In this chapter of our offseason-long countdown, we check in with three former All Stars and Odrisamer Despaigne.
This offseason, we’re looking back at all 630 players to take the field for the Florida and Miami Marlins in regular season game over their first 28 seasons of play.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been reviewing five players per day. As the pool of Marlins shrinks, and the players get better, we’ll be concentrating on fewer players in each story. Starting today and running through January 15, there will be four players in each chapter. We’ll then drop down to three-per-day.
Players were first sorted by the amount of plate appearances/batters faced. The first pool focused on players below 20 PA/BF. The second was for players from 20-to-74, the third was for players from 75-through-249. We’re now on the group who totaled between 250-and-799, with the final pool (containing 128 players) set to begin on January 23. Players are further ranked within each pool by ascending brWAR divided by PA/BF, so every player’s performance with the team was marginally better than the player profiled before him. You can check out the first 65 chapters of the series here if you need to catch up.
Today’s class of four features a former All Star closer, a bullpen swing-arm, and two outfielders on the last legs of their respective major league careers.
250. Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson is a six-foot-one, left-handed batting, righty throwing outfielder from Blue Island, Illinois. In 2002, the Detroit Tigers drafted him in the third round out of the University of Illinois.
Granderson made his major league debut with Detroit in 2004, and played six seasons for the club, making his first All Star appearance in 2009. He followed with four seasons for the New York Yankees, making two more appearances on the All Star roster in 2011 and in 2012. He then joined the New York Mets for three-and-a-half seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2017 stretch run, and split 2018 between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Through Granderson’s pre-Marlins career, he slashed .252/.340/.470 with 332 dingers, 903 RBI, and 153 stolen bases in 1,919 contests over 15 seasons. Prior to 2019 Spring Training, the Marlins signed him to a deal for one year and $1.75 million. His lone season with the Marlins produced career-worst figures almost all the way across the board.
Granderson went 58-for-317 in 138 games for a .183 average. He collected 17 doubles, a triple, and 12 home runs with 34 RBI. He drew 41 walks, scored 44 times, and fanned 98 times. He was also caught stealing three times without a successful stolen base. Things were better on the defensive side of the equation, which saw him post league-average DRS figures. He made 139 putouts and three assists without an error in 611 innings, mostly in left field.
Granderson’s best moment of the season in a Marlins victory, according to WPA, was on September 26 in a 4-2 victory against the New York Mets. Granderson entered as a pinch hitter with nobody on, one out, and a tie score, then walloped the third pitch from Zack Wheeler for the final home run of his career. He retired prior to 2020 Spring Training.
249. Odrisamer Despaigne
La Habana, Cuba native Odrisamer Despaigne is a six-foot relief pitcher who signed his first professional deal with the San Diego Padres in 2014, at the age of 27. Prior to signing stateside, he played eight seasons in the Cuban National League, going 58-42 with a 3.73 ERA.
Once signed by San Diego, Despaigne made his major league debut less than two months later. He spent two seasons with them, starting in 34 of 50 appearances, then opened the 2016 campaign coming out of the Baltimore Orioles bullpen. On September 15, the Marlins selected him off waivers.
Despaigne appeared in three games for the Marlins over the last two weeks of 2016, all losses. He faced 13 batters and allowed three runs on four hits over three innings of work.
In 2017, Despaigne ended up nearly evenly splitting his time between the New Orleans Baby Cakes at the Triple-A level and the Marlins at the parent club level. His best game for the Marlins, by both GameScore and by WPA, was a 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on September 5. He held the Nats to one run on five hits over seven innings, but was charged with the loss even though Kyle Barraclough gave up the winning run, because stats are hard.
Despaigne appeared in a total of 18 contests for the Marlins, starting eight of them in 2017. He went 2-3 with a 4.01 ERA and 31 K’s in 58 1⁄3 innings. He put 62 percent of his pitches over the plate, which is roughly average, but also allowed 60 percent of inherited baserunners to score, which is very high, albeit in a small sample.
At the start of the 2018 season, Despaigne was a part of the Marlins 25-man roster in Miami. On March 30, he earned a victory, the Marlins first of the season, by pitching a perfect 17th inning in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. The very next day, he started and struck out six in five innings, but also surrendered five runs (four earned) on six hits and a pair of walks.
Despaigne pitched in 11 games for the Marlins between the start of the season and the end of May, striking out 18 batters in 20 1⁄3 innings and allowing 12 earned runs on 22 hits and eight walks. On August 14, while with the Baby Cakes, the Los Angeles Angels purchased Despaigne’s contract from Miami.
Despaigne has since pitched 18 2⁄3 innings with the Angels, then joined the Chicago White Sox and pitched 13 1⁄3 innings for them in 2019. In 2020, he posted a 15-8 record with a 4.33 ERA in 34 starts for the KT Wiz in the Korean Baseball Organization (see video above). He has signed a new contract to remain overseas for the 2021 campaign.
248. Luis Gonzalez
Lefty batting Luis Gonzalez is a right-handed six-foot-two left fielder from Tampa, Florida. In 1988, the Houston Astros chose him in the fourth round out of the University of South Alabama. He joined the Florida Marlins for the last season of his career in 2008, much like Granderson later on (but earlier in this article).
Prior to joining the Marlins, Gonzalez spent 18 seasons in the major leagues between the Astros, the Chicago Cubs, the Detroit Tigers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2,455 contests, he slashed .284/.368/.481, with 346 home runs and 1,392 RBI. Five times he made the All Star team for Arizona, including in 2001, when he led the majors with 162 appearances for the second season in a row and also collected 57 home runs. That would lead the majors in most seasons, but in 2001 it was only good for third in the National League, behind Barry Bonds’ 73 and Sammy Sosa’s 64.
One of the last of a seemingly dying breed, Gonzalez drew more walks than he struck out from 1996 through 2007, with 895 and 814 respectively. At the age of 40, he signed on with the Florida Marlins through free agency prior to 2008 Spring Training.
In 136 contests for the Marlins, Gonzalez slashed .261/.336/.413 with 26 doubles, a triple, and eight home runs with 47 RBI. He drew 41 walks, scored 30 runs, and struck out 43 times, successfully stealing a base on one-of-three attempts. In 641 defensive innings for the Marlins in the outfield, mostly in left, Gonzalez made 135 putouts with one assist and four errors for a .971 fielding percentage.
Although Gonzalez’ best years were clearly behind him, he still enjoyed moments of glory for Florida. He had multiple hits 18 times through the season, including four games where he had three or more. On May 6, he went four-for-four with a double and an RBI in a 3-0 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. On August 29, 2009, he announced his retirement, and joined the Diamondbacks front office as an assistant to the president. He was later the first Arizona player to have his number retired.
247. Heath Bell
Heath Bell is a six-foot-three relief pitcher from Oceanside, California. In 1997, the Tampa Bay Rays chose him in the 69th round of the draft out of Rancho Santiago College, in Santa Ana, California, but he didn’t sign. A year later, after going undrafted, he signed with the New York Mets through free agency, and worked his way up through their system until making his major league debut in 2004.
Bell played three seasons out of the Mets bullpen before joining the San Diego Padres via trade after 2006. It was with San Diego for whom Bell enjoyed his greatest major league success. After two seasons as a garden-variety late-inning reliever, he was instituted as the Padres closer.
From 2009 through 2011, Bell made the National League All Star Team every season, and saved a total of 132 games for them during that time (he saved two in 2007 as well). During those three “peak” years, he struck out 216 in 202 1⁄3 innings, racking up a 15-9 record, a 2.36 ERA, and a 1.157 WHIP. Expectations were high when the Marlins got him via free agency following the 2011 campaign.
Bell joined Miami’s bullpen as the closer du jour, but was only successful in 19-of-27 save situations. His ERA ballooned to 5.09, his WHIP to 1.555, and his whiff rate dropped to 8.3 K/9 after averaging 9.6 over the prior three seasons. He put 63 percent of his pitches in the strike-zone, but allowed an opposing slash line of .282/.357/.423. His finished his season with a minus-2.976 WPA, and a team-worst 80 ERA+.
It was clear that Bell wasn’t quite right when in mid-May, after having already appeared in 15 Marlins games, his ERA was still above a run-per-inning, at 9.24. After the 2012 season, the Marlins traded Bell away in a three-team deal with the Oakland Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Bell played a full season for the Diamondbacks, then pitched in 13 contests for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014. He retired near the end of Spring Training in 2015.