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All-Time Marlins Countdown: Chapter 113

Let’s take a moment to revisit the Marlins organization’s former #1 prospect, an All-Star first-baseman and “The Hopper”.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In this, 113th chapter of our countdown of the All-Time Greatest Marlins we elucidate the 84th, 83rd and 82nd players on our list. All three of today’s players made their Major League debuts with the 2008 Florida Marlins, played for teams that won 80+ games from 2008 to 2011 and made major contributions that maintained competitive aspirations for the Marlins while former-owner Jeffery Loria faced grievances from the MLB players’ union for his low payroll spending, the team faced rain-delays, sweltering Ft. Lauderdale heat.

The ultimate deconstruction of the 2003 World Series Champion, when future Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cabrera and Florida Marlins legend Dontrelle Willis were sent to Detroit, led to this era in Marlins history. Today’s players were a part of the pathway out from a potential dead-end for Major League Baseball in South Florida.

Under the rain, heat and national scrutiny at the home of your Miami Dolphins and in front of the smallest crowds in the National League these three Marlins, as teammates of Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Johnson were tasked with spoiling the 2008 New York Mets playoff hopes and competing in a National League East that featured a dominate World Series champion Phillies team. The twilight of the Chipper Jones’ legendary Atlanta Braves career and Washington Nationals team that would see its first glimpses of greatness as phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg made their way to the majors.

Amidst all the noise of Super Bowl Sunday, let’s take a moment to revisit a Baseball America organizational #1 prospect, an All-Star first-baseman and “The Hopper”. These three players played some good baseball for some good Marlins teams as we continue our countdown...

84. Burke Badenhop

Burke “The Hopper” Badenhop was right-handed pitcher acquired by the Florida Marlins as a prospect and he made his Major League Debut on April 9, 2008 in the 9th inning of a 10-4 Marlins win. Doubles by Dan Uggla and Jeremy Hermida had broken the game open in the 5th and a deep 7 23 inning start by #91 Scott Olsen made this a breezy win. 2 home runs in the late innings by 2008 Opening Day First Baseman Mike Jacobs had the Marlins up by six runs and Manager Fredi Gonzalez felt compelled to give “The Hopper” his first shot at Major League batters and after falling behind in the count to Felipe Lopez (even the greats get jitters), he dialed in, retired the Nationals in order and collected his first strikeout.

As a 19th round pick of the Detroit Tigers in the 2005 amateur draft out of Bowling Green State University, Burke began his professional career as a 22-year-old who had an outside shot at making it to the Major Leagues but had been passed over literally 569 times leading up to his selection in the draft. Lacking the raw power of idyllic model pitching prospect who can simply overwhelm the batter with his throws. Burke Badenhop relied on a typically 89 MPH sinker to induce bad contact from hitters and combined with the successful implementation of a change-up and Slider he managed to strike-out 350 batters over the course of his career.

The Marlins deemed Burke Badenhop a potential asset in the Detroit Tigers organization and when Detroit wanted to acquire Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from Florida he became a part of the package headlined by players fans could dream to be stars; well-rounded Center Fielder Cameron Maybin and the overwhelming left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller. While “The Hopper” was once again unheralded his Marlins career had begun and he was about to truly bloom.

During the 2008 season the Florida Marlins gave Burke Badenhop 8 chances as a starting pitcher and the results weren’t quite there. As a starter he pitched to a 6.75 ERA contrasting a 3.12 ERA as a reliever; Burke was much more effective against Major League batters when utilized as a relief pitcher.

From 2009-2011 he logged 203 13 innings as a Marlin. Facing 860 batters while striking out 155 and only allowing 11 home runs. Burke Badenhop was an above average option out of the bullpen across these three years with a 3.94 ERA good for a 0.4 RE24 (he performed 0.4 runs better than an average pitcher would have been expected).

Burke Badenhop provided stable production out of the bullpen for years. He could start games, he could jump into an inning already in progress and he could close out games. His nickname “The Hopper” certainly alludes to this ability to hop into any situation and find success.

On May 17, 2011 and in the 11th inning of a game against the New York Mets at their home in Queens, Burke Badenhop came to the plate to bat with Giancarlo Stanton on second. As a veteran player to first-year manager Edwin Rodriguez he was asked to either “go get your RBI” or pitch the next half-inning. He got his hit, his RBI, his win and the Marlins went to 24-16.

Fish Stripes

The Florida Marlins would stumble through 2011 and Burke Badenhop stayed strong throughout. As an organization, the team couldn’t get to 2012 soon enough after a 1-19 streak during the month of June sent the team below .500 and out of playoff contention. The allure of the new stadium, three accented primary colors and a splashy free-agency saw Badenhop’s time in teal ended unceremoniously as he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays at the 2011 non-tender deadline for minor-league catcher Jake Jeffries.

The Hopper would go on to pitch for the Rays, Brewers, Red Sox and Reds. Including his Marlins tenure, Burke pitched across 8 MLB seasons and holds a 3.74 career ERA to go with 350 strikeouts in his 512 13 innings. Since his retirement as a player he has gone on to work in the Arizona Diamondbacks front office and is currently a Special Assistant to their General Manager.

83. Gaby Sanchez

Gaby Sanchez is a Miami native and has shown an unusual devotion to baseball in our city. As a high schooler, the Seattle Mariners drafted Gaby in the 15th round of the 2002 June Amateur Draft out of Brito Miami Private School. He declined to sign and instead polished his game at the University of Miami. The then-Florida Marlins drafted the future Miami Marlin in the 4th round and the rest is history.

Gaby worked his way up the Marlins farm system, made his MLB debut in 2008 and had a handful of games between ‘08-’09 with the Marlins, ready to play but not better options than 2008 everyday first baseman Mike Jacobs and the 2009 patchwork of Jorge Cantú who was playing away from his ideal 3rd base position.

In 2010 the Marlins we ready to let the former Hurricane play in the big leagues and he performed well. Placing 4th in Rookie of the Year voting after playing in 151 games for Florida, an accomplishment itself in a sport with a 162 game season that non-negotiably demands physical durability, mental tenacity and grit to even get to the batter’s box. With the bat, Gaby slugged 19 home runs, raced to 3 triples and hit 37 doubles on his way to 85 RBI and according to the aggregate OPS+ his 108 put his offense a decent amount above average.

BBN-GIANTS-MARLINS Photo by Joe Rimkus Jr./Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In what was a brutal 2011 for the Florida Marlins on the field, Gaby avoided any sort of “sophomore slump” as he hit another 19 home runs and 35 doubles in 159 games. His consistency and high performance (113 OPS+) on the field was enough to have him represent the Florida Marlins at the All Star Game in Phoenix.

As the organization went into 2012 and Marlins Park and Miami itself, the organization pursued upgrades over their 2011 roster at any cost. By the time July came along Miami recognized that its theatrics and high-money contracts had not been converting to wins and along with it, Gaby had not performed to his established level. During 2012 across 55 games Gaby Sanchez is credited with 3 home runs and a 49 OPS+ far lower than was expected and in an effort to save the season Miami traded for Carlos Lee of the Houston Astros to man first for the remainder of the year.

The inevitable had come to pass and the unsustainable beefing up of the Marlins roster that had taken place in accordance with the unveiling of Marlins Park triggered another restructuring of the roster. On the day of the 2012 trade deadline, Gaby Sanchez was sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates for center fielder Gorkys Hernandez.

Gaby Sanchez is fortunately not finished with our organization as a current television broadcaster and future radio broadcaster for your 2021 Miami Marlins.

Fish Stripes

82. Chris Volstad

Chris Volstad was the 1st round draft pick of the Florida Marlins in 2005, a 6’8” right-hander hailing from Palm Beach Gardens High School. With pitch speeds up to 94 MPH, Volstad leaned heavily on his sinking fastball, while featuring a sharp curveball, a changeup and eventually a slider.

The 21 year-old Volstad debuted on July 6, 2008 pitching in relief. He got the win and went into the starting rotation just before the team slid into the All Star Break after and made a strong first impression on a Los Angeles Dodger team that would make it to the NLCS but on July 11, 2008 Chris Volstad stopped their charge and threw 100 pitches across 8 23 innings allowing just a single run as the Fish won 3-1. He would close out his rookie campaign with a 2.88 ERA in 15 games matching the hype around the the homegrown talent.

As this Marlins team remained competitive within the National League East, Chris Volstad continued to perform at a decent level, reaching a career peak with a shutout of the San Francisco Giants on July 8, 2009 but in total accumulating a 5.21 ERA for the year.

In 2010, Volstad maintained his spot in the rotation without raising the bar. A shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals or a complete game against the Washington Nationals was not enough to put Chris Volstad on the next level of cost-efficient rotation mates Josh Johnson, Aníbal Sánchez and the strikeout-heavy Ricky Nolasco.

In 4 years with the Marlins, Chris Volstad started 102 games, faced 2524 batters of whom 378 were sent right back to the dugout with the strikeout. He pitched to a 4.59 ERA in his time with Florida.

After the 2011 season, the Marlins traded Chris Volstad to the Chicago Cubs for Carlos Zambrano and cash. Volstad would go on to play for the Cubs, Pirates, Rockies and most recently the Chicago White Sox. He is still an active player and might continue his professional career in 2021 but has not played at the MLB level since 2018.

Volstad is a partial owner of Civil Society Brewing Co. in South Florida, This is, after all, his home.

Join us tomorrow for Chapter 114 of our All-Time Marlins Countdown.