Today’s chapter features three Marlins from yesteryear.
The Miami and Florida Marlins have employed a total of 630 players through their first 28 seasons of major league play. We’re currently in the final bracket—comprised of players with 800 or more PA/BF accrued while with the franchise. Players are sorted in ascending bWAR divided by PA/BF. Today’s group of three finished the Marlins’ leg of their careers with slightly positive bWAR values.
93. Juan Encarnación
Juan Encarnación is a six-foot-two right-handed outfielder from Las Matas de Farfan, Dominican Republic. In 1992, he signed with the Detroit Tigers through free agency at the age of 16.
By 1997, Encarnación was regarded by Baseball America as the Tigers’ number five prospect. After hitting .323 with 26 homers, 90 RBI, and 17 stolen bases for the Double-A Jacksonville Suns that season, he made his major league debut with Detroit in September. He hit .212 in 11 games in that first cup of coffee.
After spending most of the 1998 campaign with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, Encarnación hit .329 with seven homers in 40 contests at the major league level. More importantly, he was in the majors to stay. He played three full seasons with the Tigers after that, and hit .264/.305/.432 with 45 homers and 198 RBI with 58 stolen bases in 393 games.
Encarnación started 2002 with the Cincinnati Reds, and hit .277 in 83 games with 16 home runs and 51 RBI. Three weeks prior to the trade deadline, the Reds sent him with Wilton Guerrero and Ryan Snare to the Marlins for Ryan Dempster.
After joining the Marlins, Encarnación hit .262/.317/.418 and clubbed eight home runs with 34 RBI. He stole 12 bases in 17 attempts, and drew 20 walks versus 50 strikeouts. In 18 of his 69 games for the Marlins, he collected multiple hits, including six where he had three or more. On September 24, Encarnación went four-for-five with a pair of home runs and a triple, along with five RBI in a 9-6 victory against the Montreal Expos.
In 2003, Encarnación ranked second on the Marlins with 156 appearances. He was third on the team with 19 home runs and second with 94 RBI, with a team-fourth 19 stolen bases in 27 attempts. He put together a .270/.313/.446 slashline in Florida’s second World Series run, with 43 multiple hit games. On May 9, he hit a game-tying two-run double in the bottom of the sixth against the Colorado Rockies, then led off the bottom of the ninth with a walkoff home run for a 5-4 victory. In the postseason, Encarnación went seven-for-38 with two home runs and three RBI.
After the Marlins won the World Series, they traded Encarnación to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor leaguer Travis Ezi. After half a season on the West Coast, they shipped him back to the Marlins with Paul Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota for Hee-Seop Choi, Brad Penny, and Bill Murphy. He hit .238 in 49 contests for Florida to close out the season.
Encarnación played another 141 games for the Marlins in 2005, and put together his best overall season in the majors according to his 113 OPS+, slashing .287/.349/.447 with 16 home runs and 76 RBI.
In 3510 innings in the outfield, Encarnación had 17 assists and made seven errors for a .991 fielding percentage, but advanced metrics say that he was 20 runs below the “average” outfielder during that time.
Granted free agency following the 2005 season, Encarnación played two more seasons of major league ball with the St. Louis Cardinals. His career came to an untimely end after a stray foul ball on August 30, 2007 caught his face in the on-deck circle.
92. Sergio Mitre
Los Angeles, California native Sergio Mitre is a six-foot-three right-handed pitcher. In 2001, the Chicago Cubs chose him in the seventh round of the draft out of San Diego City College.
Mitre made his major league debut with the Cubs two years later, and started in half of his 36 appearances over his first three seasons, going 4-10 with a 6.12 ERA and a 1.616 WHIP. After the 2005 campaign, the Cubs traded Mitre with Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto to the Marlins for Juan Pierre.
In 2006, Mitre spent a lot of the season on the injured list, but pitched in 15 games for the Marlins, starting seven. He was 1-5 with a 5.71 ERA and a 1.561 WHIP, with 31 strikeouts and 20 walks in 41 innings. His best appearance through the season was his first, in the Marlins second game of the year on April 4. He lasted six innings in his start, allowing zero runs on three hits and a walk while striking out five in an 11-2 victory against the Houston Astros.
Mitre limited the opposition to a .275/.374/.431 slashline, putting only 58 percent of his pitches over the plate. He struggled with his command, hitting six batters, and also struggled to keep the ball in the yard, with seven homers allowed.
Mitre more than doubled his career-high in innings pitched for the Marlins in 2007, tossing 149 in total through 27 starts. He went 5-8 with a 4.65 ERA, a 1.483 WHIP, and a .303/.352/.403 opposing slashline. He increased his strike-rate to 65 percent, and was a lot better at keeping the ball in the yard, allowing only nine through the season.
On May 10, Mitre had his best start of the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching eight shutout innings and allowing only three hits while striking out four. Overall, he struck out 80 against 41 walks. He didn’t play at all in 2008, and underwent Tommy John Surgery to fix his right forearm.
Mitre played another three major league seasons, first with the New York Yankeees and later with the Milwaukee Brewers. After six seasons of inaction following the 2011 season, he joined the Mexican League, and has pitched for the Tijuana Toros, the Leon Bravos, the Saltillo Saraperos, and the Dos Laredos Tecolotes. Mitre will turn 40-years-old later this month.
91. Scott Olsen
Lefty pitcher Scott Olsen is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2002, the Marlins chose him in the sixth round out of high school. By 2005, he was regarded as the number 38 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, and the number two prospect in Florida’s organization. In June of that year, he made his major league debut, striking out seven in 5 2⁄3 innings and earning the victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 6-2.
Olsen struck out 21 in 20 1⁄3 innings over five appearances in the middle of that season. He put 63 percent of his pitches in the strike zone and holding opponents to a .259/.341/.469 slashline in a small sample size.
The 2006 season would see Olsen join the rotation a week into the season, and hold the slot for three years. On September 3, he struck out seven in as many innings, holding the Brewers scoreless on one hit in a 10-3 victory against Milwaukee. His 12 wins over the course of the season ranked him in a three-way tie for the team lead, with Josh Johnson and Dontrelle Willis. He was 12-10 with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.301 WHIP, along with 166 K’s in 180 2⁄3 innings. After the season, he received enough votes in the National League Rookie of the Year Award to finish ninth.
In 2007, Olsen’s statistics took a hard turn downward. His WHIP soared to 1.760 and his ERA to 5.81. He started 33 games, striking out 133 in 176 2⁄3 frames and allowing the opposition to slash .315/.384/.504.
Despite the overall tone of the season, Olsen did have a few pretty good outings. He had 11 Quality Starts out of his 33 starts in total. His best was on June 12, in a 3-0 Marlins win over the Cleveland Indians. He struck out six in seven shutout three hit innings, walking zero and getting 58-of-92 pitches in the strike zone.
2008 represented a return to form for Olsen, despite his 8-11 record. He reduced his ERA to a more palatable 4.20, and got his WHIP close to his 2006 figure, at 1.31. Olsen started 33 games again, getting 65 percent of his pitches in the black and holding opponents to a .253/.315/.437 line. He had 17 quality starts, including on May 6, when he finished one out short of a shutout. In 8 2⁄3 innings, he struck out eight Brewers while allowing no runs on two hits as the Marlins took a 3-0 win against Milwaukee.
After the season was complete, the Marlins traded Olsen to the Washington Nationals with Josh Willingham for P.J. Dean, Emilio Bonifacio, and Jake Smolinski. Olsen pitched two seasons for Washington, and was granted free agency following 2010. Although he never pitched in the majors again, he was briefly signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago White Sox, and the Texas Rangers.