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How Cliff Floyd emerged as a star for the Marlins

When the former first-round draft pick finally got steady playing time, he lived up to his full potential.

Cliff Floyd was born on December 5, 1972, in Chicago, Illinois. Floyd was drafted with the 14th pick of the 1991 MLB Draft by the Montreal Expos and progressed through the minor leagues quickly. He made his MLB debut on September 18, 1993 as the youngest player in the National League at the time.

The 1994 season was the first time that Floyd had a full go of the major leagues. Regarded as MLB’s best overall prospect by Baseball America, Floyd finished 5th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Floyd played in 100 of the 114 total Expos games before the players’ strike shortened the season.

Floyd could not stay on the field the following year. Then in 1996, he got off to a very slow start and mainly served as a bench player. His power still wasn’t showing up at the plate (6 HR in 117 G). Considering the hype that Floyd had initially, it’s fair to say he was trending toward being a draft bust.

The Expos traded Floyd to the Florida Marlins in 1997 in exchange for Dustin Hermanson and Joe Orsulak.

Floyd’s performance was similar despite the change of scenery. The Marlins had a set starting outfield of Gary Sheffield, Moises Alou and Devon White, so Floyd only played part time. On the bright side, Floyd earned his first and only World Series ring with the team, contributing a few pinch-hitting appearances against the Cleveland Indians.

Finally in 1998, the real Cliff Floyd woke up! The Marlins fire sale gave Floyd the opportunity to put together one of his best seasons in the majors. He reached 153 games played, the 20 home run mark and had his highest batting average. Leading a non-competitive team didn’t earn Floyd an All-Star appearance or any awards, but it was encouraging to see Floyd get on the right track.

Cliff Floyd’s MLB career batting stats
Cliff Floyd’s MLB career batting stats

Floyd only played 69 games during the 1999 season, but saw another increase in most stats (BA, OBP, SLG, OPS). In 2000, his health rebounded and he became a more efficient base-stealer. Floyd’s final full season as a Marlins was definitely his best. Floyd earned an All-Star appearance in 2001 as well as a couple down-ballot NL MVP votes. The Marlins had a winning record for a lot of that season before falling apart after the trade deadline.

On July 11, 2002, Floyd was traded back to the Expos with Wilton Guerrero and Claudio Vargas in exchange for Graeme Lloyd, Mike Mordecai, Carl Pavano, Justin Wayne and a player to be named later (Donald Levinski). Later that month, he was on the move again, this time to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Sun-Woo Kim and Seung Song.

Floyd was still a solid player during his 30s, using the combination of discipline and run production to be an above-average corner outfielder. He joined the New York Mets for 4 seasons and had a strong case to make it back to the All-Star Game in 2005 (.273 BA, .358 OBP, .505 SLG, .863 OPS, 34 HR, 98 RBI, 150 H), but got snubbed. Floyd would return to the postseason in 2006. The Mets lost in the NLCS to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Cliff Floyd ended his career with short stints on the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres. He’s been easy to find in retirement as a baseball broadcaster on TV and radio.

Floyd is an example of why teams should be patient with former top prospects. He had issues with consistency and injuries for a number of years, but then produced at a high level. The Marlins were happy to have him in the middle of their lineup.

Who should be the next Marlins player added to this article series?