When the then-Florida Marlins selected Christian Yelich with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, they landed one of the better players to ever suit up for the franchise.
Unfortunately, Yelich would peak elsewhere.
In five seasons with the Marlins, Yelich slashed .290/.369/.432 with 59 home runs, 293 RBIs, an .800 OPS and an 18.2 fWAR, which was tied for 32nd among all position players. Yelich won a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award as a Marlin, but there was still a perception that he was just scratching the surface of his potential.
The Milwaukee Brewers bet that was the case when they traded Lewis Brinson, Jordan Yamamoto, Monte Harrison and Isan Díaz for Yelich in January 2018, and they were immediately rewarded.
Yelich led the National League in batting average (.326), slugging percentage (.598), OPS (1.000), OPS+ (164) and total bases (343) in 2018, earning him the National League MVP. A year later, Yelich finished runner-up in NL MVP voting to Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers, probably because a broken right kneecap limited him to just 130 games. Even still, Yelich led the senior circuit in batting average (.329), on-base percentage (.429), slugging percentage (.671), OPS (1.100) and OPS+ (179).
The Marlins franchise has only existed since 1993, so the five years that Yelich spent in Miami put him among the better players to ever play with the organization. Had they not traded him, though, there would be little doubt about his place in franchise history.
With Yelich on the outside looking in, here are the nine greatest players in Marlins history:
9. Luis Castillo (1996-2005)
Best Season as a Marlin: 2003 - .314/.381/.397 with six home runs, 39 RBIs, 63 walks, .778 OPS, 106 OPS+ and a 4.9 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: .293/.370/.356 with 20 home runs, 271 RBIs, 533 walks, 1,273 hits, .726 OPS, 94 OPS+ and 21.0 fWAR
In 10 seasons with the Fish, Castillo made three All-Star teams and won three Gold Glove Awards. He also led the National League in stolen bases in both 2000 and 2002, and is the franchise's all-time leader with 281 stolen bases. Castillo's 35-game hitting streak in 2002 is the longest in Marlins history.
8. Jeff Conine (1993-1997; 2003-2005)
Best Season as a Marlin: 1996 - .293/.360/.484 with 26 home runs, 95 RBIs, 62 walks, .844 OPS, 124 OPS+ and a 4.4 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: .290/.358/.455 with 120 home runs, 553 RBIs, 376 walks, 1,005 hits, .813 OPS, 114 OPS+ and 16.1 fWAR
It would be hard to put together a list of the greatest Marlins players ever and not include the man dubbed "Mr. Marlin." A member of both the 1997 and 2003 World Series Championship teams, Conine is one of the few constants during the Marlins' brief history. He finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1993, the first season that the Marlins existed. He followed that up by making All-Star Game appearances in 1994 and 1995. Conine's 553 RBIs as a Marlin are third in franchise history.
7. Gary Sheffield (1993-1998)
Best Season as a Marlin: 1996 - .314/.465/.624 with 42 home runs, 120 RBIs, 142 walks, 1.090 OPS, 189 OPS+ and a 6.5 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: .288/.426/.543 with 122 home runs, 380 RBIs, 424 walks, 538 hits, .970 OPS, 156 OPS+ and 15.3 fWAR
Sheffield's numbers are Hall of Fame worthy, though connections to performance-enhancing drugs have kept him out of the Hall of Fame to this point. On paper, though, the production that Sheffield put up was incredible, and the parts of six years that he spent in Miami actually represent the largest chunk of his 22-season career spent with any one team. 1996 was the only time that Sheffield played more than 140 games in a season with the Marlins, and he led the National League in on-base percentage (.465), OPS (1.090) and OPS+ (189) that season. A year later, Sheffield hit .320 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in the playoffs, helping the Marlins to capture their first World Series title.
6. José Fernández (2013-2016)
Best Season as a Marlin: 2016 - 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA, 137 ERA+, 2.30 FIP, 1.119 WHIP, 253 strikeouts, zero complete games and a 6.3 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA, 150 ERA+, 2.44 FIP, 1.054 WHIP, 589 strikeouts, zero complete games and 14.5 fWAR
A first-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Fernández is probably the most gifted arm to ever pitch for the Marlins. He posted a 2.19 ERA and 2.73 FIP in 2013, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award and finishing third in NL Cy Young voting at the age of 20. Among qualified starting pitchers, Fernández's 2.58 ERA between 2013 and 2016 is second only to future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw. Fernández's tragic death in September of 2016 at the age of 24 was one of the most difficult moments the sport has had to deal with over the last decade.
5. Dontrelle Willis (2003-2007)
Best Season as a Marlin: 2005 - 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA, 152 ERA+, 2.99 FIP, 1.134 WHIP, 170 strikeouts, seven complete games and a 6.5 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: 68-54 with a 3.78 ERA, 111 ERA+, 3.98 FIP, 1.359 WHIP, 757 strikeouts, 15 complete games and 16.9 fWAR
With one of the most unique windups in MLB history, "The D-Train" was a fan favorite in Miami and beyond during the five seasons that he spent with the Marlins. Willis broke into the league in 2003, and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award and was an All-Star in a season where he'd also help the Marlins to capture a World Series title. Two seasons later, Willis led the National League in wins (22), complete games (seven), complete-game shutouts (five) and HR/9 (0.4), finishing second to Chris Carpenter in NL Cy Young Award voting. Willis' star didn't burn for a long time, but he sure was fun to watch at the height of his powers.
4. Miguel Cabrera (2003-2007)
Best Season as a Marlin: 2006 - .339/.430/.568 with 26 home runs, 114 RBIs, 86 walks, .998 OPS, 159 OPS+ and a 6.3 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: .313/.388/.542 with 138 home runs, 523 RBIs, 322 walks, 842 hits, .929 OPS, 143 OPS+ and 19.5 fWAR
When Cabrera is eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, his plaque will feature him wearing a Detroit Tigers cap. With that said, Cabrera spent the first five seasons of his career with the Marlins and he had already blossomed into one of the best hitters in the sport before being traded to Detroit in December of 2007. Cabrera's .313 batting average of the Marlins remains the top mark in franchise history. And while Cabrera will have spent more than three times as long with the Tigers than the Marlins by the end of his career, the only World Series that he's won came in his rookie season of 2003, when the Fish defeated the New York Yankees in six games.
3. Josh Johnson (2005-2012)
Best Season as a Marlin: 2010 - 11-6 with a 2.30 ERA, 180 ERA+, 2.41 FIP, 1.105 WHIP, 186 strikeouts, one complete game and a 6.0 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: 56-37 with 3.15 ERA, 133 ERA+, 3.20 FIP, 1.233 WHIP, 832 strikeouts, four complete games and 21.4 fWAR
Injuries derailed Johnson's career, but not before he put together arguably the greatest resume in the history of Marlins starting pitchers. A two-time All-Star, Johnson finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2005, which probably wasn't high enough when you consider that he led the senior circuit in ERA (2.30), ERA+ (180), FIP (2.41) and HR/9 (0.3). Among all starting pitchers in franchise history, Johnson has the top mark in terms of fWAR (21.4), ERA (3.15), FIP (3.20), WHIP (1.233) and HR/9 (0.579).
2. Hanley Ramírez (2006-2012)
Best Season as a Marlin: 2009 - .342/.410/.543 with 24 home runs, 106 RBIs, 61 walks, .954 OPS, 148 OPS+ and a 7.1 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: .300/.374/.499 with 148 home runs, 482 RBIs, 406 walks, 1,103 hits, .873 OPS, 129 OPS+ and 30.5 fWAR
Acquired as the headliner in a November 2005 deal that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell -- both of whom just missed being on this list -- to the Boston Red Sox, Ramírez put up superstar-caliber production for nearly half a decade in Miami. Ramírez won the 2006 National League Rookie of the Year Award, before earning two Silver Slugger Awards and making three All-Star teams as a Marlin. In 2009, Ramírez finished second in NL MVP Award voting, with only future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols topping him. Frankly, Ramírez looked the part of a future Hall of Famer himself between 2006 and 2010, a period where he finished fourth among all position players in fWAR.
1. Giancarlo Stanton (2010-2017)
Best Season as a Marlin: 2017 - .281/.376/.631 with 59 home runs, 132 RBIs, 85 walks, 1.007 OPS, 169 OPS+ and 7.3 fWAR
Career Stats as a Marlin: .268/.360/.554 with 267 home runs, 672 RBIs, 487 walks, 960 hits, .914 OPS, 147 OPS+ and 34.6 fWAR
Given that he's likely to hit over 500 home runs before his career concludes, Stanton will have a compelling case for Cooperstown one day. And though he will likely have spent a larger chunk of his career with the New York Yankees, you can certainly make a case that Stanton should become the first player to ever wear a Marlins cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, should he be elected. The 2017 National League MVP is the all-time leader among Marlins in terms of fWAR (34.6), home runs (267), RBIs (672), extra-base hits (479), total bases (1,983) and slugging percentage (.554). He was an easy choice for the top spot.