All-Fish Team: #7 – Ivan Rodriguez

All-Fish Team: #7 - Ivan Rodriguez

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When you’re only a member of a franchise for one full season, it’s tough to warrant being named one of it’s best players of all time. That is unless you accomplish what Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez did in 2003. That season, Pudge called some of the biggest games and made some of the team’s biggest plays, making him an integral part of the leadership that brought the Marlins back atop the mountain and gave them their second World Series title in six years and thereby making him the greatest Marlin to ever wear the number seven.

Rodriguez got his start in baseball as a child in Puerto Rico as a little league pitcher. However, he was too good at it. So good that his father received complaints from other parents in the league that his arm was scaring other children and making them not want to go to games on days they knew Rodriguez was throwing. As a means of mercy, Rodriguez’s dad moved him to catcher. Little did he know later in life his presence behind the plate would strike similar fear in potential base stealers.

At age 16, Rodriguez was noticed by scout Luis Rosa, the same scout that discovered the likes of Sandy and Roberto Alomar and Pudge’s little league rival, Juan Gonzalez. Even in his teenage years, Rosa said he saw things in Pudge he had rarely seen in many others, including his ability to captain his team both tangibly and intangibly.

“Pudge was hard-nosed, even then,” Rosa has said. “He showed leadership at 16 that I’d seen in few kids. He knew where he was going.”

After signing with the Texas Rangers in 1988, Rodriguez made his minor league debut as a 17-year-old. In two full seasons and a small part of a third in MiLB, he hit .265/.296/.370 with 125 RBI on 68 XBH. Even though the numbers were decent enough for a teenager adjusting to life in both the United States and in the professional baseball ranks, a major league call-up after just 969 ABs, only 50 of which came in the upper minors and none of which came in AAA seemed a bit premature. However, upon making his MLB debut in June of 1991 at age 19, nine and a half years younger than the average big leaguer and the second youngest player in baseball, second only to Todd Van Poppel by 12 days, Pudge debunked that belief by hitting .264/.276/.354 in his first 80 MLB games. He also threw out 36 of 70 or 49% of potential base stealers making him the best behind-the-plate gun slinger in the league. At season’s end, Rodriguez placed fourth in Rookie of the Year voting.

Pudge spent the next ten years with the Rangers placing the building blocks of a legacy that has a lot of people today calling him one of the best catchers of all time. From 1992-2002, Rodriguez slashed .307/.345/.496 with a BA and SLG that ranked second among all of baseball’s backstops. Over that same span, he gunned down 424 of 842, or an even 50% of potential base swipers which blew away the rest of the competition in baseball (among qualifiers with 1,000+ innings played). Accordingly, in that 1,391 game span, Rodriguez posted a 499.2 RAR and a 48.9 WAR, making him the 15th most valuable player in the league and the second most valuable catcher. Those marks were made possible by a 89.4 Off rating (calculated, in short, by adding park adjusted RAA with weighted stolen base and double play runs RAA and ultimate baserunning rating and determines how good a player’s all-around offensive game (as opposed to only what he does with the bat or, in other words, his weighted OBP or runs created) is compared to a replacement level player), which ranked fifth among backstops as well as a ridiculous 209.7 Def rating (or positional adjusted runs above average) a mark that was 71.5 runs better than his next closest competitor. In each of those ten seasons, Rodriguez was selected as an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner. In six of them, he won the Silver Slugger award. His best single season over the course of his first 11 seasons (and arguably the best season of his career) came in 1999. That year, Rodriguez hit .332/.356/.558 with the seventh best AL BA and its 9th best SLG. His 35 homers were the 11th most in the AL and set a new league record for long balls by a catcher, his 113 RBI ranked 14th, and his 116 runs scored ranked seventh. Never really known as much of a base stealer, Pudge somewhat surprisingly swiped 25 bags, making him the first catcher in the then 98 year history of the American League to steal at least 20 bags and hit at least 20 homers in a single season. All of this spelled out a 20.9 Off rating, 22nd in his league and second among all catchers. Behind the plate, Pudge was his usual spectacular self that year, once again leading baseball in caught stealing percentage this time with a 55% (41/75). His 28.2 Def rating not only once again led all catchers by a wide margin, he was actually the seventh best defensive player in all of baseball. Altogether, by way of a 71.4 RAR and a 6.8 WAR, Rodriguez was the eighth most valuable position player baseball and the fourth most valuable position player in the AL. In a very close race with Pedro Martinez, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez and others, Pudge won the AL MVP Award. At just 27, with his career not even half over, Rodriguez had people, including opposing managers, calling him one of, if not the single greatest catcher of all time and advising Cooperstown to get a jump-start on the carving of his Hall Of Fame plaque.

“He might be the best catcher I’ve ever seen,” Blue Jays skipper Jim Fregosi said. “He could retire right now and go into the Hall of Fame. Johnny Bench had more power, but Bench never had this guy’s quickness.”

Even though he suffered a season ending injury on a freak play at the beginning of the second half of the 2000 season, Pudge still managed to hit .322/.357/.579 with the seventh best BA and SLG in baseball in his final three years with Texas. His 50% CS% and 37.5 Def rating over that span put him in very familiar territory as the best backstop in the AL. He went to two more All-Star games and won two more Gold Gloves. He should have won another Silver Slugger in 2002 when he was again the best offensive AL catcher but was somehow beaten out by Jorge Posada who hit .268/.370/.468 to his .314/.353/.542.

Following the 2002 season, after 11 professional seasons, Pudge waved goodbye to the Texas Rangers, leaving a legacy in his wake that will forever have him labeled one of the best players in their franchise history. In those 11 years, Pudge was a 49.2 WAR player, the seventh best all-around player in the AL and the best all-around player in Rangers history, a title that Pudge still holds today. He is also still the best defensive WAR player in Rangers history and appears on many of the franchise’s career leaderboards including BA (.304, 7th), SLG (.488, 9th), OPS (.828, 10th), runs scored (866, 4th), hits (1,747, 2nd), doubles (352, 2nd), triples (28, 5th), homers (217, 4th), RBIs (842, 4th) and runs created (900, 4th).

In 2003, Rodriguez brought that legacy to Miami. As one of the signings that got the season-long spending spree started that year and saw the Marlins’ payroll go from $40 million a year previous to $63 million (only to go back to $42 million on Opening Day 2004) the Marlins inked Pudge to a one year, $10 million deal, one of the higher single season price tags in team history, especially at the time. Rodriguez wound up being worth every penny. Along with contributing a .297 batting average, a mark which was fifth among NL catchers 16 homers (3rd among NL catchers) and 85 RBIs (2nd) to the lineup, Pudge served as the veteran anchor to a rotation with the average age of 25. He mentored and led that child-like rotation to a regular season 58% quality start percentage (94 QS in 162 games), tied for fourth best in baseball and an average game score of 53, third best in the game. Pudge himself didn’t make the All-Star Game that year (even though he was hit .300/.375/.515 to backup selection Paul Lo Duca’s .307/.374/.438) the work he did with rookie Dontrelle Willis got D-Train into an NL All-Star uniform.

In the 2003 playoffs, Rodriguez was not-so-arguably the Marlins’ best player in every round. In the division series, he slashed .353/.450/.588 and provided some of the most crucial clutch hits. In game three, Pudge staked the Fish to an early 2-0 lead with the first postseason homer of his career. Ten innings later in the bottom of the 11th, he strode to the plate with the Marlins’ win expectancy down to 27%, an out away from going down 2-1 in the five game series. With the bases loaded, Rodriguez singled down the right field line, scoring Alex Gonzalez from third and the speedy Juan Pierre from second, giving the Marlins a huge 4-3 win.


The very next game, Rodriguez would once again be involved in the game deciding play, this time on the other side of the ball. After the Marlins took a 5-1 lead early, the Giants clawed back with a four run 6th inning and going into the 9th, trailed by just two runs, 7-5. After a leadoff double, JT Snow plated the Giants’ sixth run with an RBI single. Closer Ugeth Urbina battled back to strike out Pedro Feliz and get Benito Santiago on a popout but then hit Rod Durham with a pitch putting the tying run in scoring position for Jeffrey Hammonds. On the first pitch of the at bat, Hammonds struck a slow sinking fly ball into left field that fell just in front of a hard charging Jeff Conine. At that point, as Snow neared third with third base coach Gene Glynn waving him home against the arm of a 37-year-old, it looked as though the Giants were going to return the favor that Rodriguez presented them with two nights earlier. However, somehow, Conine, who had made the full-time switch to the infield four years earlier and was playing in just his 75th game in the outfield over a 662 game span, somehow came up with a perfect one-hop throw to the outside of the baseline just outside of the right handed batter’s box to a waiting Rodriguez. Pudge adjusted slightly and and braced for a huge railroad hit by Snow that sent his catcher’s mask flying high in the air and his body flying across the plate into the grass behind the plate. The ball though stayed put snug in Rodriguez’s glove and the Marlins remained in the race for their second World Series title in six years. It is a play that has become synonymous with the Marlins’ title run that year and the play that Marlins fans automatically reminisce to when they hear the name Ivan Rodriguez.

But Pudge wasn’t done there. In the next round, the seven game NL Championship Series against the Cubs, he hit .321/.424/.607 with two homers and 10 RBI on his way to becoming the NLCS MVP. The first of Rodriguez’s homers of that series came in the third inning of game one, a three run bomb that helped erase a Cubs’ 4-0 lead that they built in the bottom of the 1st and sparked a Marlins’ 9-8 11 inning win. After hitting a second homer in game five, Rodriguez was a key contributor to the Marlins’ miraculous game seven come-from-behind win. After falling behind 5-3 in the third inning, the Fish led off the 5th inning with two walks, a flyout sandwiched in between. With one out, Rodriguez took the first Kerry Wood pitch he saw to deep left field, scoring pinch runner Brian Banks, drawing Florida to within two and moving Luis Castillo to third. Two batters later after a fourth Marlins’ run scored on a Miguel Cabrera fielder’s choice groundout and moved him to third, Pudge scored the tying run on a Derek Lee line drive single. Successfully jump-started by Rodriguez, the Marlins would go on to complete the rally by scoring three more unanswered runs and eventually winning 9-6 to move on to their second World Series in 2,190 days.

Again though, Rodriguez wasn’t done providing huge moments for the Marlins that year. In the World Series, he hit .273/.292/.364 and caught a pitching staff that held the New York Yankees, a team which scored the fourth most runs in baseball by way of its fourth most homers and third best OPS, to 3.21 runs per game. His game calling and the same leadership skills his scout, Rosa noticed in him as a teenager helped produce series MVP Josh Beckett who held down a 1.10 ERA in two starts and 16.1 IP. All in all in those playoffs, Rodriguez hit .313/.389/.522. After them, his Marlins tenure would come to an end but in just 155 games, Rodriguez accomplishments were enough to establish him as arguably the greatest Marlins catcher in franchise history. Among catchers who played at least 100 games, his .297 BA in ’03 was a Marlins’ single-season record as were his .474 slugging percentage, 36 doubles, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases. His 16 homers are the third most ever in a single Marlins backstop’s season. Value wise, Pudge’s 4.4 WAR is another of his Marlins’ single season catcher records. It also ranks as the fourth best single campaign in franchise history among all position players.

Following his short but sweet Marlins’ career, Pudge moved on to a third city where he would for the third time, become a franchise MVP. For the 2004-2007 Detroit Tigers, he hit .298/.326/.453 with 114 doubles, 14 triples, 57 homers and 268 RBI. He was an All-Star selection in each of those years, won Gold Gloves in three, and a Silver Slugger in one. Defensively, he contributed a 41% CS% while leading the league in that stat in both 2005 and 2006, and a 49.5 Def rating, third among all of baseball’s catchers over that span. After a .295/.338/.417 start to 2008, Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees. His Detroit legacy is firmly cemented by way of a .298 BA, a .449 SLG, 62 homers, 300 RBI and 30 SB, marks that rank third, fourth, fifth, sixth and first in the 116 year history of Tigers catchers. WAR wise, Rodriguez is the fifth best catcher in Detroit franchise history, behind the likes of Freehan, Parrish and Tettleton, each of which have a Hall Of Fame case.

After moving from New York to Houston then back to Texas and finally to Washington in the twilight of his career, Pudge retired in 2011. In his 21 year career, Rodriguez hit .296/.334/.464. He owns the all-time MLB record for games played at catcher 2,427 and accordingly, ABs by a catcher at 10,270. His 572 doubles are also most all-time among backstops. With 311, his homer total ranks seventh most all-time among those to man the #2 position and his 1,332 RBI rank fifth. Pudge is the third most valuable catcher in baseball history (68.4 WAR) trailing only Johnny Bench and Gary Carter. He is one of just five players in all of baseball lore to hit at least .290 with 2,500+ hits, 550 doubles, 300 HR and 1,300 RBI. The others are some guys named Ruth, Aaron, Brett and Bonds.

With some of baseball’s best accolades at the catcher position over a storied 21 year career, Pudge could make the National Baseball Hall Of Fame on his first nomination this coming week. However, he placed himself in the Marlins’ Hall Of Fame long ago by having one of the best seasons in franchise history behind the plate. Even though his time with the Fish was short, fans remain grateful for the time they got with Pudge and what he gave them in leading the franchise to a title. It is for those reasons that Ivan Rodriguez makes the All-Fish Team as the best all-time wearer of the number seven.

Cast your votes on Twitter (@marlinsminors) and check back next week when I will reveal whom you selected as the Marlins’ greatest donner of the number eight.

Augmented Reality Umpiring: The Future Of Balls And Strikes?

Umpire of the future?
Armando Gallaraga had done it. He had made history. On June 2, 2010 with two outs in the ninth, he got Cleveland Indians infielder Jason Donald to ground out to third base thereby sealing the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. 17,738 fans in attendance at Comerica Park saw it that way. All of the players on the field saw it that way. Both benches saw it that way. Thousands watching on television saw it that way. The broadcasters saw it that way. The ice cream vendor trying to make a last minute sale in section 302 saw it that way. However, there was one man who saw it differently: first base umpire Jim Joyce. Upon the throw hitting the back of Gallaraga’s glove and his foot hitting the first base bag seemingly a step ahead of hitter Jason Donald, Joyce, to the surprise of everyone else watching, called the runner safe. As a result, history was altered and Gallaraga and the Tigers were denied an entry in Cooperstown. This call by Joyce sent the baseball world into a frenzy. Knee-jerk reactors began calling for Joyce to be axed or forced to retire, others were calling for a formal apology (which Joyce did give), others called for baseball to award Gallaraga the perfect game regardless of the outcome. Meanwhile, the most sensible and fair minded baseball fans questioned what could be done to prevent this from happening again. Up until this point, baseball had a form of instant replay. However, under that system, only umpires could initiate a challenge of a previously made call and only another umpire could overturn it. The only type of play that could be challenged was a home run boundary call. It took MLB four more years to finally find a solution to the call that kept Gallaraga from his perfect game and oodles of other controversial calls which led to a non-transparency of umpires in both years previous and in the three seasons to come since that fateful day in Detroit but in 2014, that solution finally came. Baseball expanded instant replay, making many more calls reviewable including safe/out calls and force play calls which would have saved Gallaraga’s history. Other reviewable situations included trap plays, tags on the basepaths, ground-rule doubles, fan interference, timing plays, scorekeeping issues and virtually everything while the ball is in the field of play.

As great as instant replay has been for the integrity of the game and the putting in place of umpires as game officials rather than game deciders, another big question still stands: what about the no-hitters that are taken away by a third strike being called a ball and that batter going on to single? What about the perfect games nullified by a strike being ruled a ball and that batter going on to walk? And as importantly if not more importantly, what about the ball and strike calls that tip the scales in favor of one team or the other sometimes multiple times a game that lead to a win for one team and a loss for the other? From 2013-2016, Major League Baseball claimed its home plate umpires called balls and strikes with 97% accuracy. However, this October, Dr. Toby Moskowitz, a Yale professor with more time on his hands and more patience than a patron saint, cooked that goose. By going back and looking at the PITCHf/x results of every single pitch recorded in MLB over that three year time frame, almost a million in total, he calculated that umpires only make the correct call 88% of the time. That means plate umpires are making incorrect calls 30,000 times a year. Even more baffling, it means they are making an incorrect call once every eight pitches. Looking at pitches that were within two inches of one of the corners of the plate, the results are even more terrifying. In those situations, umps got the call wrong 31% of the time or once in every three pitches. That’s right; one in every three corner painting pitches called inaccurately. These numbers prove that the fully human home plate umpire system isn’t only ruining the integrity of baseball, it is demolishing it at an alarming rate in every game played. If baseball hopes to make its umpires and officials truly transparent, something has to be done about balls and strikes. Over the years, many things have been suggested: fully robotic umpires, fully computerized strike zones, etc. However, whether it be because of fear of backlash from the umpires’ union due to the loss of umpiring jobs, fear of imperfect technology or fear of the next SkyNet takeover in the wake of a humanless behind-the-plate umpire environment, none of those ideas have gotten that far past the drawing board.

So what is the solution to calling more accurate balls and strikes? I bring you to a few weeks back while I was out holiday shopping. While at an electronics expo last month, I may have found the answer to this seemingly age old question. I present for your consideration augmented reality balls and strikes.

The technology I propose be introduced to baseball is called augmented reality. As opposed to virtual reality which completely replaces your real world surroundings with a simulated one, augmented reality preserves your natural environment but modifies it. Since the technology was perfected and the devices burst onto the consumer scene in 2013, they have proved plenty useful in a variety of fields. Along with the obvious embrace of augmented reality by the video game industry, it has also been adopted by the tourism industry where they act as tour guides pointing out famous historical landmarks when the wearer does nothing more than look at them and suggesting places of interest based on the region the wearer is in, it has been used in the print media by magazine companies who display digital content on top of their printed work and it aids in the translation of text in a foreign language, automatically deciphering it to the wearer’s native tongue when viewed. Augmented reality technology and devices have been most widely used in the education field, making lessons much more interactive than simply reading out of a textbook or sitting through a lengthy lecture. Thanks to AR, students who use it in the classroom retain information much more advantageously and are scoring better on exams. Augmented reality has also been used in the medical education replacing textbook photos with visuals of the real thing on a real life human being, in the automotive and manufacturing education system where a lot of complex instruction is better illustrated than simply stated and in the education of architects where blueprints are laid over actual structures.

Most of these fields use either a cell phone or tablet to take advantage of AR technology. However, for our case, neither one of these devices will do the trick. So I come to my inspiration for this suggestion, a device I got to play around with and sample at a live in-store seminar, an augmented reality headset. These devices which are available through a variety of manufacturers, look a lot like the virtual reality headsets which are increasing in popularity among kids and look like the next generation of video games in that they fit over your eyes in the same goggle-like fashion but as stated, the technology is a bit different in that it doesn’t attempt to bring you to a new world but to enhance the one you’re already in. Without having to touch, press or perform any sort of third party action, the device transplants data and holographic images on top of the wearer’s field of view. It also comes complete with full head motion adaptability meaning as you turn your head, the device reacts. In this way, umpires wouldn’t have to worry about a strike zone overlay being in the way of them viewing a play in the field or a close play at the plate. The headsets, including the model I tried out, are third party friendly and thousands of apps and games already exist for them. Accordingly, MLB already owns and maintains working copies of their MLB At Bat app on different software platforms. The app already houses the Gameday feature and one of its main commodities, a PITCHf/x-based ball/strike system. My proposition is that balls and strikes be decided solely on these metrics with the umpire there only as a middle man between the undisputed truth behind the location of a pitch and reality. Since PITCHf/x cameras and WiFi are already installed in every stadium and AR headsets are WiFi compatible, making augmented reality balls and strikes an actual reality from a technological standpoint should be a pretty smooth process. In the same way that current video replay system created jobs because requires a field timing official in each park to manage inning breaks, a replay coordinator on each team to decide when to challenge a call and a group of third party replay officials to decide the calls in the event of a challenge, each park would likely need to hire someone to oversee the PITCHf/x system and a team to maintain it as well as educate umpires on how to use it. So not only would this suggestion help the game from a competition standpoint, it would aid the league economically by creating more employment opportunities.

The inescapable nature of humanity is that human beings make mistakes. For the home plate umpire who is tasked with making split second decisions about where an object travelling between 80-100 miles an hour over 400 times a night, that room for error is very wide. In the past and up until recently, those errors were understood and written off as part of the game. While they are still understandable and condoned on behalf of the umpire making them, a mortal whose occupation is not one of envy, now that something can be done to fix those mistakes and save the competition and integrity of the game, not only should it be done, it must be done. The players and coaches who give this game their lives deserve it, the fans who give it their hearts deserve it and the employees, including the umpires who are expected to fulfill a nearly inhuman standard while working under a very fine microscope thus making them the subject of tons of scrutiny deserve it.

Of course even though the technology is present, this isn’t an overnight venture. Many things would need to be done to institute it into the game. For example, the headsets would have to be fitted to sit over a home plate umpire’s mask and they would have to be outfitted to withstand the impact of a foul ball. It would also need the approval of both the players union and the umpires’ union. However, despite all of the obstacles, if baseball made this a concentrated effort, fool-proof balls and strikes called with near 100% accuracy could make their debut in baseball within the next few seasons, just in time for the commercial release of the Microsoft HoloLens, the device which is expected to dominate the AR market. Partnering with a tech giant like Microsoft has had fantastic results for the NFL who use their Microsoft Surface Pro laptop/tablet along the sidelines and could have similar inter-promotional outcomes for MLB. How amazing does “Cowboy Joe West’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Real Life Umpire Simulator: the only game that allows you to umpire along with the pros!” sound?

One of the founding principles of the office of the Commissioner of Baseball is to act within the best interest of the league and to maintain and strengthen the league’s integrity. With everything needed in order to make competition much fairer as well as the opportunity to create jobs and create a business relationship with one of the world’s biggest technological giants within grasp, Robert Manfred has an opportunity and a responsibility to do just that. It is a proverbial fastball headed straight down the heart of the plate. Manfred is staring right at it. Let’s just hope he doesn’t miss the call.

All-Fish Team: #6 – Dan Uggla

All-Fish Team: #6 - Dan Uggla

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Occurring at the very end of the baseball Winter Meetings after all the hum and haw of the convention has already come and gone, the Rule 5 draft was often overlooked as merely a going through of motions necessary to satisfy the collective bargaining agreement. For the Marlins, t team which always looked for the thrifty option in years past, this seemed like the perfect place for them to go seeking a diamond in the rough. And in 2005, they found one. In that year’s draft, they selected the man who would go on to become one of the best players in franchise history and the man who makes our All-Fish Team as the best wearer of the number six, Dan Uggla.

Before being selected in the aforementioned ’05 Rule 5 draft, Uggla was initially drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2001 out of the University of Memphis where, in that same season, his junior year, he hit a ridiculous .379/.498/.790 and put his name near the top of most Conference USA leaderboards. That season in the tenth most games played and among the eighth most at bats conference wide, Uggla was second in doubles (28), homers (18), walks (42) and batting average. He lead C-USA in OBP, slugging and OPS. Naturally, he made the All-Coference Team and barely lost Player of the Year honors to Jake Gautreau. His collegiate exports had some scouts posting his draft stock as high as the eighth round.

Uggla fell a bit further than that but was still taken at a respectable position, the 11th round, by the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, unlike his fairly easy adjustment to life at the college level, things were a bit tougher for Uggla as he attempted to acclimate to proffesional ball. In his first two years as a big leaguer, Uggla hit just .241/.318/.355 with a 137/64 K/BB all below the AA level.

Uggla’s coming of age season finally came a bit late as in 2003, as one of single A advanced’s more elderly players (23), he hit .290/.355/.504. His 23 homers were second in his league, his 100 RBIs ranked fourth, and his .859 OPS was amongst the top 20. Despite the impressive season, the D-Backs still sent Uggla back to A+ to begin 2004. Finally, after a .336/.422/.600 start there that season, Uggla cracked AA as a 24-year-old. Making the toughest jump there is to make in the minors proved to be just as hard for Uggla. He hit just .258/.301/.353 with a 55/15 K/BB in his first 83 games there and though for a moment it looked as though he could place himself back on a timely track to the majors, Uggla, now 25 headed in to his second season in AA, was again in do-or-die territory.

That was when Uggla flipped his switch. After refining his craft by putting in some hard work hours in his first appearance in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .304/.390/.598 with it’s fourth most homers (7), 14th best SLG and 18th best OPS (.988) in 29 games while battling against the likes of Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew, Uggla returned to AA, this time even more an elder of the average player in his league. He spent that season slashing .297/.378/.502 slash line, the SLG of which ranked 12th, by way of the Southern League’s third most homers (21) and fourth most doubles (33). His 87 RBI were good for second most in the league. After that season, Uggla peaked the interest of the Marlins, a team which traditionally allowed its top prospects to skip AAA and come straight to the majors. For both Uggla, whose prospect status was in its expiry year and the Fish who were in need of a second baseman after the trade of mainstay Luis Castillo, putting Uggla in teal and black looked rto be mutually advantageous. As he was not a member of the D-Backs’ 40-man roster in 2005, and therefore eligible for the virtually overlooked (until now) Rule 5 draft, that offseason, the sneaky Marlins swiped him as part of the major league portion of the draft and made that a reality.

On paper, beginning his major league career in a brand new place for the first time in his career, it would appear Uggla had some adversity to overcome. He responded to the situation by having an All-Star worthy and Rookie of the Year worthy inaugural campaign. For the 2006 Marlins, Uggla hit .282/.339/.480 with an SLG that ranked ninth among rookies by way of 27 homers, second on the rookie list only to Prince Fielder. Backed by solid defense including the seventh best UZR amongst 2Bs (5.3), the fourth best double play runs saved (1.6), and sixth best Def rating (7.6) Uggla posted a 4.2 WAR, second best among rookies and only trumped by his teammate Hanley Ramirez, the same guy (along with Ryan Zimmerman) that edged him out for the Rookie of the Year award. After nearly falling off the map just a few seasons earlier, here Uggla was in the majors going to All-Star showcases and earning six votes for best first year player. Indeed his tenacious attitude and tremendous work ethic as well as some good fortune thrown his way by a team in need were to thank. In any event, Uggla had finally come full circle. And he had the Marlins’ front office looking like geniuses. Accordingly, with just one year under his belt, he had already endeared himself to the Miami faithful as a fan favorite.

Over the course of the next four years, Uggla furthered that endearment by becoming one of the best power hitters and most valuable players in the entire franchise’s history as well as one of the best offensive second basemen in the game. From 2007-2010, Uggla hit .259/.352/.490. That slugging percentage, made possible by 127 homers, most by a 2B over that span, and 144 doubles, fourth most, ranked second among men who regularly manned the number four position. His 13.9 WAR during that four year time period made Uggla the eighth most valuable 2B in the game. In each of those four seasons, Uggla hit at least 30 homers and at least 27 doubles and drove in at least 88 runs. In what would prove to be his swan song season with the Marlins in 2010, Uggla finally beat out his arch nemesis and most frequent NL competition, Chase Utley for the Silver Slugger by way of a career best .287/.369/.508 slash line and 105 RBIs. His 33 homers that year were his most in a single season as a Marlin.

Uggla went on to hit a career high 36 homers for the Braves and make another All-Star Game in 2012 but he never again posted an OPS over .800. Thus he will best be remembered for his days in Miami where he started in obscurity and became one of baseball’s top home run threats. He appears on Marlins’ career leaderboards in many major categories including WAR (6th, 15.6), slugging percentage (7th, .488), OPS (7th, .837), games played (8th, 776), runs scored (3rd, 499), hits (8th, 771), total bases (7th, 1,427) and doubles (6th, 170). With 154 long balls, he is the second best home run hitter in franchise history. He has also accounted for the fourth most extra base hits, 336, in Marlins’ lore. His 49 doubles in 2007 stand as the second most in a regular season by a Marlin and his aforementioned 33 homers in 2010 remain tied for sixth most in a single campaign by a Fish.

Though you wouldn’t guess it if you were looking at him stride to the plate for the first time, the 5’11”, 210 pounder was a threat to go yard every time he stepped to the plate. He became that version of himself by procuring a never-say-die attitude during his late years in the minors and working for everything he would become. A very easy guy to root for and a great baseball story, Dan Uggla makes our All-Fish Team as the best wearer of the number six.

Be sure to cast your vote on Twitter and join me here in the coming week where I will reveal who you decide was the best donner of the number seven and who becomes the next memeber of the All-Fish Team!

Marlins May Have Struck Gold In Dalton Wheat

Dalton Wheat
Making it to the Major Leagues from the ranks of the independent leagues is a tough road to hoe. From 2013 through last offseason, just 208 total players, 120 pitchers and 88 position players, were selected by major league clubs. Making it out of an indy league uniform and into a Marlins’ affiliated uniform is an even rarer feat. Just three of those 208 had their contracts purchased by the Fish. So when the Marlins do invite an indy league player to the majors, as they did with Dalton Wheat in October, they obviously see something special.

Wheat, a native of Augusta, Kansas, got his collegiate baseball career started at a small area community college. Over the course of two seasons as a Butler Grizzly, Wheat hit .341/.421/.497 with 71 RBI and 74 steals before moving on to the state university level. The jump in level didn’t phase Wheat at all. Over the next two years in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association with the Emporia State University Hornets, he hit .367/.452/.578 with 78 RBI and 32 steals. However, despite a .353/.435/.531, 149 RBI, 105 SB collegiate career, Wheat went undrafted in the 2015 MLB Draft. For many players his age, going undrafted after four years of college is usually a kiss of death for promising baseball careers. Wheat’s career itself nearly fell victim to it as well as he was admittedly disappointed and in the beginning stages of pondering life after baseball. Then one day his phone rang.

“It wasn’t the easiest pill to swallow,” Wheat divulged. “I thought I was going to have to find a job and finish up school. But after I got a call from the T-Bones, I was just grateful for another opportunity to play. That’s all I wanted was a way to get my foot in the door so I can continue playing baseball.”

In a single season for the Kansas City T-Bones, Wheat did more than get his foot in the door; he kicked it down. It took Wheat just 67 games to become unaffiliated baseball’s top prospect by way of a .335/.414/.403 slash line. Finally, after a long road and some adversity which he handled like a pro, this coming season, Wheat will be a major leaguer. When asked what he will do in order to succeed in affiliated ball, Wheat points towards doing the same thing as he always has and what allowed him to enjoy a fantastic college career and a coming out season in the indy leagues.

“I was very excited when I got the news that I was able to move to the next level,” Wheat said. “I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m going to treat the game like I’ve always treated it. I’m going to work hard play as hard as I can so the transition should be smooth if I just worry about controlling what I can control.”

Sticking to what has served him well holds a lot of weight with Wheat. It is for that same reason that he has continued a tradition that he began in his years in community college and a tradition that has since become his own personal trademark, even at this young stage of his baseball career. When hitting, Wheat doesn’t wear Nike, UnderArmour or adidas on his hands. Instead, he literally wears the American outdoors as he sports the same gloves that he uses when he goes hunting in his leisure time away from baseball. According to Wheat, it is something that he began doing in a time of need and something that hasn’t failed him since so he never stopped and doesn’t plan on doing so in the majors.

“I started wearing them my freshman year at Butler because I let my buddy borrow my actual batting gloves at the time and we ended up being in different hitting groups the next day,” Wheat said. “I had a big blister on my hand, so I didn’t want to make it a lot worse by hitting without gloves, so I just grabbed a pair of work gloves I had in my truck to hit with and I liked the way they made me feel like I didn’t have to over grip the bat so I’ve been using them ever since. I plan on continuing to wear them unless I’m told otherwise. They have worked well for me this far, so why try to fix something that ain’t broke?”

Having spent most of his life in the small town midwest, in coming to south Florida or New Orleans, Wheat will be in for a new experience and challenge in adjusting to big city life and in travelling the minor league and potentially major league circuits, life on the road as a big leaguer. It will also mean it is the furthest away from his family he has ever been. It will be a new and untraveled road for him but if anyone is up to the task, Dalton is. And though they will be further away, his family, as they always have been, will be in his corner.

“They are really supportive and really excited,” Wheat said of his loved ones’ response to the news that he will be taking his baseball career east. “They are a little sad that I’ll be going away. But they are mainly happy for me that I got this opportunity.”

Wheat himself is undoubtedly a bit sad to be waving goodbye to his home for an extended period for the first time in his life but, looking for the positive in the situation as he always has, he also sees it as an advantage in the way that he will be able to focus completely on baseball without being as connected to his life at home.

“I think it actually might help me stay focused because I wouldn’t have the normal distractions I would at home,” Wheat said of his relocation. “I think I am going to be pretty busy with ball so I don’t think I’ll have much time to think of anything else.”

In Wheat, the Marlins get a guy that remained a complete hitter all through college, through the let down of going unrecognized in the draft, and, after nearly setting up a life away from baseball, a full season in the independent leagues that saw him becoming its most prized asset. He comes to the Marlins with whom he will be able to devote more of his attention to with very few hitches in his overall game. With a great attitude and work ethic, Wheat, still just 22, should begin his big league career in high A Jupiter but could and likely will fly through the lower minors. Scouts place his ceiling at fourth outfielder status but should he build a bit of outfield arm strength and maintain the same great plate vision and solid straight-through stride and swing at the plate and plus speed on the bases while he adjusts to a new level of opposing pitching and defense, he could become starting outfielder material. While Wheat’s signing by the Marlins who always try to get creative with their offseason moves, wasn’t covered much aside from a few short paragraphs around the internet, in a few year’s time, it could prove to be one of their best under the radar offseason moves in recent memory.

Considering he has fantastic ability and an attitude to match, keep the name Dalton Wheat at the back of your mind and don’t be surprised if it rises to the forefront of the Marlins’ top prospect list very quickly.

All-Fish Team: #4 – Alfredo Amezaga

All-Fish Team: #4 - Alfredo Amezaga

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The bench. A place that, although being extremely important to the overall success of a team, loses all limelight to those in the starting lineup, pitching rotation and even bullpen. However, every once in a while, a utility player comes along and forces people to notice him. This was the case with the guy who has been voted as the Marlins’ best wearer of the number four, Alfredo Amezaga.

Born on January 16, 1978 in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico, Alfredo Amezaga immigrated to South Florida in his high school years with nothing but a tourist visa and a pile of pesos in his hand, money his parents had been since he was toddler with the intention to send Alfredo to the United States to learn English when he was of age. Upon landing in America as a freshman in high school, life wasn’t much easier. His days consisted of waking up in a small room he shared with four other teenagers, going to school, then spending most of the rest of his days working at a car wash just to be able to eat one meal a day. The only solace Amezaga found was on the baseball field and despite having to quickly adjust to a tough life on his own, he was able to get to work on making his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer a reality by attending every practice, playing every game and putting in all the necessary work for the Miami High Stingarees.

All of that work paid off in his senior year when he was recognized by the Colorado Rockies late in the draft and recruited by St. Petersburg college with the help of a student visa. The school was modest, one of the smallest in the area and to this day remains so without any resident students and four small campuses each of which offer a handful of specialized degrees but to Amezaga, it might as well have been Florida State. And they had a baseball program. Amezaga spent the next two seasons in that program and turned his 36th round draft stock from high school into a 13th round draft stock in his sophomore year of college. In the 1999 draft, he was selected by the Angels one spot ahead of Albert Pujols. At that moment, Amezaga was ready to fulfill his destiny.

After a decorated .279/.352/.376, 149 SB start to his big league career in Anaheim’s system which included a .322/.402/.420 All-Star worthy effort in his first pro season, a 73 stolen base effort in A+ in 2000, and a .312/.370/.425 effort in his first 70 games in AA in 2001 which earned him Texas League All-Star honors at both mid and postseason, a Futures Game invite the Angels’ MiLB Defensive Player of the Year award, Amezaga signed his first big league contract in 2002. Upon doing so, he repaid his family’s investment — multiple times over — by sending nearly $4 million back to his parents in Mexico.

Honoring his parents with nearly half of his yearly earnings that season was the first time Amezaga showed that he remembered his roots, the very meager accommodations he cut his teeth in and the sacrifice his family made in favor of his baseball career but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Amezaga went on to pay tribute those former circumstances and that endowment during every single game of his career, whether he got on the field or not.

After spending parts of three seasons with the Angels and a short single season stint in Colorado, in a a spout of poetic justice, Amezaga returned to where his baseball dreams were fulfilled, to Miami. There, he endeared himself to Marlins fans not only with good play off the bench as the franchise’s best portrait of a Superman-like utility player but also as one of it’s easiest to like people by way of his antics while in the dugout, namely those with his partner in crime, Miguel Cabrera.

In 2006, Amezaga got his Marlins’ tenure started by posting a .260/.332/.332 line in 334 ABs. He stole 20 bags, an MLB career high and second on the team to Hanley Ramirez. In the field, Amezaga spent most of his time in center field, platooning with Reggie Abercrombie but he also flashed his versatility by playing at six additional positions. In his first full season’s worth of Major League games, the scrappy 28-year-old contributed 11.9 runs and a full win above replacement level.

The following year, Amezaga did an even better job of showing his all-around resourcefulness. In 133 games and a career high 448 ABs, he hit .263/.324/.358. On most days, he was the Marlins’ starter in center field but his adaptiveness to virtually any position allowed manager Fredi Gonzalez to move him all around the field late in contests in order to get advantageous offensive weapons into the game. Again that season, Amezaga fielded a total of seven different defensive spots and nearly all of them very well. At his usual home in center field, Amezaga saved 14 defensive runs, tied for fourth best among qualified center fielders (min. 600 innings played). By way of ranking third in both arm runs above average (+6) and range runs above average (11), Amezaga posted a ridiculous 15.8 UZR, making him the third best defensive CF in baseball, second best in the NL. The speedster who got amazing reads off the bat, allowing him to cover every bit of the infamous Bermuda Triangle at Sun Life Stadium appeared on NL leaderboards in a number of range dependant stat categories, including first in range factor per nine innings (3.02) and fourth in total zone runs (7). In addition, Amezaga contributed a positive DRS at two other positions, second base and shortstop. All in all that year, Amezaga was 20.5 runs above replacement level which ranked him as the 21st best all around CF in baseball and 9th best in the NL among those with at least 200 PAs. His 2.3 WAR made him the fourth best full time player on that Marlins team ahead of the likes of Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham and Dontrelle Willis. The mark also placed him amongst the top 10 most valuable center fielders in the National League.

Amezaga’s last full season with the Fish came in 2008. Again, he was of positive value to the club, posting a 1.2 WAR. It came by way of a very Amezaga-like .264/.312/.367 slash line and, although he took a bit of a step back, still above average defense as he posted saved 9 defensive runs which ranked fourth in the NL and posted a 3.5 UZR which ranked 12th. Though he was slightly better a year previous at more positions played, all of Amezaga’s still plenty solid defensive work lead to a 1.7 dWAR, making him the 10th best fielder in the NL.

In 2009, Amezaga appeared in 27 games for the Marlins. He got off to another good start defensively before an injury caused him to miss the remainder of the season. That offseason, the Marlins released him. After time in Colorado and Los Angeles, he was brought back to Miami in 2011 for a swan song 20 games. Those few handful of games appropriately played in the area where Amezaga was nationally noticed and where played his best pro ball closed the book on both his baseball career and his Marlins career that isn’t storied in the same way as guys we have previously added to the All-Fish team but storied in its own right nonetheless. From the time he joined Florida in 2006 to the time he played the final game of his final full season, Amezaga was one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. Over that span, his 23 defensive runs saved ranked fourth, his UZR of 25.3 ranked third and his Def rating of 28.1 ranked fourth. Statistically, he was the best center fielder in the game behind Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran and Grady Sizemore. He also saved 12 runs at other positions over that same three year span, which arguably makes him the best all-around defender in Marlins history.

Amezaga wasn’t a flashy player. He isn’t a guy who will get many Hall of Fame votes and he isn’t a guy fans outside of Florida will ever speak of. But within the fanbase, Amezaga successfully built a reputation as being a guy willing to do whatever was necessary to help the team whether it be being up on the top railing of the dugout, finding a way on base by any means necessary or simply sacrificing himself for the greater good at the plate or performing Gold Glove worthy defense in the field while all the while smiling, appreciating what baseball had given him. Even to this day at age 40, Amezaga still can’t get stay away from his one true love as he continues to play in the Mexican leagues. For those reasons, Amezaga adorned himself as a fan favorite and for those reasons, he makes our All-Fish Team as the greatest all time wearer of the number four.

Be sure to cast your votes on Twitter this week (@marlinsminors) and check back here next week to find out who will join our All-Fish Team as the greatest wearer of the number six.

Assessing The Potential Value Of Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez

Due to the untimely death of ace Jose Fernandez and because of the ineffectiveness of Andrew Cashner, Justin Nicolino and others at the anchor position of the rotation, the Marlins have some work to do with their rotation this offseason. They began that work on Friday when they signed free agent Edinson Volquez to a two year, $22 million contract.

There’s no getting around it. Edinson Volquez wasn’t very effective last year. And that is putting it very nicely. Without using any more adjectives to describe Volquez, let’s just let his stats speak for themselves: In 2016, Volquez went 10-11 in 34 starts and 189.1 IP. His 5.37 ERA was the second highest in all of MLB. It came by way of a .282 BAA, fifth highest in baseball and a 1.55 WHIP, second highest only to James Shields. Only Shields eclipsed Volquez for the dubious honor of most earned runs given up. The 113 surrendered by Volquez were a career high. Though there is something to be said for the fact that the damage he allotted came as a result of a heightened .319 BABIP and the fact that his defense didn’t help him at all but moreso hindered him as proven by his 4.57 FIP, Volquez was a shadow of the pitcher he was just from 2014-2015.

In those two seasons combined, Volquez was a quality asset, holding down a 3.30 ERA in 393 IP, making him the 25th best pitcher in the game in that regard. It came by way of a respectable 1.27 WHIP, a .238 BAA which was 32nd lowest in baseball and by way of a 75.2% LOB%, which was amongst the game’s top 30. In both ’14 and ’15, Volquez was an integral part of teams that each reached the postseason. In the latter of those years, he was arguably the world champion Royals’ best postseason arm posting a 3.85 ERA in 28.2 innings, including 12 innings with an even 3.00 ERA in the World Series.

So what happened to Volquez to cause him to go from being a guy who contributed nearly three more wins to his team than the average major league pitcher in two straight seasons (2.5 WAR in both 2014 and 2015) to a guy who cost his team nearly a full one full win (-0.8 WAR in 2016) over the course of just 162 games?

Volquez is traditionally a three pitch pitcher. He owns a straight and narrow mid-90s sinker with very little movement, a debilitating out-pitch changeup and a curveball.

The sinker has almost always been subpar and more of a setup pitch. Over the course of the last six years, the best value the pitch has held has been just -0.2 RAA. In other words, it was slightly worse than a league average pitch. That was in 2012. In every other season from 2011 until now, the pitch has been much worse than league average. Over the last three seasons, the pitch has been a total of 31.1 runs below league average. Volquez has a fourth pitch which is technically classified as a four-seamer that he throws interchangeably with the sinker. but in similar fashion to the sinker, it holds very little value. It has only once been a better than league average pitch over the course of those same past six seasons.

The changeup is by far Volquez’s best offering. Even in a career worst season for him ERA and WHIP wise last year, it was still the 11th best changeup in the game, clocking in at 5.2 RAA. In 2015, the Volquez change was the even better. With a value of a whopping 11.4 RAA, it was the sixth best offering of its type in baseball and the fourth best in the American League. The company around him on the pitch value leaderboard that year — Greinke, Sale, Hamels, etc. — spoke for itself. To round out the three-year time frame we are mostly discussing here, in 2014, the changeup was a bit less valuable for Volquez but, probably due to the success of his fastball which he threw 18.4% of the time, he threw the changeup a lot less. It accounted for just 18% of his total pitches thrown, a career low. This stands a good reason why Volquez didn’t have as good a feel for the pitch as he had both earlier and later in his career. Still, it was an above average pitch for Volquez, ranking at 1.3 RAA. Between 2014 and this past season, Volquez’s 18.5 RAA changeup has been the 12th best changeup in baseball.

So far, we have a guy who has one (or two, if you count the four-seamer as a separate pitch) very mediocre to bad pitches and one very good pitch. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to get it done for a big league starter of any type, let alone one who hopes to be affective on the mound. A second plus pitch needs to be in his arsenal. Thus we arrive at what has either made or broken seasons for Volquez — his temperamental curveball. Again, we go back to the 2014-2015 time frame when Volquez was very effective. Taking a look at the total pitch value on his curve over that span, it was nearly as good as his changeup. At 10.3 total RAA (6.7 in 2014 and 3.6 in 2015), the Volquez breaking ball was the tenth best of its type in MLB, seventh best in the AL. Looking at the pitch itself, it’s easy to see where the value came from.

Edinson Volquez
Edinson Volquez

For further recognition of the affectiveness and value of the pitch, here is Volquez’s curveball (most of the time classified as a knucklecurve) RAA by pitch location from 2014-2015.

Edinson Volquez

Looking at batted ball stats on the pitch using PitchFX, we find that amongst 1,558 curves thrown between 2014 and 2015, Volquez gave up just 70 hits including five homers. The rate at which opponents successfully hit the pitch? A dazzling .193.

Now let’s fast-forward to last season.

Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez

Ouch. Very ouch. As you can see, the pitch has evidently lost virtually all of its downward movement and bite. Instead, it flattened out and caught tons more of the strikezone. In just one season, the batting average against the pitch rose from the aforementioned collective .193 in the two years previous to .274. Where hitters touched him up for just 22 total XBHs on curveballs from ’14-’15, they got 17 off of it in 2016. The problem with the pitch wasn’t velocity. In fact, the 80.2 average velo on the pitch was right in line with its average velo in the two seasons prior. Consequently, it was location which stemmed from a faulty release point and arm angle.

Comparing the two versions of the pitch, the good version from ’14-’15 and the bad one from last year, Volquez appeared to be releasing the ball much later into his stride last year and not at the advantageous apex of his delivery as he was a little earlier in his career. This led to the swing-and-miss pitch turning into a swing-and-hit pitch by way of the ball losing its downward bite and catching far too much of the strikezone. For proof of this, we can refer to the 80.1% contact rate on the pitch and the 61.7% contact rate on curves out of the zone. Both were Volquez’s worst percentages posted since he was first learning the pitch as a second year player in 2006. As a result, batters began waiting out Volquez’s quality changeup, sitting on his mediocre at best sinker, laying off the few good curves he threw and taking advantage of the many more bad ones. All in all, it resulted in Volquez, who was not too long ago a fantastic middle of the rotation starter, becoming one of the worst starters in baseball.

So the question is now that Volquez has a new home, can he reclaim the glue that holds his rotation together by successfully rebuilding his curveball? By giving him a $22 million contract at 32 years old despite the egg he just laid on the field last season, the Marlins obviously seem to think so. And they have good reason to. A Volquez signing in Miami means that he will be reunited with Marlins’ VP of pitching development Jim Benedict. Benedict has a familiar task ahead of him: Fixing Edinson Volquez. Benedict, known as the pitcher whisperer, was successful in doing so for the first time in 2014 when Volquez came to the Pirates. A year after Volquez’s curveball ranked as one of the worst in baseball with a -9.5 RAA, Benedict turned it into the pitch that has been revered throughout this article. In addition, Benedict molded the Volquez changeup, which was nearly as bad as his curve in 2013 (-8.1 RAA), and made it one of the best in the game. So if anyone can fix Volquez (again), Benedict is the man.

While the Marlins could have gotten likely similar value for a cheaper price by signing Doug Fister (whom the Marlins may still be a player on regardless of this signing) and while the surplus could have gone to some of their many arbitration eligible players, Volquez is a guy who is still low risk, high reward. Should he not work out in the rotation, a move to the bullpen and a re-introduction of David Phelps to the rotation could be in the cards. In the twilight of his career, Volquez should at least be able to perform well in that capacity.

All-Fish Team: #3 – Edgar Renteria

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October 26, 1997. Game seven of the World Series. Tie game. 11th inning. Bases loaded, two outs. A 20-year-old Edgar Renteria steps to the plate against Charles Nagy. Four years earlier, it appeared that his lifelong dream was realized as he was signed at the age of 16 out of high school in Colombia now here he was at the age of 20 in his second season in professional ball with baseball history within his grasp in a situation that every ball player wants to find himself in yet and many never do, even after storied Hall of Fame type careers. Somehow still, Renteria was able to put his fear, excitement, nerves, and about a million other feelings aside and deliver. He drove an 0-1 slider back up the middle, scoring Craig Counsell from third and winning the Marlins their first ever world championship and writing their name along with his own into baseball record books forever. The AB which was Edgar’s 1,048th of 1,565 in a Marlins’ uniform painted a perfect picture of the kind of player he was: a scrappy hitter who could be counted on to get on base by any means necessary in order to both start innings or extend them. On top of the image of Renteria streaking down the first base line with tears streaming down his face being ingrained in every Marlins’ fan’s memory forever, it is for that reason, for being one of the best catalytic bats the team has ever seen that Edgar makes the All-Fish team as the best all-time wearer of the number three.

Edgar Renteria was born on August 7, 1976 in Barranquilla, Colombia. He played high school ball at Instituto Los Alpes High School in Barranquilla. Not long after his graduating year in 1992, Edgar was signed at the age of 15 by the Marlins. He was the first of just three Barranquilla residents (the others being former Marlin Donovan Solano and his brother Jhonatan) to have ever made American professional baseball, aptly earning him the moniker The Barranquilla Baby. With what he would go on to accomplish in a storied 15-year MLB career, he did that nickname more than justice and did his homeland proud, so much so that his name is now attached to the region’s brand new $45 billion ballpark which is set to be completed next month, named Estadio de Beisbol Edgar Renteria (Ballpark of Edgar Renteria). If you ask any child in the region whom their all-time hero is, you will be greeted with the name Edgar Renteria before you can even finish the question. Barranquilla little leaguers revere him above all others as their all-time hero and pull on their cleats for practice hoping to one day follow in his footsteps.

Upon his arrival in America, Edgar was sent to the Gulf Coast League Marlins to begin a very short but very impressive minor league career. There, he hit .288/.329/.350. The .288 BA was second best on that year’s GCL Marlins and 34th in the league. His 47 hits in 175 ABs ranked 27th in the league. Again, he was by far the league’s youngest player, only turning 16 a month before the season ended.

The shift to full season ball proved to be a bit difficult for Edgar at first as he hit just a collective .229/.288/.264 through his first 244 games between 1993 and 1994 but that didn’t stop the Marlins from giving him the call to AA Portland to start the 1995 season. Renteria rewarded that confidence by having his best season as a pro at the highest level he’s ever played at and once again against much older competition. That season, the 18-year-old, playing in a league against guys who averaged the age of 24, hit .289/.329/.388. He smashed a career high 29 XBH including seven homers and seven triples. He also turned many of his singles into at least doubles by swiping 30 bags, a total which ranked fourth in the Eastern League and just behind the likes of Nomar Garciaparra. He also appeared on top 20 leaderboards in triples (6th), RBI (13th with 68) and BA (20th) as he helped the Portland Sea Dogs to a league title by way of an average of over five runs a game. This was the first glimpse Marlins fans got of just how great of a catalyst Edgar could be as he also contributed eight sacrifice hits, sixth most in the Eastern League and eight sacrifice flies, third most.

After getting another call up, his fourth in four years and officially making him a frequent flyer through the minors, Edgar got off to a similar start as his year previous as he hit .280/.326/.386 with eight doubles, two homers, 16 RBI and 10 SB in his first 35 games in AAA. On pace for career highs in all of those categories, the Marlins gave him his major league call after Kurt Abbott went down with an injury. Despite being just 19, Major League Baseball’s youngest player and still to this day the youngest Marlin ever, Edgar spent the next 106 games becoming one of the very best shortstops in baseball. In 431 rookie year ABs, Renteria slashed .309/.358/.399. Amongst shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances, those marks ranked third, just behind Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, seventh just behind Omar Vizquel and Barry Larkin and 10th. Despite playing in less games than any of the competition that topped him, his countable stats were equally as impressive as his hit count of 133 placed 13th amongst all shortstops, his stolen base count of 16 tanked sixth and his walk total of 33 ranked 17th. His exports barely kept his hands off the Rookie of the Year trophy. He placed second to Dodgers’ outfielder Todd Hollandsworth.

However, a season later, Renteria would get his mitts on an even more prestigious prize: the World Series trophy. The honor came after a regular season in which Edgar hit .277/.327/.340 as a 20-year-old atop the Marlins’ lineup. With 45 walks in 691 PAs, his BB% of 6.5 ranked ninth amongst MLB shortstops. Despite seeing the most ABs amongst baseball’s #6 players, he managed to hold down a 15.6 K%, good for eighth lowest amongst them. Accordingly, his 0.42 BB/K was 11th best amongst shortstops. The impetus Renteria also scored 90 runs that year, tied for most amongst NL shortstops. He also stole 32 bags, tied for second most in the NL with Shawon Dunston. All of this preceded his aforementioned heroic World Series moment. However, dramatically amazing as it was, the series clinching hit wasn’t Renteria’s only positive moment of that championship series. For the seven game span, he hit .290/.353/.355 with two doubles, three RBI and a 3/5 K/BB and he not so arguably deserved the World Series MVP Award over Livan Hernandez, who, despite a great performance in game five, gave up eight earned runs on 15 hits in 13.2 innings.

Renteria played in his final season with the Marlins in 1998, a year in which he was the only Marlins’ All-Star by way of a .302/.366/.358 slash line at the break. He went on to hit .282 that year, which was, at the point in his career, a career high and which ranked eighth amongst MLB shortstops. In that same regard, his .347 OBP ranked seventh and his 41 steals, another career high, ranked second again only to A-Rod of the American League Mariners. His 13.4 K% was 10th lowest amongst shortstops and his 8.3 BB% was seventh highest leading to a 0.62 BB/K that was sixth best amongst shortstops. Upon being traded to the Cardinals that offseason, his Marlins’ career came to an end but it didn’t come without a legacy left behind. That legacy is made up not only by way of arguably the best World Series performance in team history but also by way of the team’s seventh most career stolen bases (89), its ninth best career BA (.288), its seventh best AB per strikeout ratio (6.2) and its sixth most sacrifice hits (30). His final Marlins slash line reads .288/.342/.357 with 89 steals and 114 RBI.

Edgar went on to similarly great things as a member of the Cardinals hitting .290/.347/.420, marks which ranked sixth, eighth and 13th for an MLB shortstop and again putting him in the conversation for the best #6 man in the league for the span of 1999-2004 and awarded him three All-Star Game invites and two appearances in MVP voting (including 15th in his career best .330/.394/.480 season in 2003). However, perhaps his greatest personal accomplishment occurred in 2010 as a member of Giants when he righted the wrong of missing out on the World Series MVP award in 1997. That year, Renteria hit game winning homers in two separate games and was honored with the award.

A season later, Renteria’s baseball career came to an end. The first people he announced it to were his countrymen in Colombia. And as revered as he is there, he is equally as revered by Marlins fans. Being the ones who discovered him from humble beginnings in his tiny native city and bringing him to the professional ranks as merely a teenager only to watch him blossom in to a World Series hero and one of the baseball’s best top of the order incendiaries, Renteria could become the first player ever to enter the Hall of Fame, which he is eligible for this year, donning a Marlins’ cap.

Participate in the poll on Twitter this coming week and be sure to read next week where your votes will reveal the greatest Marlin to ever wear the number four.