Over their 29-year history, the Florida/Miami Marlins have had some incredible individual player performances. While these efforts have translated to only modest team success—three playoff appearances and two World Series championships—the Marlins have done an outstanding job identifying and developing talent. Whether homegrown or acquired via trade or free agency, this franchise has had more than its fair share of truly special players.
Subtracting 1994 and 1995 because of the MLB players’ strike and 2020 because of COVID issues leaves us with 26 “full” Marlins seasons. I set out to construct a 26-man roster featuring an individual season from each of those years without using any player more than once.
To best represent the franchise’s history while somewhat resembling a modern-day MLB active roster, this group includes five starting pitchers, seven relievers, eight starting position players and a six-man bench.
Here’s what I came up with...
Catcher: 2003 Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez (144 G, 578 PA, .297/.369/.474, 16 HR, 36 doubles, 85 RBI, 4.5 WAR)
A free agent, the then 32 year old veteran signed a one-year, $10M contract in January of 2003. An anchor behind the young World Series team, Pudge put together one of the best catching seasons in Marlins history. He set a franchise record for RBI by a catcher with 85, had an fWAR of 4.5, and was the MVP of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs. He also was involved in one of the most famous plays in team history, tagging out J.T. Snow to clinch the National League Division Series for Florida against the San Francisco Giants.
First Base: 2002 Derrek Lee (162 G, 688 PA, .270/.378/.494, 27 HR, 35 doubles, 86 RBI, 3.0 WAR)
Lee was acquired by the Marlins from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Kevin Brown after the Marlins’ 1997 World Series championship. Widely considered the best first baseman in team history, one of Lee’s best seasons was 2002, where he played in all 162 games and slugged close to .500. An elite defensive first baseman, he had an impressive .992 fielding percentage, and followed up the 2002 season with his first career Gold Glove the following year.
Second Base: 2000 Luis Castillo (136 G, 626 PA, .334/.418/.388, 62 SB, 180 H, 101 R, 4.5 WAR)
A switch-hitting speedster, Castillo holds the Marlins franchise season records for hits, runs, stolen bases, bases on balls, and triples. The 2000 season was one of his best, when he went on a stretch from Opening Day (April 3) to August 8 during which he slashed .363/.447/.425, good for an OPS of .872 in 413 PA. He finished the year with 62 stolen bases, leading all of Major League Baseball in that category.
Third Base: 2006 Miguel Cabrera (158 G, 676 PA, .339/.430/.568, 26 HR, 50 doubles, 114 RBI, 195 H, 5.8 WAR)
No shocker here (sorry, BA). Arguably the best player to ever don a Marlins uniform, Cabrera put together his best season in South Florida in 2006. Producing an OPS of nearly 1.000, he started to enter superstardom at a very young age. He finished 5th in the MVP voting, won his second Silver Slugger Award, and was named to his 3rd All Star Game. 16 seasons later, he is looking to become the 7th player in baseball history with at least 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.
Shortstop: 2009 Hanley Ramírez (151 G, 652 PA, .342/.410/.543, 24 HR, 42 doubles, 106 RBI, 197 H, 7.3 WAR!)
Ramírez, hands down the greatest shortstop in Marlins history, had arguably the best season of his career in 2009, during which he played in the World Baseball Classic for his native Dominican Republic prior to the MLB regular season. On Opening Day, he hit his first career grand slam, and that seemed to have set the tone for his entire campaign. He finished with 3 grand slams that year. Ramírez earned his second All-Star Game nod, his second Silver Slugger, and finished second in the MVP voting to a still-in-his-prime Albert Pujols. The stats above speak for themselves.
Outfield: 1996 Gary Sheffield (161 G, 677 PA, .314/.465/.624, 42 HR, 33 doubles, 120 RBI, 5.9 WAR)
With the 42 homers Sheffield hit in ‘96, he held the Marlins’ single season record for decades until another member of this all-time team eventually shattered it. In addition, that year Sheffield was selected to his third All-Star Game, received his second Silver Slugger Award, and finished 6th in the MVP voting. Regarded as one of the best Marlins ever, he accumulated 122 home runs and 380 RBI in his six seasons with the Fish.
Outfield: 2001 Cliff Floyd (149 G, 629 PA, .317/.390/.578, 31 HR, 44 doubles, 103 RBI, 18 SB, 123 R, 6.6 WAR)
After having a limited role on the 1997 World Series team and solid seasons from 1998 to 2000, Floyd broke out in a big way in 2001, earning his first and only All-Star Game selection. Producing an incredible .968 OPS, Floyd was the easy choice to represent the Marlins in the Midsummer Classic. Floyd is one of only three left-handed hitters in Marlins history to have topped 30 home runs in a single season.
Outfield: 2017 Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton (159 G, 692 PA, .281/.376/.631, 59 HR, 32 doubles, 132 RBI, 7.9 WAR)
In 2017, Giancarlo Stanton had what was quite possibly the best single season for any Marlin ever, and earned the only MVP award in club history. Stanton went on an incredible run in the second half of the season, where from August 4-29, he slashed .387/.468/1.022, good for an unreal OPS of 1.489. During that stretch, he slugged 18 home runs in 25 games, while homering in 6 straight and 8 of 9 contests. It was truly the most spectacular stretch of baseball I have ever witnessed. He finished the season with 59 home runs, 3 shy of Roger Maris’ single-season record. During the final game of the season, manager Don Mattingly let Stanton lead off to have more opportunities to hit his 60th home run. Alas, it was not to be.
2019 Brian Anderson (126 G, 520 PA, .261/.342/.468, 20 HR, 33 doubles, 66 RBI, 120 H, 3.3 WAR)
The young Marlins stud enjoyed the best season of his career in 2019, after finishing 4th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2018. Injuries have hindered his playing time since.
2018 J.T. Realmuto (125 G, 477 PA, .277/.340/.484, 21 HR, 30 doubles, 74 RBI, 132 H, 4.5 WAR)
Realmuto earned his first All-Star Game selection in 2018, and also received the Silver Slugger Award that year. In February 2019, he was traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Sixto Sánchez, Jorge Alfaro and Will Stewart.
2015 Dee Strange-Gordon (145 G, 653 PA, .333/.359/.418, 24 doubles, 8 triples, 58 SB, 205 H, 4.3 WAR)
In 2015, his first season with the fish, Gordon made quite the impression. He became the second Marlin ever to win the batting title, and led the league in hits and stolen bases.
1998 Mark Kotsay (154 G, 623 PA, .279/.318/.403, 11 HR, 25 doubles, 161 H, 68 RBI, 3.9 WAR)
In a season where it was tough to choose a solid performer, Mark Kotsay was the selection as he led the worst Marlins team ever in Wins Above Replacement. Not a fun year.
2007 Jeremy Hermida (123 G, 484 PA, .296/.369/.501, 18 HR, 32 doubles, 127 H, 63 RBI, 2.4 WAR)
Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramírez were far and away the best players on that ‘07 team, however they were already selected for different seasons. While Hermida never lived up to the hype he received as a prospect, he did put together a nice season in 2007, slugging over .500.
2008 Dan Uggla (146 G, 619 PA, .260/.360/.514, 32 HR, 37 doubles, 138 H, 92 RBI, 4.4 WAR)
A contender for the starting second base position on this roster, Uggla’s 2008 season was one to remember. He was selected to his second All-Star Game, and was also invited to participate in the Home Run Derby.
SP 1: 2013 José Fernández (28 GS, 12-6 W-L, 172.2 IP, 187 SO, 2.19 ERA, 6.6 WAR)
Never having pitched above High-A, in 2013 Fernández was forced into the opening day rotation due to last-second injuries to Henderson Álvarez and Nathan Eovaldi. After a fantastic debut against the New York Mets, Fernández never looked back. He went on to be selected to his first All-Star Game, finished second in ERA to Clayton Kershaw, and became the 4th Marlin ever to win Rookie of the Year. He also hit his first career home run.
SP 2: 1997 Kevin Brown (33 GS, 16-8 W-L, 237.1 IP, 205 SO, 2.69 ERA, 6.8 WAR)
The most successful free agent signing in Marlins history in terms of WAR, Kevin Brown earned his 3rd All-Star selection in ‘97. While ‘96 was probably his best season as a Marlin, in order to make this roster work we gave Gary Sheffield the nod for ‘96, and Brown for ‘97. ‘97 was Brown’s 5th career 200+ inning season, and the second of 5 straight from ‘96-’00. He was the ace of the World Series team. A Hall of Fame snub, in my humble opinion.
SP 3: 2010 Josh Johnson (28 GS, 11-6 W-L, 183.2 IP, 186 SO, 2.30 ERA, 6.6 WAR)
JJ broke out in a big way in 2010 by putting together one of the best pitching seasons in franchise history. He had a stretch during which he allowed 3 runs or less in 12 consecutive starts. He ended the season second in the Majors in ERA (Felix Hernández), finished 5th in Cy Young voting, and even received an MVP vote. In his second All-Star Game appearance that year, Johnson pitched 2 innings and notably struck out Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki. Unfortunately, a third Tommy John surgery forced the fan favorite into early retirement in 2017.
SP 4: 2005 Dontrelle Willis (34 GS, 22-10 W-L, 236.1 IP, 170 SO, 2.63 ERA, 8.3 WAR!)
Another fan favorite, “D-Train” set the franchise record for wins in a single season with 22 in 2005. He started that season off with back to back shutouts against the Nationals and Phillies, and ended up winning NL Pitcher of the Month in April by going 5-0 in five starts. Willis led the league in wins that season, and finished 2nd in the NL Cy Young Award voting behind Chris Carpenter. He also finished 9th in the MVP race. Along with Josh Johnson’s 2010 campaign, D-Train’s 2005 season definitely ranks as one of the best pitching seasons in Marlins history.
SP 5: 2004 Carl Pavano (31 GS, 18-8 W-L, 222.1 IP, 139 SO, 3.00 ERA, 5.8 WAR)
A pivotal arm for Florida in the ‘03 World Series run, Pavano followed that up with perhaps his best season in 2004. He started 31 games and won 18 of them, pitching to a solid 3.00 ERA. Pavano was the definition of consistency that year, leading the team in WAR and innings pitched.
1993 Bryan Harvey (59 G, 69 IP, 1.73 ERA, 73 SO, 45 H, 13 BB, 45 Saves, 4.0 WAR)
The first closer in franchise history, Harvey was nearly unhittable, posting a sub-2 ERA and saving 45 games. He was the club’s first All-Star.
1999 Antonio Alfonseca (73 G, 77.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 46 SO, 79 H, 29 BB, 21 Saves, 1.5 WAR)
1999 was a tough year for the franchise, but Alfonseca managed to put up solid numbers as the team’s primary closer.. Antonio really broke out in 2000, when he saved 45 games.
2011 Edward Mujica (67 G, 76 IP, 2.96 ERA, 63 SO, 64 H, 14 BB, 1.7 WAR)
Reliable throughout the year, Mujica had one of the better “non-closer” relief seasons in club history in 2011. The following season, he was traded to St. Louis where he made his first and only All-Star game appearance in 2013.
2012 Steve Cishek (68 G, 63.2 IP, 2.69 ERA, 15 saves, 68 SO, 54 H, 29 BB, 1.2 WAR)
When Miami signed Heath Bell in 2012, they thought they had solidified the closer position. Alas, that was not the case. The Bell experiment failed almost instantly, and Cishek became the team’s closer in May, and thus saved (no pun intended) the Marlins bullpen that year.
2014 Henderson Álvarez (30 GS, 187 IP, 12-7, 2.65 ERA, 111 SO, 33 BB, 3 SHO, 4.8 WAR)
“The Entertainer” was magnificent in 2014, making the All-Star team and finishing 7th in the Cy Young Award voting. He pitched 3 shutouts, and only walked 33 batters in 187 IP. Álvarez is also known for throwing the 5th no-hitter in franchise history the year prior.
2016 AJ Ramos (67 G, 64 IP, 2.81 ERA, 73 SO, 35 BB, 40 saves, 1.3 WAR)
An All-Star in 2016, Ramos was Miami’s closer all season long. He saved 40 games while pitching to a sparkling 2.81 ERA. 2016 was the 4th consecutive season AJ was a reliable arm out of the back end of the bullpen, and ultimately the last.
2021 Sandy Alcantara (33 GS, 9-15, 205.2 IP, 3.19 ERA, 201 SO, 50 BB, 3.8 WAR)
Sandy’s brilliant ‘21 campaign made him a strong contender for the starting rotation. He became the fifth starter in franchise history to have a 200IP/200K season, and was rewarded with a 5 year/$56M extension at the end of the year.
And there you have it. I had to make some tough choices regarding the players’ roles on the roster—Carl Pavano of 2004 or Sandy Alcantara of 2021 in the rotation? Starting 2008 Dan Uggla or 2000 Luis Castillo at second base?—and there were successful Marlins who missed the cut completely. It’s a good problem to have, of course.
I mentioned at the outset that the Marlins have been much better at identifying and developing individual talent over the years than at achieving team success. I think this all-time roster reinforces that point. I would confidently put my Marlins 26 up against any team’s similarly-constructed roster.
Do you agree? Would you have made the same choices I made? How does your Marlins 26 look? Fish Stripes would love to know.