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Jay Powell was a 6’4″, 220 lb. reliever from Meridian, Mississippi. Born on January 9th, 1972, Powell made his major league debut at the age of 23 with the Florida Marlins in 1995.

Powell would go on to enjoy an 11-season major league career, pitching in 512 games and starting zero of them. According to FiP and WHIP, his best season was his 1997 with the Florida Marlins, when he ranked ninth in the National League with 74 appearances.
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Beginnings

Powell was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 11th round back in 1990, but elected to play collegiate baseball instead. He joined the Mississippi State Bulldogs for two seasons prior to getting drafted. In 29 games, including six starts, he was 7-8 with a 2.64 ERA, and 119 K’s in 122 2/3 innings.

It was a solid decision, and increased Powell’s draft stock significantly. The Baltimore Orioles took him in the first round in 1993, 19th overall off the board. He reported to the Albany Polecats in the middle-A South Atlantic League, and went 0-2 with a 4.55 ERA and 29 K’s in 27 2/3 innings over six starts.

In 1994, Powell spent the entire season with the high-A Carolina League outfit, the Frederick Keys. He played in 26 games, including 20 starts, and posted a 7-7 record with a 4.96 ERA. He also threw 12 wild pitches and had a 1.51 WHIP – hardly promotion ready, and the Orioles decided to cut bait.
Jay Powell with the Florida Marlins

During the after the 1994 postseason, the Florida Marlins traded Bret Barberie to Baltimore for Powell’s services. As part of the double-A Portland Sea Dogs, in the Eastern League, Powell played in 50 games and went 5-4 with a 1.87 ERA, 53 K’s in 53 innings, and a very solid 1.08 WHIP. Encouraged, the Marlins decided to take a flyer on Powell for the month of September. In his first nine games, he allowed seven hits and one earned run over 8 1/3 innings, with six walks and four strikeouts. The resultant 1.56 WHIP was nothing to write home about, but the Marlins had seen enough to give Powell another go.

1996 would see the Florida Marlins employ Powell for a full season, less one game with the high-A Brevard County Manatees, in the Florida State League. He ranked second on the team with 67 appearances, trailing only closer Robb Nen‘s 75. Powell was 4-3 with a 4.54 ERA, 52 K’s in 71 1/3 innings, and a 1.50 WHIP. As pedestrian as his WHIP was, it still ranked sixth out of 10 qualified players on the Marlins roster.

As previously stated, 1997 was a banner year for Powell, and not just because the Florida Marlins ended up winning their first World Series. Powell ranked second on the team with a solid 3.25 FiP, trailing only staff-ace Kevin Brown‘s 2.94. Powell was 7-2 with a 3.28 ERA, and 65 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings of work. His 1.27 WHIP was the best mark of his career. Powell would go on to appear in four games against the Cleveland Indians in the Fall Classic, and despite finishing with a 2.455 WHIP to his credit, he was also the winning pitcher of record in the seventh and deciding game in the series.
Aftermath
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Powell played in 33 games for the Marlins in 1998, but put up a 1.60 WHIP over 36 1/3 innings. On Independence Day, the Marlins traded him with Scott Makarewicz to the Houston Astros for Ramon Castro.

Powell went on to have a great half-season for the Astros before reverting to the mean. After finishing the 1997 campaign with 0.8 WAR, he got a figure of 1.2 in his three months with Houston. That 2.0 total was most of his 11-season value of 2.9.

Powell pitched for the Astros until 2001, played part of a season with the Colorado Rockies, pitched for the Texas Rangers for three seasons, and finished up with the Atlanta Braves in 2005 after fracturing his humerus. Powell retired after that without a losing record in any of his 11 MLB seasons. He remains one of only seven pitchers to accomplish the feat. (Andy Pettite had 17 seasons without a losing record). Deacon Phillipe, Urban Shocker, Dizzy Dean, Dave Foutz, and Spud Chandler round out the list.

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Winter meetings are coming, and baseball’s hypothetical trade season is in overdrive.

We love to discuss trades that could and should (and probably won’t) happen.

What about trades teams would probably take back?

The Cardinals on Wednesday designated veteran reliever Dominic Leone for assignment as they prepared their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft. The Royals on Wednesday designated pitcher Conner Greene for assignment as they did the same. Perhaps you remember what the two have in common.

Both right-handers were traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Cardinals for outfielder Randal Grichuk after the 2017 season.

Leone’s injury-impacted stint with the Cardinals never lived up to expectations. He was eligible for arbitration, so the Cardinals made a predictable move early. He joins the tall pile of veteran relievers who have joined the Cardinals, then fizzled. His 72 strikeouts were dulled by 30 walks and 12 home runs allowed. His ERA in St. Louis read 5.15.

Greene never pitched in the majors for the Cardinals. He’s never pitched in the majors, period. The Cardinals designated him for assignment a year ago. The Royals got him off waivers, called him up last season, never let him pitch, then designated him for assignment on Wednesday.

Grichuk?

Life is pretty good for Grichuk.

Especially considering the fourth-outfielder tag that stuck to him when he was traded to Toronto.

In 2019 Grichuk set career-highs in games played (151) and at-bats (586). He struck out a career-high 163 times. He also hit a career-high 31 home runs and totaled a career-best 80 RBIs. He remains a powerful, boom-or-bust hitter who can play all outfield positions well. The rebuilding Blue Jays are apparently happy enough with the roller coaster. Grichuk has provided 2.5 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference, to the Blue Jays over his two-season body of work. He signed a five-year, $52 million extension in April that will pay him $13 million in 2020.

Here’s a question. Would Grichuk’s numbers during two seasons in Toronto be more appealing to Cardinals fans if he was presented as, say, a mystery trade candidate? I think so.

What if I told you there was an outfielder available who . . .

• Has matched Juan Soto in home runs since 2018. Both have knocked 56. Only 38 major leaguers have more homers during this span.

• Has two more extra-base hits (123) than Ronald Acuna Jr. since 2018. Only 32 major leaguers have more extra-base hits during this span.

• Has seven fewer strikeouts (285) in the past two seasons than Jackie Bradley Jr., despite 42 more at-bats, with a .476 slugging percentage that beat Bradley’s by 64 points. This mystery slugger has had a better slugging percentage since 2018 than every Cardinal not named Paul Goldschmidt (.504).

That guy, of course, is Grichuk.

The Cardinals were not crazy for trading him. They did lose this trade, though. That much is clear now. And the outfield picture that the Cardinals aimed to help clear up by trading Grichuk – and Oscar Mercado and Tommy Pham and Magneuris Sierra – remains very much unsettled.

As the Cardinals’ outfield churn burns on, it seems fair to wonder how an environment that encourages a constant scrambling of young, unproven players to establish a grip on a job before younger, more unproven players get their shot could do as much to produce endless churn as it does eventual stability.

That’s my big question about this notion of using 2020 as an on-the-fly tryout for guys like Tyler O’Neill, Randy Arozarena, Dylan Carlson, Lane Thomas, Adolis Garcia, Justin Williams and any other names that can force their way into the picture. In a race so crowded, how is someone supposed to break free to the point of ending the discussion? How is someone supposed to not look over their shoulder? How can the Cardinals guarantee they are giving the right guys enough time, but not too much? How much time can even be offered for the competition if Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader are being referred to as returning starters, with plans for Tommy Edman to spend some time out there as well?

The Cardinals continue their search. Churn, churn churn. Their outfield castoffs are settling into meaningful roles elsewhere.

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Brian Dorsett played just 29 games for the Bisons in 1991 but was part of a playoff run that got within one game of an American Association title and was captivated by the big crowds at then-Pilot Field.

The parent Pittsburgh Pirates had a stacked lineup back then, but Dorsett was intrigued enough by what he saw that he re-signed for 1992 knowing he’d likely stay in Buffalo. Turned out to be a decision that went very well. Dorsett had the best season of his career and it’s largely why he’s been chosen for induction into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I’m really excited because Buffalo meant so much to me through the years and I have such great memories there,” said Dorsett, who will become the Hall’s 101st member in ceremonies before Friday’s game against Syracuse in Sahlen Field. “I was able to play in the old Rockpile [War Memorial Stadium] and to get brought in for a playoff run in ’91 and then sign back with the Pirates in ’92 to play in Buffalo the whole year and have my best year really cemented things. It was a big-league atmosphere, big-league city, loved the people there.”

Dorsett, a catcher/first baseman, is best remembered for being the Bisons’ first 100-RBI man of their modern era. In 1992, as the Herd won its second consecutive Association East title, Dorsett was Buffalo’s most valuable player after a season that saw him bat .289 with 21 home runs and a then-franchise record 102 RBIs. He was the first Triple-A Bison to reach 100 since Pancho Herrera in 1962, and his 142 hits and 35 doubles that season remain team records for a catcher.

Dorsett, 59, was the last cut by the Pirates in spring training in ’92 and never got a call to the big leagues that season. But he kept his focus and simply produced night after night for a Buffalo team that went 87-57 and posted the most wins by the Bisons since 1959.

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Dorsett’s marquee moment in Buffalo came on Sept. 7, 1992, when he collected his 100th RBI in the Herd’s second-last game. It came on an opposite-field single to right in an otherwise forgettable loss to Nashville as the Bisons were prepping for the playoffs, but a Pilot Field crowd of more than 17,000 quickly understood what it meant.

The fans started applauding Dorsett and the noise grew as the Bisons called for the retrieval of the baseball. By then, most of the crowd was on its feet and the roar reached its apex as Dorsett doffed his helmet to the fans while standing at first base.

“I’m having chills right now thinking about it now that you bring it up again,” Dorsett said by phone from his home in Terre Haute, Ind. “It’s such a great memory, one of the best moments of my career. You work hard to re-establish yourself and that year went so well, I really wanted to get to 100. When it happened, it was a moment you don’t ever forget. The people were so welcoming and I’ve always been thankful to the folks that were there that night.”

Dorsett’s 102 RBIs stood as the modern-era mark until Alex Ramirez passed him in 1998 with 103. Ernie Young’s 100-RBI campaign in 2004 is the only other one in Buffalo’s modern era and all three players will now be in the Hall.

Dorsett was acquired in a minor-league trade in August 1991 and quickly entered the middle of the Buffalo lineup on the team’s first modern-era division champions. He was at the center of the Bisons’ infamous rally in Game 4 of the ’91 American Association finals in Denver.

Trailing, 9-0, and being no-hit by lefty Greg Mathews, the Herd rallied as Dorsett’s three-run homer got Buffalo within 9-5. When it was 9-6 and the bases were loaded, Greg Tubbs lashed a double to left as two runs scored – but Greg Edge was ruled out at the plate in the most controversial final out in franchise history. Buffalo lost that game, 9-8, and was denied its first title with a 12-3 defeat the next night.

“In Mile High Stadium, it was so big and you’re so far away from the plate that I couldn’t tell. But it was so bang-bang and in that situation, I don’t know how you can call him out,” Dorsett said. “He had to be safe. That was probably the most incredible game I’ve ever been a part of. You’re getting no-hit going to the ninth, you’re losing, 9-0, and you come back and almost score nine runs? Crazy.”

Dorsett said he regrets the Bisons’ playoff losses in 1991 and ’92 because players on those teams were hopeful of bringing the Rich family their first championship. But he remembers the atmosphere on so many summer nights at Pilot Field as the best of his career in the minors.

“That was absolutely the selling point to me to come back in ’92,” Dorsett said. “It was one of those places that treated you so well. The fan base enjoyed the players and loved the game. Ownership and the front office was excellent. It was an atmosphere conducive to winning. The crowds were big, into the game. … I always said Buffalo deserved the expansion team. To me, it would have been a lot better than the Florida Marlins.”

Dorsett is also part of a three-pronged trivia answer. Along with infielder Russ Morman and outfielder Dave Clark, they are the only members of the Hall to play in both War Memorial Stadium and Pilot Field. Dorsett batted .256 in 26 games for the Herd in 1987, the stadium’s last season.

“It was so big and old and you knew that there was a lot of great history there,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to see it full someday and we had it one night for the Beach Boys (when a record crowd of more than 38,000 attended a baseball/concert doubleheader) and that was a wild feeling. It was such a throwback imagining the old days.”

Dorsett’s big-league career consisted of 163 games over parts of eight seasons with six teams (Cleveland, California, the New York Yankees, San Diego, Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs). He batted .224 with nine homers and 51 RBIs and proudly pointed out he was invited to Oldtimers Day at Yankee Stadium.

Dorsett played 76 of his games with the Reds in 1994 (.245-5-26) and put up his signature moment in the big leagues for Cincinnati on April 13, 1994, in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium when his ninth-inning single broke up a no-hit bid by future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. In a game memorable for a bench-clearing brawl the previous inning when Martinez was charged by Reds outfielder Reggie Sanders, Dorsett pulled a pitch up the middle to start a two-run rally that tied the game before Cincinnati lost, 3-2.

“I knew he was going to challenge me and I had to be ready to hit it,” Dorsett said. “When I drove it up the middle, it was really special and really cool but you’re thinking, ‘Now let’s go win the game.’ I was fortunate to be in that spot.”

Dorsett is president of his own car dealerships in Terre Haute, taking up the business started by his late father decades ago. He lives in his native Indiana with his wife, Gina. He has three children: Abigail Coons (31) and twins Brittany Young (29) and Brandon (29). Brittany’s husband, Cody Young, played two seasons of Class A ball as an outfielder in the Baltimore chain and Brandon Dorsett pitched for two years in the Toronto chain in 2012-13.

“My family ran the car business so it’s all I knew looking down the road. It was either stay in baseball or I was going to come work for my dad,” he said. “I felt like I could raise a family, be at home and that’s really why I didn’t choose baseball. I walked in one day (in 1997) and my dad says, ‘What are you doing?’ and I said, ‘I’m here to go to work.’

“It was in February and I think he thought I was going to spring training still. I had been working out and teams were calling but he didn’t know yet for sure what I was going to do. Then he knew I was serious and he said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ and we started growing his business and I’ve been in ever since.”

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The Miami Marlins bullpen compiled a team ERA of 4.97 and a WHIP of 1.45 last season, and while those numbers are unappealing, the group still ranked as the 25th-best bullpen in baseball. The Marlins also ranked fourth-to-last in save opportunities while only converting on 55% of their 49 chances. No one on the current roster had more than eight saves and holds combined last season, so the team may look to bring in some cheap outside closing experience. There has been some buzz around a potential Sergio Romo reunion, but the market for him should be a lot stronger this offseason.

Once-hyped relievers Adam Conley and Tayron Guerrero find themselves on the outside looking in heading into 2020, as both are potential non-tender candidates. The biggest impact on this bullpen may well come from a member of the starting rotation entering the late-inning mix, maybe someone like Elieser Hernandez, whose stuff would certainly play up as a short reliever. As far as who will be the team’s Opening Day closer, it seems like many options are on the table, but assuming the pieces stay the same, this is a bullpen to fade in most 2020 fantasy drafts.

Marlins Projected Bullpen
Closer Setup Setup Middle Middle Middle
Jose Urena Drew Steckenrider Ryne Stanek Jeff Brigham Jarlin Garcia Austin Brice

Closer – Jose Urena

The Marlins’ “incumbent” closer, Jose Urena could just as easily find himself in the rotation or with a new team by the start of next season, but with a lack of alternatives, it makes sense for the team to take a longer look at him in the bullpen. Urena came off a long IL stint in September, and while he didn’t exactly prove to be closer material in his short stint, his stuff makes him worthy of a longer look. In 10 relief innings over the season’s final month, Urena allowed 10 earned runs on 14 hits, blowing two out of five save opportunities in the process. Yet there were some positives, as he was able to get his fastball velocity to sit around 98 mph in the role, and his 16.4% swinging-strike rate in September is above-average as far as closers go.

Urena’s problems may lie in his consistent attacking of the strike zone despite having stuff that gets hitters to chase, as shown by his 41.7% O-swing in September, which ranked 13th-highest amongst 200 qualified relievers. No one will argue against his stuff, and with a little bit of tweaking to his approach, Urena could surprise us all as a Jordan Hicks-lite reliever. That would certainly be worth the arbitration cost, especially considering the potential trade value he could bring the team down the road.

Setup – Drew Steckenrider

2019 was a lost year for Drew Steckenrider, who this past winter was considered the favorite for the closer role before losing out to Romo. Steckenrider was only able to manage 14.1 innings this past season due to an elbow injury, seeing a career-low K% (24.1%) and a career-high ERA (6.28) to go with an ugly 7.96 FIP. Despite this, Steckenrider’s still worthy of a bullpen spot to start 2020, assuming he’s healthy.

Although the small sample size may be a bit deceiving, it was interesting to see Steckenrider’s fastball usage drop 14 percentage points from 2018, and he also completely scrapped his cutter, which he threw just under 16% of the time that season. The extra 30+ percentage points were added to his slider usage, which at 38% was far and away a career high and may be related to his elbow issues. That pitch, however, was very effective for Steckenrider in 2019, as he had a 50% K rate with it and just a .357 OPS against over 90 sliders thrown. Steckenrider will be 29 to start next season, and it’s fair to wonder if he will ever hint at his 2017 upside ever again. But given the alternatives in Miami, look for him to begin the year in a high-leverage role.

Setup – Ryne Stanek

After being dealt to Miami at the trade deadline along with Jesus Sanchez for Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards, Ryne Stanek was believed to be the Marlins’ answer to their closer opening, but things just didn’t quite go as planned. Stanek possesses the best pure stuff of anyone in that bullpen, but command issues, potentially related to lingering injuries, plagued him mightily over the second half of last season. Stanek’s K:BB ratio was 54:19 over 49.2 first-half innings, which dropped drastically to 35:20 over his 27.1 second-half innings.

With a full offseason to focus on working late in games, not just the first inning, Stanek and his strong three-pitch mix—a 98+ mph fastball, 50+% K-rate splitter, and 40+% whiff-rate slider—could very well find themselves in the ninth inning of games, or at the very least, setting up whomever closes.

Middle – Jeff Brigham

Despite cruising to the tune of a 1.50 ERA and 0.71 WHIP through 24 innings at Triple-A, Jeff Brigham pitched 38.1 MLB innings that looked pedestrian, at least on paper. While Brigham’s 4.46 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 15.5 K-BB% aren’t anything to get excited about, he was able to add some velocity this season, as his fastball sat around 97 mph and his slider was nearly unhittable with a .173 wOBA against over 430 thrown. Overall, 2019 was a step forward for the soon-to-be 28-year-old, and following his great September (1.69 ERA), I’d expect Brigham not only to be a lock for the Marlins bullpen but also a candidate for saves early in the season.

Middle – Jarlin Garcia

Entering 2019, I doubt anyone would have pegged Jarlin Garcia as the man to lead the Marlins in ERA and WHIP for the season, but here we are. Garcia’s 3.02 ERA and 1.11 WHIP came with very little strikeout support, as the lefty finished with just an 18.9 K% and 8.8% swinging-strike rate. Typically called upon to get lefties out, Garcia happened to have slightly better splits against right-handed hitters, due to an above-average changeup, making him more than just a lefty specialist. While there’s not a lot to get excited about here, Garcia should be back in the Marlins bullpen to start 2020, and if all things break right, he may end up being a solid holds option.

Middle – Austin Brice

Austin Brice, who along with Luis Castillo was part of the Marlins’ trade package to land Dan Straily in 2017 (insert facepalm emoji here), found himself back in the Miami organization this past season and seemed to be turning a corner until a forearm strain derailed his second half. So let’s focus on the first half then, where Brice was able to post a 1.93 ERA over his first 37.1 innings after finishing the 2017 and 2018 seasons with 4.97 and 5.79 ERAs, respectively.

A big contributor to his success in 2019 was the use of his slider (or curveball, depending on who you ask), which saw a usage increase of 15 percentage points. Before his forearm injury, the spin rate on this pitch ranked 14th in all of baseball, right between stud SPs Walker Buehler and Gerrit Cole, and was in the top 4 percent in baseball. This sounds like the making of a potential closer, but his fastball/curveball combination was much more effective against right-handed hitters, as lefties were able to post a .786 OPS against him across 82 batters faced. There’s still a lot to like about Brice, especially as a right-handed specialist, but if he’s able to improve upon his fastball command and/or maybe he adds some more velocity, he may be the answer to the Marlins’ search for a closer.

Watch List

Kyle Keller, Jose Quijada, Jorge Guzman, Jordan Holloway

Kyle Keller only saw 10 games last year at the MLB level, the first of his career, but he has shown an ability to strike people out at the minor league level, having K rates of over 30% since 2016. He, along with lefty Jose Quijada, figures to see some action in the Marlins bullpen early on in 2020. Quijada needs to work on improving his breaking stuff to be more productive against left-handed hitters, but a 14.4% swinging-strike rate over his first 29.1 MLB innings makes the 23-year-old worth monitoring.

Two prospects, both of whom are already on the Marlins’ 40-man roster, could also find themselves working out of the bullpen next season. Jorge Guzman has an electric fastball (80-grade by MLB.com), but concerns about his command and secondary offerings have some scouts believing a move to the bullpen may be for the best. Drafted in 2014, Jordan Holloway has suffered injuries that have prevented him from reaching Double-A to this point, but the big right-hander has two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. But like Guzman, Holloway has had trouble commanding them for prolonged periods. With plenty of depth in the rotation, don’t be surprised to see Holloway and Guzman get a chance to crack the Marlins bullpen this spring.

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Rick Graham

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For the second time in three seasons, there will be a Game 7 in the World Series. The Houston Astros will host the Washington Nationals after the Nationals came back to secure a 7-2 win in Game 6. Now Wednesday will feature Game 7 to decide who wins it all.

There have been some very thrilling Game 7s in the 115 year history of the World Series and some have even ended in the walk-off variety. Here’s a look at the top five Game 7 moments in World Series history.
5. Gene Larkin hits walk-off single to beat Braves (1991)

The Minnesota Twins were one of the more talented teams of the 1990s. Eventual World Series MVP Jack Morris and John Smoltz both brought their best stuff with everything on the line and the game went to extra innings tied, 0-0. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Twins pinch-hitter Gene Larkin stepped in to face Braves reliever Alejandro Pena with the bases loaded and only one out. Larkin was able to send a deep fly ball over the heads of the Braves outfielders for a walk-off RBI single that gave the Twins a 1-0 win and a World Series title. It marked the first time since 1962 that a Game 7 of the World Series had just one run scored.
4. Edgar Renteria beats Indians on walk-off single (1997)

The 1997 World Series was another one that came down to the wire. The Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians were deadlocked at 2-2 in the 11th inning when Edgar Renteria had a chance to make history. The Marlins were down to their last out of the inning when Renteria stroked a game-winning single up the middle to score Craig Counsell and give the franchise their first World Series title. The ball was nearly knocked down as Indians pitcher Charles Nagy even tipped the ball with his glove as it went up the middle. Renteria had three of Florida’s eight hits in the decisive Game 7.
3. Cubs break 108-year drought (2016)

The Chicago Cubs haven’t had the best luck on the big stage in the past. This was a franchise that hadn’t been to the World Series since 1945 before the 2016 season rolled around. In 2016, Chicago found themselves matched up with the Cleveland Indians in a Game 7 and were looking to reverse the fortunes of their past. Heading into the ninth inning, this Game 7 was tied 6-6 after the Indians produced a three-run eighth inning. In the 10th inning, Ben Zobrist delivered an RBI double to score Albert Almora and Miguel Montero connected on an RBI single to plate Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs were able to edge out the Indians 8-7 to capture their first World Series title in 108 years.
2. Luis Gonzalez hits walk-off single to beat the Yankees (2001)

In the 2001 World Series, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens took the ball for their respective teams and both turned in strong performances, with Schilling tossing 7 1/3 innings and allowing two earned runs while striking out nine, and Clemens striking out 10 while allowing just one run over 6 1/3 innings. Game 7 was then left in the hands of both bullpens. Fast forward to the ninth inning when the Diamondbacks found themselves trailing 2-1 and were facing Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. Arizona was able to tie the game on a one-out RBI double from Tony Womack. With the bases loaded just one batter later, Luis Gonzalez stepped in and laced a line drive in shallow center field to give the Diamondbacks their first World Series title in franchise history.
1. Bill Mazeroski hits walk-off home run (1960)

With the 1960 World Series hanging in the balance against the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski came to the plate with a chance to make history and he was able to do just much. Facing Ralph Terry in the ninth inning, Mazeroski ripped a 1-0 pitch deep to left field and into the seats at Forbes Field. The Pirates slugger is the only player in MLB history to hit a walk-off home run in a Game 7 of the World Series, so this one has to be at the top of the list. The relatively light hitting second baseman — .260 career batting average and 138 home runs in 17 MLB seasons — is in the Baseball Hall of Fame largely because of this moment. Mazeroski later helped the franchise win another World Series in 1971.

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Watching the elite pitchers in this World Series — Houston’s Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin — Marlins fans can only hope their top young pitching prospects someday can comprise a rotation that’s anywhere close to that quality.

This group of young Marlins prospects “can be a very dangerous rotation,” Marlins prospect Jorge Guzman said, through an interpreter, of a highly-regarded group including himself, Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, Braxton Garrett, Trevor Rogers and the Sandy Alcantara-led group of those already with the big league team.

“We are young, healthy and have very good potential,” Guzman said. “We all throw really hard but we focus on learning how to pitch, not throwing hard.”
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The Marlins’ organization pitching depth has diminished a bit, with the July trades of Zac Gallen and Trevor Richards. But management still believe the Marlins have a dozen or so pitchers who project as big-league rotation members.
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Two of those — Alcantara (6-14, 3.88 ERA) and Caleb Smith (10-11, 4.52) — likely will anchor next season’s rotation, though Smith’s 5.42 ERA after the All Star break (compared with 3.50 before) is a concern. A decision is pending on whether veteran Jose Urena will be tendered.

But several others – Pablo Lopez (5-8, 4.94) and Elieser Hernandez (3-5, 5.03) and Jordan Yamamoto (4-5, 4.87) — must compete for rotation spots next spring, with Lopez needing to re-prove himself because of his uneven work coming off this year’s injury.

Sizing up the other top Marlins pitching prospects:

▪ Right-hander Sanchez:

Rated the 24th best prospect in baseball by MLB.com, Sanchez was thoroughly dominant the final month at Double A Jacksonville, allowing three earned runs and 23 hits — with 35 strikeouts — in 40 innings. He closed the season 8-6 with a 2.76 ERA, mostly at Double A.

It would be a surprise if he’s not in the rotation by some point next summer, and he and Alcantara are the most likely to be the Marlins’ longterm No. 1 and 2 starters, in some order.

“There was a lot of work done with his delivery and mechanics,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “It takes time for that to take hold and get buy in. That’s what you started to see as the season progressed. We couldn’t be happier with the year he’s been able to put together. Almost tripled his career innings this year. It’s been great to see his growth as a young pitcher. ..

“I don’t think you can say there’s one dominant pitch. You are talking about a pitcher who has multiple well-above average pitches – his fastball, his slider, his changeup. His command of all of those pitches, his presence on the mound, his ability to repeat his delivery [all stand out].”

▪ Right-hander Cabrera:

The right-hander, just 21, emerged this season as a high-end prospect, finishing 9-4 with a 2.23 ERA (between Double A and Single A) after missing a few weeks with a bruise on his elbow that became infected. The numbers were dominant: just 65 hits allowed and 116 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings. At Double A, he was 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA.

Hill’s take: “Another one of those young arms that projects middle of the rotation or better with three pitches and an attitude. You are talking about a 6-6, right handed pitcher, loose arm action, ball just explodes out of his hand.”

▪ Left-hander Rogers:

The Marlins’ 2017 first-round pick went 5-8 with a 2.53 ERA at Single A Jupiter, then 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts at Double A Jacksonville He struck out 150 in 136 combined innings, with 122 hits relinquished.

Hill’s take: “When you see him on the attack, you see the best version of him. Another pitcher with three pitch mix. You love his pitch package. You see his growth as a young man. You look at how he approaches each of his starts and how he is on the attack with all three of his pitches and it makes you feel excited.”

▪ Right-hander Guzman:

Acquired with infielder Jose Devers in the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees, Guzman pitched better than perhaps anybody in the system over the final month. Over his final 30 innings at Jacksonville, he allowed four runs and just six hits while striking out 35.

His final season numbers: 7-11, 3.50 ERA, all at Jacksonville.

He’s come a long way from the pitcher who failed to win any of his first 25 starts in the Marlins organization. He’s also quieted talk about possibly being moved to the bullpen. The Marlins are convinced he’s a future big-league starter.

Hill’s take: “You try to harness all of that raw physical ability. There was always arm strength, but the breaking ball was inconsistent. There was no change-up. He was truly a development success story when you think about how he has grown from a season in 2018, which we thought was a positive one but one he didn’t win a game.

“You look at where he is now; he’s pitching in the upper 90s — pitching [not just throwing]. The outing I saw, he was 96 to 99; that’s where he worked [consistently]. You put a plus changeup there and then a curveball which he was overthrowing a little bit, another plus pitch and you get excited with what these guys will eventually be.”

▪ Left-hander Garrett:

The Marlins’ 2016 first-rounder, who missed all of 2018 after Tommy John surgery, threw well at Jupiter (6-6, 3.34 ERA, 118 strikeouts and 92 hits allowed in 105 innings). He made one start at Jacksonville, allowing four runs in 1 2/3 innings.

And the Marlins believe there’s another level he can get to as he moves further away from Tommy John.

Hill’s take: “We’re all extremely pleased where he has come, coming back from injury his first year back. He’s going to get a full offseason, which he hasn’t had post surgery. He’ll get to get into our strength and conditioning program and be able to prepare himself to compete even more.”

▪ Right-hander Jordan Holloway: The Marlins say not to be deceived by the unimpressive stats (4-11, 4.45 at Jupiter) for the right-hander who is two years removed from Tommy John surgery.

Hill’s take: “Holloway you put in that same bucket with Brax in that he will finally have offseason where he can prepare to do all he needs to do to harness an unbelievably electric arm. You talk about size, athleticism, he has a chance to be as good as any of them with his ability. And this is a guy that hadn’t pitched above short season A.

“We get him healthy, get him to high A. We see the ups and downs. But he’s consistently working 97 to 100 mph as a starting pitching. The stuff is totally there. This guy is learning how to pitch again coming off of surgery. You look at the real strides he’s going to make, there is no telling what you will see him do next year given the fact he’s back into pitching on a regular basis every five days and back into the routine and be more and more comfortable with himself, his body, mechanics.”

There are other young pitchers in the mix, too, including Robert Dugger (0-4, 5.77 with the Marlins after his late season promotion), Nick Neidert (missed part of year with knee injury and 3-5, 4.67 in 13 starts), Will Stewart (lefty acquired in J.T. Realmuto trade was 6-12, 5.43 at Jupiter) and 2018 ninth-rounder Jake Walters (7-4, 2.35 at Clinton), among others.

Neidert pitched well in the recent Arizona Fall League, and Baseball America noted this week: “Neidert finished sixth in the AFL in ERA (1.25) while posting a sharp 19-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21.2 innings. It was a positive finish for Neidert, who had surgery to fix a torn meniscus in his right knee and threw just 54 innings during the regular season.”

Hill, assessing all of the top pitching prospects, says: “You talk about why there is so much reason for excitement. You look at these guys and think Sixto front of the rotation, Guzman middle or front, you think Cabrera middle or front, Trevor Rogers middle or front, you think Braxton Garrett middle or front.”

If five of these dozen or so arms turn out to be as good as the Marlins believe they will be, this could be an excellent rotation well into the next decade. If they’re three-quarters as good as Washington’s and Houston’s starters (and infinitely cheaper), that would be reason for celebration.

Here’s a look at how the Marlins top outfield prospects fared this season.

Here’s a look at how the Marlins top infield and catching prospects fared this season.

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/barry-jackson/article235080797.html#storylink=cpy

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Over 1,600 players reached 50 innings pitched during the 2019 Minor League Baseball season, from Triple-A all the way down to the various Rookie ball circuits. Out of all of those pitchers, a Marlins prospect ranked sixth overall in terms of strikeout percentage—sixth—and you may not even know his name. That prospect is reliever Alex Vesia, a 2018 17th-round draft pick from NCAA Divison II Cal State East Bay.

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You will not find Vesia on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Marlins prospects list, but you will find him in the bullpen during the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Saturday.

The distinction is the latest chapter in a dominant 2019 for the left-hander. Vesia started the year at Single-A Clinton after getting his feet wet with the GCL Marlins and Batavia Muckdogs the previous summer. In 19 appearances, the 23-year-old went 1-2 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 51:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those stats earned him a promotion to High-A Jupiter on June 20, but that would actually turn out to be his worst “slump” all season.

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With the Hammerheads Vesia pitched 18 2⁄3 innings, allowing only one walk compared to 24 punch-outs. He picked up one save in two attempts, and finished with a 4-0 record and a 1.93 ERA. Going from strength to strength, Vesia was promoted again on August 1, and did not allow a single run for the rest of the season. Over 16 1⁄3 frames at Double-A Jacksonville he struck out 25 batters and produced a WHIP of 0.55. Overall, Vesia posted a 1.76 ERA over 66 2⁄3 innings across three levels during the regular season, along with a 38.2 K% and 13.50 K/9. Just in case that did not impress, he has struck out 11 batters over 7 1⁄3 scoreless innings in the AFL thus far.

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The Miami Marlins need to solidify who’s going to be their backup catcher in 2020.
Jorge Alfaro is the undisputed starter for the 2020 Miami Marlins at backstop, but being a catcher in the majors is physically demanding. A backup catcher is important in that they can step in when the starter goes down, or give the starter an off day now and then.

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For two seasons now, Bryan Holaday has been a very solid backup to Alfaro and J.T. Realmuto before him. Holaday was weak at the plate in 2018, with a .205/.261/.258 slashline, but more than made up for it by leading the National League with a 45 percent kill-rate on runners trying to steal.

This past season, Holaday only nabbed 20 percent, but his hitting was much improved over 43 games, to the tune of a .278/.344/.435 line. In 668 1/3 innings combined between the two seasons, he was guilty of one error and two passed balls. That’s incredible, if you didn’t know already.

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Also logging time at catcher for the 2019 Miami Marlins were Chad Wallach, Tyler Heineman, and Wilkin Castillo. Will one of these four fill the coveted number two catcher roster spot for the Marlins? Will they dig deeper into the existing system? Will they look outside for help through free agency? How about a trade? We’ll have to wait and see how things develop in Spring Training, but in the meantime, we can make a few guesses.

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I went on about this at some length in an article a few days ago, here. The Crib notes version is this – J.D. Osborne is likely the best hitting catcher in the system, outside of Alfaro and the 2019 version of Holaday. Nick Fortes, Dustin Skelton, and Will Banfield all wait in the wings, with Banfield as the heir apparent to Alfaro in a few years. Down at the rookie level, Casey Combs and Cameron Barstad lurk, if one of the others don’t work out.

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As I’ve previously stated, I believe that Banfield is the answer to the long-term question behind the dish, and I think Skelton will shape into a fine backup in time. They won’t be ready for the 2020 season, so what about looking outside?

Livin life with no complaints pic.twitter.com/CfRPWbRycH

— Alex Vesia (@Alex_Vesia) September 28, 2019
Vesia may just be growing into a dominant closer on a currently closer-less team. While he was not often used in such a role in 2019, he displays all of the tools of a lock-down, late-inning specialist. He possesses a mid-90s fastball, has great control of the strike zone, and definitely owns a strikeout pitch. Only one of those things can be said about José Ureña, who posted a 9.00 ERA after being moved to the bullpen this year.

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All in all, the Marlins ‘pen is arguably the worst in MLB, the only one in the league that performed below replacement level in 2019, according to FanGraphs. The current talent level may be even lower than that suggests, moving forward without the services of Sergio Romo and Nick Anderson.

Continuing on this trajectory, Vesia is a potential major league call-up as early as next season. Easier said than done, though—fellow prospect Tommy Eveld looked to have similar promise after being acquired by trade from the Diamondbacks, but seemed to hit a wall (7.71 ERA) when he reached Triple-A and still hasn’t debuted at the highest level.

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In short, Alex Vesia is very, very good and could end up being one of the steals of the 2018 draft. The lefty should start to appear across the industry’s top prospect lists during the offseason. Look for Vesia to be seriously considered for a non-roster invite to 2020 Spring Training.