This is the second article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Miami Marlins. In this installment are first and third basemen.
The Florida/Miami Marlins franchise has seen several players appear at their corner infield positions who contribute either as a contact hitter, run producer or in the power department. Third base features the bigger stars, including a multi-time All-Star and champion at the top and a young star who went on to become the most feared power hitter of the past decade.
The Best First and Third Basemen in Miami Marlins History
Honorable Mentions – Jeff Conine spent most of his eight-year career with the Marlins in left field, but he started at first base during the 1997 and 2005 seasons. He had 17 home runs and 61 runs batted in during the 1997 regular season, then totaled five runs, nine hits and three RBIs in 15 playoff games, helping Florida win the World Series. He was in left field for the franchise’s other title in 2003.
Mike Jacobs excelled in the power department, totaling 69 home runs and 224 runs batted in during his three seasons in South Florida (2006-08). However, his average fell to .247 and he was traded to the Royals, despite posting career highs with 32 homers and 93 RBIs.
Jesus Aguilar spent parts of three seasons with Miami (2020-22) splitting his time between first base and designated hitter. The 2018 All-Star with the Brewers had his best season with the Marlins in 2021, when he batted .261 with 22 home runs and 93 runs batted in. Aguilar was released by Miami and signed with Baltimore during the 2022 season, He split 2023 between the Athletics and Braves and is currently a free agent.
5. Gaby Sanchez – He spent four-plus years in South Florida (2008-12), giving the Marlins two solid starting seasons. The first came in 2010, when he finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting and set career highs with a .273 average, 156 hits, 19 home runs and 85 runs batted in. The following season, he earned his only All-Star selection after posting a .255-19-78 stat line. Overall, Sanchez batted .260 with 158 runs, 353 hits, 43 homers and 184 RBIs in 391 games. He was traded to the Pirates in 2012 and spent three years with Pittsburgh. After a year in Japan, Sanchez retired after a failed tryout with the Mariners in 2016.
4. Garrett Cooper – He spent parts of six seasons with Miami (2018-23) but was a starter only twice in that span. Cooper, who also started in left and right field and as a designated hitter, earned an All-Star selection in 2022 after posting a .261-9-50 stat line. Overall, he batted .269 with 169 runs, 395 hits, 52 home runs and 201 RBIs in 427 games. Cooper was sent to the Padres at the trade deadline and is currently a free agent.
3. Justin Bour – He was a solid run-producer during his five-year run in Miami (2014-18), batting .262 with 182 runs, 396 hits, 83 home runs and 272 RBIs in 478 games. Bour finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2015, but his best season came two years later. He set career highs with a .289 average, 52 runs, 109 hits, 25 homers and 83 runs batted in, and he also participated in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star break.
Bour was traded to the Phillies during the 2018 season. He spent the next four years with the Angels, in Japan, in the Giants’ minor league system, in Korea and Mexico before retiring in February 2023.
2. Carlos Delgado – Like a few others with the modern expansion teams, Delgado played just one year with the Marlins. In 2005, he batted .301 with 81 hits, 157 runs, 41 doubles, 33 home runs (tied for ninth-most in franchise history) and 115 runs batted in (tied for seventh). Delgado reached the .300 mark for the third time in his career, hit 30 home runs for the ninth straight time and posted his seventh season driving in at least 100 runs. Although he did not make the All-Star team, he did finish in sixth place in the MVP voting.
The longtime Blue Jay spent the final four seasons of his 17-year career with the Mets. He finished with 473 home runs and 1,512 RBIs in 2,035 games. Unfortunately, Delgado failed to reach the five percent of votes for the Hall of Fame in 2015 and was gone after his first year on the ballot.
1. Derrek Lee – The former first-round pick in 1993 was traded from the Padres to the Marlins in the deal for starting pitcher Kevin Brown that was part of the team’s fire sale after its first championship. The 6-foot-5 Lee became a solid contributor during his six seasons in South Florida (1998-2003), hitting 20 or more home runs four times.
Lee’s best year was 2003, when he won a gold glove and posted a .271-31-92 stat line, with those last two totals being his best as a Marlin. He was an integral part of Florida’s second championship, amassing six runs, 15 hits, three doubles, one home run and eight RBIs in 17 playoff games. In the field, he led all National League first basemen in double plays twice and assists once.
“D-Lee” finished his Marlins career with a .264 average and 51 stolen bases. He ranks third in franchise history in strikeouts (734), sixth in home runs (129), seventh in RBIs (417), eighth in games (844), runs (422) and total bases (1,328), and ninth in hits (746) and doubles (159). He was traded to the Cubs before the 2004 season and spent time with the Braves, Orioles and Pirates before retiring in 2011. He earned two All-Star selections, two gold gloves and a silver slugger in Chicago, leading the league with a .335 average, 199 hits and 50 doubles in 2005.
Lee is active in a pair of charities, the first being Project 3000, which helped to raise money to fight Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a rare genetic disorder that causes a loss of vision. Lee’s young daughter was diagnosed with the condition in 2006, but three years later, doctors said she had been misdiagnosed. The other of Lee’s charitable organizations was the 1st Touch Foundation, which was started by Lee and his wife to help support young people in Sacramento in pursuit of educational opportunities before the foundation closed in 2012 after seven years of operation.
Honorable Mentions – Terry Pendleton spent two seasons with the Marlins in the mid-1990s (1995-96) but, despite his playoff experience, was not around for Florida’s first championship in 1997. A three-time gold glove winner with the Cardinals and Braves, he finished in the top two of the MVP voting in back-to-back years, winning the award as well as a batting title with Atlanta in 1991. He also played in five World Series, two with St. Louis and three with Atlanta, but all five times, his team was on the losing end.
With Florida, Pendleton batted .290 with 14 home runs and 78 RBIs in 1995 and played 111 games with the Marlins the following year before being traded back to the Braves for the stretch run. He mostly came off the bench for an Atlanta team that lost to the Yankees in the 1996 Fall Classic. After one year each with the Reds and Royals, Pendleton retired in 1998. He then spent 17 seasons as a hitting and first base coach with the Braves.
Jorge Cantu played parts of three seasons in South Florida (2008-10), with his playing time at third base edging out his time at first 255 games to 217. He set career bests with 29 home runs, 92 runs scored and 174 hits in 2008 and batted .289 with 16 homers and 100 runs batted in the following year. Overall, Cantu batted .278 with 200 runs, 441 hits, 55 home runs and 249 RBIs in 401 games with the Marlins. He was traded to Texas in 2010 and played his last major league action with San Diego the following year. Cantu played in Mexico for a decade before officially retiring in January 2023.
5. Martin Prado – He spent the final five seasons of a 14-year career with Miami (2015-19) but had just two seasons in which he was considered a starter. Prado’s best season came in 2016, when he batted .305 with 183 hits, eight home runs and 75 runs batted in. The 2015 fielding champion finished his Marlins career with a .278 average, 177 runs, 467 hits, 22 homers and 183 RBIs in 477 games. Injuries to Prado’s hamstring, knee (which required surgery), quadriceps and abdominals, which marred most of the 2017-18 seasons.
4. Bobby Bonilla – He came to the Marlins after a stellar start to his career with the Pirates, a hot-and-cold relationship with the Mets (and their fans) and a great year with the Orioles. Bonilla was brought in during the spending spree before the 1997 season, with Florida giving him nearly $6 million a year. He responded with a .297 average, 17 home runs and 96 runs batted in. He proved his worth in that year’s playoffs, totaling nine runs, 16 hits, two home runs and 10 RBIs in 16 games to help the Marlins win their first championship.
In 1998, Bonilla batted .278 in 28 games before he was sent to the Dodgers, along with catcher Charles Johnson, outfielder Gary Sheffield and others in the Mike Piazza trade. Bonilla went back to the Mets, followed by stints with the Braves and Cardinals. However, he is best known for his deferred contract with the Mets.
He was given a buyout after the 1999 season, both to help the team create cap space to sign free agents (many of which would be part of the squad that went to the World Series in 2000) and to help owner Fred Wilpon out of his financial issues after investing in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Because of this buyout, every July 1 is “Bobby Bonilla Day.” On that day, the former slugger will be paid nearly $1.2 million by the Mets, and this will continue until 2035. Bonilla had a few acting roles during his career and continued to work in television and movies after he retired.
3. Brian Anderson – He was a productive player who was involved in platoons for about half of his time in Miami (2017-22). Anderson put together his best year at the plate in 2018, when he finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting after setting career highs with a .273 average, 87 runs, 161 hits and 34 doubles to go with 11 home runs and 65 runs batted in. The following year, Anderson posted career bests with 20 homers and 66 RBIs.
In six seasons with the Marlins, Anderson batted .256 with 249 runs, 487 hits, 106 doubles, 57 home runs and 233 RBIs in 531 games. He had his only playoff experience to date during the COVID-shortened season, totaling one run, four hits and an RBI in five games against the Cubs and Braves. Anderson led National League third basemen in assists in 2020 and spent most of the 2021-22 seasons battling Jon Berti and Joey Wendle for playing time. He played with the Brewers last year and is currently a free agent.
2. Miguel Cabrera – There is very little he has not accomplished over his 21-year career, and his skill was apparent early in his career, when he got his start with the Marlins. He appeared in two MLB Futures Games before spending five seasons with Florida (2003-07). Despite playing in only 87 games (mainly as a left fielder) in 2003, Cabrera finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting and even garnered some attention in the MVP race. He had at least 175 hits and drove in more than 100 runs in tech of the next four years while earning four All-Star selections, two silver sluggers and two top five finishes in the MVP voting.
Cabrera is the all-time franchise leader with a .313 average. He ranks second in on-base percentage (.388), third in slugging percentage (.542), fourth in RBIs (523), is tied for fourth in doubles (183), sits fifth in home runs (138), sixth in runs (449), hits (842) and total bases (1,459) and tenth in games (720). Cabrera had 344 total bases in 2005, which is third in franchise history, and his stellar 2006 season included him setting a team record with 50 doubles and batting .339, which is the third-best single season mark.
“Miggy” was a major contributor during the Marlins’ run to their second title in 2003. During the postseason, he had 11 runs, 18 hits, four home runs and 12 RBIs in 17 playoff games. He was especially good during the NLCS win over the Cubs, batting .333 (10-for-30) with nine runs three homers and six runs batted in. After the 2007 season, Detroit fleeced Florida in a trade, acquiring Cabrera and left-handed starter Dontrelle Willis, who has the second-most wins in franchise history, for a package of players that did very little for the Marlins.
All Cabrera did in his 16 seasons with the Tigers was win two MVP awards, win four batting titles, earn eight All-Star selections and five silver sluggers, lead the league in doubles, home runs and RBIs twice each and won baseball’s first Triple Crown in 45 years in 2012. He slowed down in later years and faced several injuries, including a ruptured biceps tendon that wiped out most of his 2018 season and a several knee injuries in his final two seasons.
Cabrera hit his 500th home run in August 2021 and got his 3,000th hit in April of the following year. He retired at the end of the 2023 season with a .306 batting average, 1,551 runs, 3,174 hits (17th on the all-time list), 627 doubles (13th), 511 home runs (tied for 25th), 1,881 RBIs (13th) and 5,368 total bases (14th) in 2,797 games (25th). Cabrera will join the Tigers’ front office as a special assistant to the president of baseball operations.
1. Mike Lowell – Thankfully, we are not going by full careers, otherwise Lowell (and many others) would stand no chance against Cabrera. Lowell had a brief call-up with the Yankees in 1998 and was traded to the Marlins before the following season. He became a productive hitter and slick fielder during his seven-year run in South Florida (1999-2005).
Lowell earned three straight All-Star selections plus a gold glove and a silver slugger with the Marlins. He topped 20 home runs in a season four times, smacked at least 150 hits three times and drove in 100 or more runs twice. Arguably Lowell’s best season was 2003, when he batted .276 with 105 runs batted in and a career-best 32 home runs. In the postseason that followed, he had six runs, nine hits, two home runs (including a game-winner in the 11th inning in Game 1 of the NLCS) and five RBIs in 15 games, helping the Marlins win their second championship.
Despite winning the gold glove in 2005, Lowell’s offensive production fell off the table. He batted just .236 with eight home runs. After both his and the team’s disappointing season, he was traded to the Red Sox along with top starting pitcher Josh Beckett in one of many “fire sale” deals the Marlins have made throughout their history. This one at least wasn’t so bad in that it brought back future All-Star infielder Hanley Ramirez and promising young starter Anibal Sanchez.
Lowell is the all-time franchise leader in doubles (241), and he ranks second in RBIs (578), third in games (981) and total bases (1,641), fourth in hits (965) and home runs (143) and fifth in runs (477). He also led National League third basemen in putouts, double plays and fielding percentage twice each during his tenure with the Marlins.
Lowell was a key piece in a Red Sox championship run in 2007, posting a .324-21-120 stat line during the regular season and being named MVP of Boston’s sweep of Colorado in the World Series. He played three more seasons with the Red Sox, but a damaged ligament in his thumb and the presence of Adrian Beltre and Kevin Youkilis at the corner infield spots pushed him to the bench. Lowell retired in 2010 and joined MLB Network as a studio analyst the following year, a position he still holds.
Miami Marlins Catchers and Managers
Miami Marlins First and Third Basemen
Miami Marlins Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
Miami Marlins Outfielders – coming soon
Miami Marlins Pitchers – coming soon
A look back at the Los Angeles Dodgers
A look back at the Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Angels Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Angels First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Los Angeles Angels Second Basemen and Shortstops
Los Angeles Angels Outfielders
Los Angeles Angels Pitchers
A look back at the Kansas City Royals
Kansas City Royals Catchers and Managers
Kansas City Royals First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops
Kansas City Royals Outfielders
Kansas City Royals Pitchers
A look back at the Houston Astros
A look back at the Detroit Tigers
A look back at the Colorado Rockies
A look back at the Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers
A look back at the Cincinnati Reds
A look back at the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox Catchers and Managers
Chicago White Sox First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Chicago White Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago White Sox Outfielders
Chicago White Sox Pitchers
A look back at the Chicago Cubs
A look back at the Boston Red Sox
A look back at the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
A look back at the Atlanta Braves
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers