Clement to the Marlins on the eve of the 2001 season, Owens appeared in 250 games with the team from 2001-02, hitting .251/.313/.350 with 9 home runs, accruing 0.4 rWAR. While appearing primarily as a corner outfielder, though he did log 37 games at center field in 2001.
After spending 2003 as a fourth outfielder for the defending World Series winning Anaheim Angels, where he hit .270 in 11 games, Owens would accept minor league invites from the Mariners and Tigers before retiring after the 2005 season.
After his playing career, Owens would transition into coaching, spending years at the lower levels with the Angels, serving as a hitting coach and roving instructor, before spending two seasons as the hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. He now offers private lessons.
95. Miguel Olivo
A Marlin for three seasons, 2006-07 and 2013, the totality of Miguel Olivo’s major league career spanned parts of thirteen seasons.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1996 at the age of 18 by the Oakland Athletics, Olivo played five seasons in the minor leagues before debuting with the White Sox in 2002.
Between Rookie Ball and A+ Modesto, then-affiliates for the A’s, Olivo appeared in 119 games, hitting .307 with 11 home runs and 67 RBI from 1998-99. Olivo spend 2000 again at Modesto before being promoted to AA Midland where he hit .237 in 19 games. Overall, Olivio hit .273 with 6 home runs during the 2000 season.
After a trade to the White Sox in November of that year, where he was the PTBNL for submariner Chad Bradford, Olivo rebounded at AA Birmingham in 2001, hitting .259 with 14 home runs and a .347 on-base percentage in 93 games.
Following what was his best full season of minor league play to date in 2002 - a season which saw the then-24-year-old hit .306/.381/.479, Olivo made his big league debut as September call up on the 15th of that month, hitting a home run off of Andy Pettitte in his first at-bat. The Yankees would win the game 8-4. Appearing in 6 games in 2002, Olivo hit .211 with 1 home run and 5 RBI.
After a 2003 season which saw Olivio struggle, hitting just .237 in 114 games, Olivo was traded to the Seattle Mariners mid-way through the 2004 season. While he hit well with the White Sox that year - clubbing 7 home runs and hitting .270 in 46 games - Olivo struggled in Seattle, slashing just .200/.260/.388 in 50 games, finishing 2004 with a then-career best 13 home runs.
Entering 2005 as the Mariners primary catcher, Olivo delivered his poorest big league performance to that point, hitting .151 in 54 games, striking 49 times while walking just 4. A common theme with Olivo as a hitter was just this; a lack of the knack for plate discipline, as he finished his career with 158 walks against 1,060 strike outs.
At the trade deadline that same year, Olivo would be shipped off, along with Natanel Mateo, to the Padres for catcher Miguel Ojeda. There, Olivo offered a glimpse at his true potential, hitting .304/.341/.487 in 37 games.
Here, he would receive the longest stretch of playing time to this point in his career. In 2006, Olivo hit a respectable .263 with 16 home runs in 127 games, but walked just 9 times, thus finishing with a .287 OBP and 87 OPS+.
Defensively, Olivo, handling a young and inexperienced staff of Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, and Scott Olsen, as well as the veteran Dontrelle Willis, led the NL in passed balls with 10, though he did lead the NL in double plays turned at the position. He would one-up himself the following year, again leading the Senior Circuit in passed balls, this time with 16. In his career, Olivo would lead the league in this statistic 4 times.
After a 2007 season where he hit just .237/.272/.405, 67, Olivo was granted free agency, eventually signing with the Kansas City Royals, where he’d go onto have the two of the best seasons of his career.
In 2009, Olivo delivered his only season of above average offensive output by OPS+, finishing at 103 after blazing a career-best 23 home runs and walking a career-best 27 times.
The following season, which he spent with Colorado as their primary backstop, Olivo amassed 2.5 rWAR, 31-percent of his career total, though still finishing with a sub-optimal 92 OPS+. 2010 would be his fourth and final season leading the league in passed balls, again finishing with 10.
Despite a modest 19-home run campaign with Seattle in 2011, and brief reunion with the now-renamed Miami Marlins in 2013, Olivo finished with a 77 OPS+ between 2011-2014. After 8 games with the Dodgers in 2014, the team optioned him to AAA, where he’d soon be released following an incident that saw him bite off a piece of Alex Guerrero’s ear.
Trying to catch on with the Giants in 2016, where he hit 10 home runs in games at AAA Sacramento, Olivo would be granted free agency, only to never appear in another big league game after 2014.
For his career, Olivo would finish with 145 home runs, 490 RBI, and a 82 OPS+ (below average even by catcher standards). His career OPS of .691 would’ve been higher had he exuded a slightly more refined approach to reading the strike zone, as outlined by his career .275 OBP. Among the 189 catchers with at least 3,000 plate appearances, that such mark ranks 181st, or 9th worst all-time.
94. Ryan Dempster
Of the names featured in this piece, Ryan Dempster had the undisputed best career of the bunch. Before he was doing his A-grade Harry Caray impression—a la shades of SNL-era Will Ferrell—the native of Sechelt, Canada was a Florida Marlin.
Being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 3rd round of the 1995 draft, Dempster would be traded to the Marlins in August 1996 for fellow pitcher John Burkett. Dempster impressed early on, pitching to a 3.08 ERA in 210 2⁄3 innings between Texas and Florida’s minor league systems between 1995 and ‘96.
While struggling at A+ ball in 1997, finished with a 4.90 ERA in 165 1⁄3 innings pitched, Dempster would rebound in 1998, doing so between AA and AAA, where he pitched to a 3.24, eventually earning a call-up in late May of that year. Debuting as reliever on May 23, Dempster allowed 3 runs in 1 inning in a 10-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, with shortstop Kevin Polcovich becoming the first of Dempster’s 2,075 strikeout victims.
In 14 games pitched that season, 11 of which were starts, Dempster went 1-5 with a 7.08 ERA, allowing 72 hits in just 54 2⁄3 innings.
Starting 1999 at AAA Calgary, where he struggled to the tune of a 4.99 ERA, Dempster would find his way back to the majors in May of that season, pitching midily better, though still finishing with a 4.71 ERA over 25 starts. A hint at his improvements that season can be seen by the fact that he pitched into the 7th inning or later in 13 of his 25 starts, including 8 shutout innings of 5-hit ball in his last start of the season on October 2 against the eventual pennant-winning Atlanta Braves.
It would be the year 2000 though where Dempster firmly established himself at the big league level. Pitching a career-high 226 innings that year, Dempster finished with then- career-bests in wins (14), ERA (3.66), strikeouts (209), and WHIP (1.36), en route to making his first All-Star appearance. For the season, the 23-year-old finished with 4.2 rWAR, a mark only eclipsed by his career-defining 2008 season, when he finished with 6.9 rWAR and placed 6th in NL Cy Young voting.
Despite winning a career-best 15 games in 2001, Dempster struggled, thanks in large part to a MLB-leading 112 walks allowed in 211.1 innings. His 4.94 ERA was good enough for an 86 ERA+, a far cry from his 121 mark set the previous year.
After pitching to a 4.79 ERA in 18 starts to begin 2002, Dempster was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Juan Encarnacion, Wilton Guerrero, and Ryan Snare. Encarnacion would later be an integral part of the Marlins 2003 World Series winning team.
Now removed from the organization he had spent parts of seven seasons with. Dempster’s struggles continued, allowing 61 earned runs in 88 innings with the Reds, finishing 2002 with a league-worst 125 earned runs allowed.
By 2003, Dempster’s place in the majors was in question, as he was now 26 and struggling to hold on at the big league level. After a July 28 outing that saw him allow 5 runs in 5 2⁄3 innings, Dempster would undergo Tommy John Surgery in August of that year, never appearing in another game with the Reds again, eventually being released on November 4.
Signing with the Cubs prior to the 2004 season, Dempster transitioned to that of a full-time reliever, appearing in 23 games that season, and pitching to an improved 3.92 ERA. His 114 ERA+ was his best such mark since his All-Star campaign of 2000.
In 2005, Dempster followed up his solid return to the show with a tremendous effort, finishing with a 3.13 ERA in 63 games pitched over 92 innings. Were it not for the 6 games he started at the outset of the season, where he allowed 20 runs in 33 1⁄3 innings, Dempster’s season ERA would’ve been 1.85 over 58 2⁄3 innings pitched.
So quick came the highs were followed by more woes, as 2006-07 were disastrous for Dempster, as he went 3-16 out of the bullpen, pitching to a 4.76 ERA over 141 2⁄3 innings.
Given his extensive track record of struggles, it comes as a bit of a surprise that he continued to receive the multitude of chances he did, but thankfully, for him and the Cubs’ sake, things worked themselves out.
As previously noted, 2008 was Dempster’s career-year, as the right-hander made his second and final NL All-Star team, finishing with a career-low 2.96 ERA, 154 ERA+, while winning 17 games. Dempster even made his first career postseason start that season, allowing 4 runs in 4 2⁄3 innings against the Dodgers.
2009 and ‘10 would prove to be stellar seasons for Dempster as well, with the glove-wiggling Canadian eclipsing 200 innings pitched each season, amassing WAR’s of 3.4 and 2.5, respectively. From 2008-10, Dempster went 43-27 with a 3.49 ERA, striking out 567 in 622 innings, in what was the best extended stretch of his career.
Despite a 2011 that saw him finish with a 4.80 ERA, his FIP of 3.90 outlined that he pitched slightly better than his surface-level numbers outline.
A 2012 trade to the Rangers, which netted Chicago their current ace, Maddux 2.0 Kyle Hendricks, saw Dempster continually viewed as a viable asset to a team coming off back-to-back American League pennants.
After one season in Boston in 2013, where he finished 8-9 with a sub-standard 4.57 ERA and 4.68 FIP en route to his first and only World Series ring. Despite the struggles he endured that season, Dempster did have this memorable moment with then-villain of the sport, Alex Rodriguez.
Dempster walked away to spend time from the game to with family in 2014, forfeiting $13.25 million in the process. For his career, Dempster would finish 132-133 with a 4.35 ERA over 579 games pitched, and a career rWAR of 18.6.
Today, the two-time All-Star can be seen regularly as an in-studio analyst on MLB Network.