Devon Whyte joined the Florida Marlins in 1996 with a lot of mileage already on his cleats.
The All-Time Marlins Countdown has already covered most of the players in the pantheon of franchise greats, but we’ve saved the 14 best of them for these final 14 days before 2021 Opening Day. Players are sorted in ascending value of bWAR divided by plate appearances and/or batters faced. In other words, players are not ranked on total contribution to the team, but more on a per-plate-transaction basis. Devon Whyte totaled 4.5 bWAR with the team, but he only played in 220 regular season games for them.
14. Devon Whyte
Devon Whyte, stylized throughout his career as “Devon White,” is a six-foot-one switch-hitting outfielder from Kingston, Jamaica. Way back in 1981, he was a sixth round choice of the California Angels out of Park West HS, in Manhattan, New York. It’s through respect to him that I’ll be using the original (and since re-adopted) spelling of his last name.
It did take Whyte a little bit before he got to the bigs to stay. Between 1985 and 1986, he appeared in a total of 50 games, going 15-for-66 with nine stolen bases. In 1987, he finally graduated to baseball’s top level for good, finishing fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting after hitting .263/.306/.443 in 159 games, with 24 homers, 87 RBI, and 32 stolen bases.
Whyte later won two Gold Gloves in center field for the Angels, and made his first All Star appearance in 1989. After the 1990 season, he was involved in a multiplayer deal with the Toronto Blue Jays and ended up spending five seasons with them. He was a success in Canada, to put things bluntly. He won five straight Gold Gloves, and made his second All Star Team in 1993. Prior to the Marlins leg of his major league career, he had slashed .260/.313/.413 with 131 homers, 515 RBI, and 249 stolen bases.
Granted free agency following the 1995 campaign, Whyte signed on with the Marlins for three years and $9.9 million. His first month with the Marlins was pretty bad in retrospect, and would see him hit .179 with only two stolen bases and one multiple-hit game. He then went 16-for-40 through the first nine games in May, and eventually closed the campaign with a .274/.325/.455 slash line, with 22 stolen bases, 17 homers, and 84 RBI.
Considering the start to his first year with Florida, it’s somewhat remarkable that Whyte totaled 38 multiple-hit games by the end of the year. On August 5, he went four-for-six with three doubles and three RBI in a 16-9 Marlins win over the Colorado Rockies. In 1200 2⁄3 innings in center field, White pulled down a .987 fielding percentage, with five assists and four errors. It’s a mark he duplicated in 1997 for Florida, with four assists and two errors.
Whyte missed two months of the 1997 season with an injury, but still managed to slash .245/.338/.370 and stole 13 bases in 18 attempts over 74 contests. Although he only managed to hit .215 in 16 postseason appearances on Florida’s way to their first World Series Championship, he was the hero of the day on October 3, Game Three of Florida’s NLDS victory against the San Francisco Giants. He singled in the second, then hit a come-from-behind grand slam in the sixth to give the Marlins a 4-1 lead. It held up to the tune of a 6-2 Marlins win, and a NLCS date with the Atlanta Braves.
After doing his part to help the Marlins along to their title, they traded Whyte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league LHP Jesus Martinez. Although Martinez never appeared in a major league game (in fact never appearing even in the minor leagues for the Marlins), Whyte played four more seasons. After his All Star campaign with the D-Backs in 1998, he played two seasons for the Los Angeles Dodgers and another for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Whyte eventually joined the coaching ranks, and for the past four seasons has served with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, first as a hitting coach and now as a position coach.