The Top 10 Greatest Pitchers in Florida/Miami Marlins History

The Marlins haven't been around as long as any of their NL East rivals, but they've still employed some talented arms over the past three decades.

NEW YORK - APRIL 05: Josh Johnson #55 of the Florida Marlins pitches against the New York Mets during their Opening Day Game at Citi Field on April 5, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Miami Marlins will round out our look at the 10 greatest pitchers in the history of each NL East franchise, and their list will be drastically different than those of the four other teams in the division.

The New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves each had at least one Hall of Famer atop their respective lists, and the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos list was headlined by Max Scherzer, who will be a shoo-in for Cooperstown when his career concludes.

Meanwhile, the Marlins list doesn’t include any current Hall of Famers, nor any active/recently retired players you could even say are on that track.

The Fish are the youngest team in the NL East, having begun play in 1993. And the inclination of multiple ownership groups to trade away star players certainly hasn’t helped them build a rich history over parts of 30-plus seasons, even if most teams would love to have won two World Series titles over that span.

Ad – content continues below

So, some of the names on this list may be surprising, whether it’s because you forgot about them or they didn’t spend very long with the team. Remember, when the Marlins went to the playoffs in 2023, it was only the fourth trip to the postseason in franchise history. Frankly speaking, there weren’t a ton of great options to choose from.

With all that acknowledged, here are the 10 greatest pitchers in the history of the Marlins organization.

10. Brad Penny (2000-2004; 2014)

Best Season as a Marlin: 2001 – 10-10 with a 3.69 ERA, 115 ERA+, 3.39 FIP, 1.156 WHIP, 154 strikeouts, one complete game and a 4.6 fWAR

Career Stats as a Marlin: 50-43 with a 4.12 ERA, 101 ERA+, 3.97 FIP, 1.332 WHIP, 583 strikeouts, two complete games and 12.9 fWAR

Penny spent his first four and a half seasons with the Marlins before returning to the franchise to make eight appearances during the 2014 campaign, the final season of his 14-year MLB career.

What does Penny have to show for parts of six seasons with the Marlins? In the franchise’s brief history, he ranks sixth or better in career games started (134), wins (50) and innings pitched (807 2/3).

Ad – content continues below

He also has a 2003 World Series ring. While Penny struggled in the NL playoffs against the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, he was tremendous across two World Series starts vs. the New York Yankees, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.19 ERA across 12 1/3 innings.

Penny edged out Jesús Luzardo, Pablo López and Carl Pavano to claim the final spot.

9. Aníbal Sánchez (2006-2012)

Best Season as a Marlin: 2010 – 13-12 with a 3.55 ERA, 117 ERA+, 3.32 FIP, 1.344 WHIP, 157 strikeouts, one complete game and a 4.1 fWAR

Career Stats as a Marlin: 44-45 with a 3.75 ERA, 111 ERA+, 3.80 FIP, 1.352 WHIP, 676 strikeouts, six complete games and 13.3 fWAR

Acquired from the Red Sox as part of a package that also included Hanley Ramirez and sent Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett (more on him in a minute) and Guillermo Mota to Boston in November of 2005, Sánchez spent six and a half seasons in Miami to open his career.

Sánchez’s most notable outing with the Marlins came during his first season with the team. He needed just 103 pitches to no-hit the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 6, 2006 at what was then called Dolphins Stadium:

Ad – content continues below

Sánchez is seventh in Marlins history in innings pitched (794 1/3), sixth in strikeouts (676) and fifth in ERA (3.75).

8. Ricky Nolasco (2006-2013)

Best Season as a Marlin: 2008 – 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA, 124 ERA+, 3.77 FIP, 1.102 WHIP, 186 strikeouts, one complete game and a 4.2 fWAR

Career Stats as a Marlin: 81-72 with a 4.44 ERA, 94 ERA+, 3.80 FIP, 1.295 WHIP, 1,001 strikeouts, nine complete games and 18.7 fWAR

For much of his time with the Marlins, Nolasco was a replacement-level pitcher. But he logged quite a few innings over the course of seven and a half years with the Marlins, more than enough to earn him a spot on this list, even if he wouldn’t have been a consideration for the 29 other teams.

Nolasco logged 185 or more innings on four occasions while pitching for the Marlins, including topping 200 frames in 2008 and 2011. Not surprisingly, Nolasco is the franchise’s all-time leader in innings pitched at 1,225 2/3.

Additionally, Nolasco is Miami’s all-time leader in BB/9 (2.093), strikeouts (1,001), games started (197) and strikeout-to-walk-ratio (3.512).

Ad – content continues below

7. A.J. Burnett (1999-2005)

Best Season as a Marlin: 2005 – 12-12 with a 3.44 ERA, 116 ERA+, 3.11 FIP, 1.258 WHIP, 198 strikeouts, four complete games and a 5.0 fWAR

Career Stats as a Marlin: 49-50 with a 3.73 ERA, 111 ERA+, 3.71 FIP, 1.284 WHIP, 753 strikeouts, 14 complete games and 15.6 fWAR

One of the more frustrating pitchers of the last quarter century, Burnett had a tremendous repertoire of pitches but often struggled to control them. But, he would pitch at close to an ace level once every few seasons, and that allowed him to have a 17-year career, spending parts of seven seasons with the Fish at the very beginning.

He tossed a no-hitter at Qualcomm Stadium against the San Diego Padres on May 12, 2001, managing to do so despite walking nine batters:

Burnett led baseball with five complete-game shutouts in 2002 and was arguably even better three years later in 2005. In between those two campaigns, though, Burnett made just 23 starts as he was sidelined recovering from Tommy John surgery. The procedure cost Burnett a chance to be part of the Marlins’ 2003 World Series run.

His time in Miami ended on bad terms after he critiqued manager Jack McKeon and the organization’s culture and was sent home a few days before the season ended. Still, Burnett is the Marlins’ all-time leader in H/9 (7.58) and is tied for the lead in complete-game shutouts (eight). He also landed a five-year, $55 million deal from the Toronto Blue Jays the offseason after being sent home, so things worked out alright for Burnett.

Ad – content continues below

6. Kevin Brown (1996-1997)

Best Season as a Marlin: 1996 – 17-11 with a 1.89 ERA, 215 ERA+, 2.88 FIP, 0.944 WHIP, 159 strikeouts, five complete games and a 6.7 fWAR

Career Stats as a Marlin: 33-19 with a 2.30 ERA, 176 ERA+, 2.91 FIP, 1.063 WHIP, 364 strikeouts, 11 complete games and 13.2 fWAR

Sure, Brown only spent two seasons with the Marlins. But during those two seasons, he posted a minuscule 2.30 ERA and finished fifth among all pitchers in fWAR (13.2), so he absolutely deserved to be on this list.

Brown holds the single-season Marlins franchise records for ERA (1.89), WHIP (0.944), BB/9 (1.275), strikeout-to-walk-ratio (4.818) and innings pitched (237 1/3). He was an All-Star in each of his two seasons with the club and finished runner-up to John Smoltz in NL Cy Young Award voting in 1996.

In 1997, Brown tossed the second no-hitter in Marlins history against the Giants at Candlestick Park:

Though Brown went 0-2 against Cleveland in the 1997 World Series, he was still a key part of helping the Marlins win the first title in franchise history.

Ad – content continues below

5. Josh Beckett (2001-2005)

Best Season as a Marlin: 2005 – 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA, 118 ERA+, 3.27 FIP, 1.181 WHIP, 166 strikeouts, two complete games and a 4.2 fWAR

Career Stats as a Marlin: 41-34 with a 3.46 ERA, 118 ERA+, 3.38 FIP, 1.235 WHIP, 607 strikeouts, three complete games and 13.6 fWAR

The No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 MLB Draft, Beckett spent parts of five seasons with the Marlins to open his career, making his MLB debut in 2001 when he was just 21 years old.

Beckett came of age in 2003, posting a 3.04 ERA across 142 innings in the regular season before putting together one of the more dominant postseason pitching runs in recent memory. He posted a 2.11 ERA and 0.77 WHIP across 42 2/3 innings pitched during the playoff run, capping it off with a complete-game shutout at Yankee Stadium to clinch a title in Game 6.

Not surprisingly, he was named the World Series MVP.

Beckett is in the top five in Marlins history in terms of ERA (3.46), WHIP (1.235) and H/9 (7.818).

Ad – content continues below

4. 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

Fernández will always be one of the biggest “What ifs?” in MLB history, as he tragically passed away in a boating accident in September 2016 when he was just 24 years old.

What we do know for sure is that when Fernández was on the mound for the Marlins, he was electric. He won NL Rookie of the Year in 2013, when he posted a minuscule 2.19 ERA across 172 2/3 innings pitched during his age-20 season. He finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting that year.

Fernández was an All-Star in both 2013 and 2016, the latter of which saw him finish seventh in NL Cy Young Award voting after leading all of baseball with 12.9 K/9. He was limited to just 18 starts in the two seasons prior to 2016 because of Tommy John surgery.

He passed away in the final weeks of the 2016 season, still an unimaginable tragedy for him, his family and the franchise. We never got to see Fernández’s career play out, but he will forever be etched in Marlins lore, as he owns the single-season franchise records for H/9 (5.786), strikeouts (253) and FIP (2.30).

Ad – content continues below

3. 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

The “D-Train” might not have burned for a long time, but when he was at the height of his powers, he was must-see TV.

Willis was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2003, one of two times he made the All-Star team. The other came in 2005, when he led baseball in wins (22), complete games (seven), complete-game shutouts (five) and HR/9 (0.4).

Willis finished runner-up to Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals in a close race for the NL Cy Young Award in 2003. That’s fine, because even though he struggled in the postseason, he was part of a team that won a World Series that same year.

Willis was traded to the Detroit Tigers along with Miguel Cabrera prior to the 2008 season, but his best years were already behind him at that point. Willis’ MLB career only lasted nine seasons, but if you need an idea of how dominant he was at times during his half-decade in Miami, Willis is still tied with the aforementioned Burnett for the most complete-game shutouts in a season for the Marlins (five) and is in sole possession of the franchise record for single-season wins (22).

Ad – content continues below

2. Sandy Alcántara (2018-Present)

Best Season as a Marlin: 2022 – 14-9 with a 2.28 ERA, 180 ERA+, 2.99 FIP, 0.980 WHIP, 207 strikeouts, six complete games and a 5.8 fWAR

Career Stats as a Marlin: 41-55 with a 3.31 ERA, 129 ERA+, 3.75 FIP, 1.151 WHIP, 779 strikeouts, 12 complete games and 16.2 fWAR (stats current as of May 2024)

Alcántara will miss the entire 2023 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but if he returns to anything close to his peak form and spends at least a few more seasons with the Marlins, he’ll likely go down as the best pitcher in franchise history.

As is, Alcántara has already made two All-Star Game appearances (2019, 2022) and became the first Marlins pitcher to ever win the NL Cy Young Award in 2022.

Alcántara combined dominance with being a workhorse in 2022, leading baseball with six complete games, 228 1/3 innings pitched and 886 batters faced, while posting just a 2.28 ERA. The workload that he had in 2022 probably contributed in a significant way to him eventually needing Tommy John, but man, that season was fun to watch.

Still only 28, Alcántara is the Marlins’ all-time leader in career WHIP (1.151) and sits in the top five in fWAR (16.2), ERA (3.31), H/9 (7.665), BB/9 (2.693), strikeouts (779), complete games (12), complete-game shutouts (four) and innings pitched (892 1/3). Another really good season or two will probably be enough for him to take over the No. 1 spot.

Ad – content continues below

1. 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

A fourth-round pick in the 2002 MLB Draft, Johnson spent eight of his nine MLB seasons in Miami, with injuries unfortunately shortening his career. But, having played for a franchise without a long history allows Johnson’s legacy to be kept in proper standing, because he was a damn good pitcher.

Johnson finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2006, fifth in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2010 and was an All-Star on two occasions (2009, 2010). In 2010, Johnson led all of baseball with a 2.41 FIP and 0.3 HR/9, while leading the senior circuit in ERA (2.30) and ERA+ (180).

In Marlins history, Johnson owns the top career marks in terms of fWAR (21.4), FIP (3.20), HR/9 (0.579) and win probability added (10.3). His career probably didn’t get the national respect that it deserved.