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Marlins' Top 5 first basemen: Frisaro's take

@JoeFrisaro
March 31, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Joe Frisaro’s ranking of the top 5 first basemen in Marlins history. Next week: Second basemen.

Hot take: 5 best catchers in Marlins history

1. Jeff Conine, 1993-97, 2003-05
Key fact: Two-time All-Star and 1995 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player

An original Marlin, Conine is one of the most celebrated players in franchise history. He was part of both World Series title teams (1997 and 2003). And in Miami’s inaugural season in '93, the man affectionately known as “Mr. Marlin” played in all 162 games.

With one swing, Conine earned himself the 1995 All-Game MVP Award. He delivered a pinch-hit home run off the A’s Steve Ontiveros that lifted the National League to a 3-2 victory over the American League at The Ballpark in Arlington.

"If you can't do it in the postseason, you want to do it in the All-Star Game," Conine said that night in his postgame, on-field TV interview. "Some of my buddies back in Florida said, 'Hey, if you get in the game, you've got to swing for the fences.' I wasn't thinking about it, but it happened."

A versatile fielder, Conine played the outfield as well. In left, he made one of the most important throws in franchise history, when he threw out the Giants' J.T. Snow trying to score from second base for the final out in the 2003 NL Division Series. That play famously featured catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodríguez holding up the baseball after being knocked over in a collision with Snow at the plate.

In 1,014 total games with the Marlins, Conine had a career 16.7 WAR, per FanGraphs, tops of any first baseman in club history.

After the Marlins reacquired Conine in a trade with the Orioles on Aug. 31, 2003, he hit five homers and drove in 15 runs in the final 25 games of the season, helping the club secure the NL Wild Card spot en route to the World Series title.

2. Derrek Lee, 1998-2003
Key fact: NL Gold Glove Award winner in 2003

A towering 6-foot-5, 240-pound presence at first base, Lee was a force on the 2003 World Series title team. He won his first of three career Gold Glove Awards that season. Former Marlins All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell once said that he would often make riskier throws to first because he was confident Lee would likely make the play, or prevent the ball from getting away for an error.

Lee played in all 162 games with the Marlins in 2002, but he really developed into one of the top all-around first basemen in the game in ’03. That year, he played in 155 games and had a slash line of .271/.379/.508 with 31 home runs and 92 RBIs. He also stole 21 bases.

Among all Marlins first basemen, Lee’s 10.6 fWAR is second only to Conine’s 16.7. Lee appeared in 844 games with Miami, and he hit 129 home runs in his six-year tenure.

3. Justin Bour, 2014-18
Key fact: Belted 22 home runs in Round 1 of the 2017 Home Run Derby at Marlins Park

Chalk this one up as one of the better sneaky good moves the Marlins have made in their history. In the Triple-A phase of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, they selected Bour from the Cubs’ Double-A Tennessee roster. The cost to acquire him was a mere $12,000. Miami took him because its farm system was thin on power at the upper levels after Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna were promoted to the big leagues in '13. Bour became the club’s regular first baseman beginning in '15. In parts of five Major League seasons with Miami, Bour delivered 83 home runs, the most by a Marlins left-handed-hitting first baseman, with a slash line of .262/.346/.470. In the '17 Home Run Derby at Marlins Park, Bour put on an entertaining show in the first round. During a break from his 22-homer round, Giancarlo Stanton fed Bour a doughnut as he played up the crowd.

4. Gaby Sanchez, 2008-12
Key fact: NL All-Star in 2011

Born and raised in Miami, Sanchez was a standout at Brito Miami Private School and attended the University of Miami. The Marlins selected the right-handed-hitting first baseman in the fourth round in the 2005 Draft. His peak two seasons with the Marlins were in '10 and ‘11, the franchise’s final years at Sun Life Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium, home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins). Sanchez connected on 19 home runs in each of those seasons. In his first full season in '10, he finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. In ’11, he was selected to the NL All-Star team for the only time in his seven-year MLB career. In parts of five seasons with Miami, Sanchez played in 391 games with a slash line of .260/.334/.422. He is currently a Marlins analyst for FOX Sports Florida.

5. Carlos Delgado, 2005
Key fact: His 33 homers are a franchise single-season high for a left-handed hitter

In compiling an all-time franchise list, the Marlins are in a unique position as a comparatively young franchise (starting in 1993) with a high amount of roster turnover. That puts Delgado in a similar situation as Ivan “Pudge” Rodríguez last week when he was on the list of the Marlins’ Top 5 catchers. Delgado makes the cut because his 2005 numbers are too impressive to ignore. In his only year in Miami, he hit .301 with 33 home runs and 115 RBIs.

Honorable mentions
In 1995, Greg Colbrunn hit .277 with 23 home runs and 89 RBIs. He followed that up with a .286 batting average, 16 homers and 26 doubles in ’96. … Kevin Millar played in more than 100 games each season for the Marlins from '99-2002, but he also played in the outfield in addition to first base. Millar’s best season with the organization was in '01, when he hit .314 with 20 homers. … Jorge Cantu hit 29 homers and drove in 95 runs in '08, the year after Miguel Cabrera was traded to the Tigers. Then he drove in 100 runs in ’09. He played mostly third base and first base for the Marlins.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.