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All-Time Marlins Countdown: Chapter 147

Quilvio Veras was the National League’s stolen base champion as a rookie in 1995.

Quilvio Veras...

Fish Stripes is bringing you daily articles as part of the All-Time Marlins Countdown leading up to 2021 Opening Day.

Today and every Saturday through the end of the series, I will be a “pinch-hitter” for the Fish Stripes staffers who ordinarily handle these articles. This one is dedicated to only major leaguer ever with the initials Q.V.

19. Quilvio Veras

Veras’ career stats

On November 29, 1994, the Florida Marlins dealt young outfielder Carl Everett to the New York Mets in exchange for second baseman Quilvio Veras. It was the second trade ever consummated between the two franchises (that total is now up to 13).

Veras didn’t have any major league experience at the time, but he had an enticing professional track record. At every minor league level between rookie ball and Double-A, the Dominican switch-hitter posted an on-base percentage of at least .417. Even at Triple-A, he tallied more walks than strikeouts. The Mets encouraged him to run constantly during his development—223 stolen bases on 311 attempts in 491 games for their MiLB affiliates.

While most clubs would’ve already allowed Veras to get his feet wet in The Show by that point, the Mets had Jeff Kent entrenched at second base. They deemed the speedy prospect to be expendable entering his age-24 season. The Fish were quick to clear the runway for him, trading incumbent second baseman Bret Barberie to the Orioles one week after acquiring Veras.

Veras made an immediate impact in Florida. He debuted in the majors on April 25, 1995 as their leadoff hitter, reaching base safely three times. He batted atop the lineup in each of his 111 starts. Facing the toughest competition in the world did not suppress his aggressive nature one bit—he attempted 77 steals, leading all MLB players. Juan Pierre holds the Marlins all-time single-season record in that department (85 attempts in 2003), but only because the ‘95 season schedule was shortened in the aftermath of the league’s infamous work stoppage. The Marlins were limited to 143 games instead of the traditional 162. Veras successfully swiped third base on 14 occasions, a higher total than 15 different teams!

Fish Stripes original GIF

Veras contributed 3.1 fWAR/2.8 rWAR as a Marlins rookie and had more walks (80) and runs scored (86) than any of his teammates. Only Gary Sheffield posted a higher on-base percentage than Veras’ .384. He finished third in the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Hideo Nomo and Chipper Jones.

Veras was, quite literally, slow out of the gates in 1996. Opponents caught him stealing on five of his first six attempts of the season. He suffered a hamstring injury on May 9 and missed more than a month of action. “Q” improved at the plate upon his return—.241/.356/.321 slash line in 34 games before the disabled list, .262/.400/.355 in 39 games after—but lacked the usual explosiveness in his lower half. He got hurt again in August and remained sidelined for the rest of that campaign.

Luis Castillo, a prospect whose skill set was eerily similar to the one that Veras once had, was ready to supplant him as the everyday second baseman. Not even two years after arriving to the organization, Veras was traded to the Padres on November 21, 1996. The Marlins got right-hander Dustin Hermanson in the deal.

Veras regained his health in San Diego, but not his air of invincibility on the bases. He never attempted more than 47 steals in any season of his post-Marlins career. However, Veras found other subtle ways to help his team. Wins Above Replacement estimates that he was just as valuable in 1998 as he had been in 1995, setting the table for a Padres batting order that ultimately made it to the World Series.

Released by the Braves on August 7, 2001, Veras signed minor league contracts with the Red Sox and Dodgers, but couldn’t make it back up to the bigs. He’ll be celebrating his 50th birthday on April 3.

Veras in 2018