Today we’re featuring a pair of pitchers in our offseason-long series.
The Florida and Miami Marlins have employed a total of 630 players through their first 28 seasons of major league play.
This offseason, we’re looking at each of them in turn. We’ve already featured 585 of them, and now have just 45 to go. The final 128 players in the countdown totaled 800 or more PA/BF while with the team, and players are ordered in ascending bWAR divided by their total plate transactions.
45. A.J. Burnett
A.J. Burnett is a six-foot-four right-handed pitcher from North Little Rock, Arkansas. A 17-year MLB veteran, Burnett is the author of the sloppiest no-hitter in Marlins (and possibly baseball) history.
Burnett started his professional career after getting drafted by the New York Mets in the eighth round of the 1995 draft out of Central Arkansas Christian HS. He worked in their system for three seasons before they sent him to the Marlins along with Rob Stratton and Jesus Sanchez for Al Leiter and Ralph Milliard. Although he wasn’t highly ranked while with the Mets, Burnett opened the 1999 season as Florida’s top prospect.
Burnett made his major league debut that year for Florida and posted a 4-2 record with a 3.48 ERA through his first seven major league starts. He remained with the Marlins through the first seven seasons of his major league career, starting in 131 of his 134 overall appearances, going 49-50 with a 3.73 ERA. He ranks fifth on the Marlins all-time win chart, right behind Brad Penny (#70).
Burnett was at his best in 2002, when he led the National league by allowing only 6.7 hits and 0.5 homers per nine innings. He also led the majors with five shutouts, a total we’re not likely to see again anytime soon. In fact, Burnett totaled eight shutouts through his time with the Marlins, topping their all-time leaderboard (in a tie with Dontrelle Willis).
Burnett’s highest GameScore during his time with the Marlins wasn’t his no-hitter, but it was a shutout. On June 15, 2002, he struck out 11 and walked three in a three-hit, 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Burnett did earn a ring while with the Marlins, although he only started four games in 2003 due to injury. After the 2005 season, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays through free agency. He also went on to play for the New York Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Philadelphia Phillies. He made the All Star Team for the first and only time in his career in his final season, when he went 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA for the Bucs in 2015.
44. Sandy Alcantara
Sandy Alcantara is a six-foot-five right-handed pitcher from Azua, Dominican Republic. In 2013, he signed his first professional contract with the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 17. He got to the majors with them in 2017, pitching eight times out of the bullpen and striking out 10 in 8 1⁄3 innings. After the campaign, St. Louis traded him to the Miami Marlins with Daniel Castano (#291), Magneuris Sierra (#273), and Zac Gallen (#284) for Marcell Ozuna (#13).
Thus far post-trade, Alcantara has turned out to be the big prize. Reliant on a five-pitch mix, Alcantara mostly uses a top-shelf 97 MPH four-seamer and a sinker. He also mixes in a slider, a curveball, and the occasional changeup. Although his fastball should be considered elite, ALcantara’s best PutAway pitch is the change (33.3 percent, according to Statcast).
After three seasons in the Marlins’ rotation, Alcantara has a 11-19 record and a 3.69 ERA, with 220 strikeouts and a 1.310 WHIP in 273 1⁄3 innings. In 2019, he led the majors with two shutouts, including a two-hit, 3-0 victory against the Mets on May 19. Alcantara struck out eight and walked one, needing only 89 pitches to turn the trick (see video).
Rotochamp.com has Alcantara pegged as the Opening Day starter, with Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez, Sixto Sanchez, and Trevor Rogers filling out the rotation. We’ll see how all that shakes out over the next few weeks as Spring Training competition gets a little more serious.