Florida Marlins History: Appreciating Juan Encarnación

Juan Encarnación is one of 590 players to have appeared with either the Florida Marlins, the Miami Marlins, or both.

A six-foot-two, 160 lb. right-handed outfielder from Las Matas de Farfan, DR, Juan Encarnación made his professional debut in 1994 at the age of 18 in the Detroit Tigers system. After turning 19, Encarnación started showing what he was capable of.

In 1995 with the Fayetteville Generals, in the Single-A South Atlantic League, Encarnación hit 16 homers with 72 RBI in 124 contests, while slashing .282/.336/.486. Moving up to the High-A Lakeland Tigers in the Florida State League the following season, Encarnación repeated his success, with 15 homers, a .240/.290/.401and 58 RBI in 131 games.

1997 would see Encarnación pump up his output at the Double-A level with the Jacksonville Suns in the Southern League. In 131 games he hit 26 home runs with 90 RBI and a Bunyan-esque .323/.394/.560 line. Unsurprisingly, he also made his major league debut that season with Detroit proper, going seven-for-33 in 11 games.

Although Encarnación would never again duplicate that double-A slash line anywhere, he did go on to a productive 11-season major league career. He played five seasons with the Tigers, hitting .269/.310/.444 with 53 home runs and 224 RBI in 444 contests. After the 2001 campaign, Detroit traded Encarnación and Luis Pineda to the Cincinnati Reds for Dmitri Young. In 83 games for the Reds through the first part of the 2002 season, Encarnación put up a .277/.330/.474 line and drew trade-deadline interest. The Marlins sent Ryan Dempster to the Reds for Wilton Guerrero, Ryan Snare, and Encarnación.

Down the stretch for the 2002 Florida Marlins, Encarnación appeared in 69 games and hit .262/.317/.418 with another eight dingers and 34 RBI. In their drive to their second World Series Championship, Encarnación proved invaluable.

Florida Marlins

LOS ANGELES – AUGUST 16: Catcher Brent Mayne #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

As the fifth-highest paid player on the team, with a salary of $3.45 million, Encarnación ranked second on the club with 156 games played. He hit a team-third 19 home runs and also ranked second with a career-high 94 RBI. He hit .270/.313/.446 and stole 19 bases. He had his most impactful game on May 9th, in a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Batting sixth, Encarnación hit a two-out, two-run double to tie the game in the sixth. His next time to the plate, he hit a leadoff, walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth. According to Sun-Sentinel Marlins beat-writer Juan C. Rodriguez:

I just want to have good swings, you can’t try to get four hits in one turn at bat. – Encarnación

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SAN FRANCISCO – SEPTEMBER 30: Right fielder Juan Encarnacion #43 of the Florida Marlins. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The postseason would see Encarnación appear in 15 games and hit seven-for-38 with two homers and three RBI. After the season, the Florida Marlins traded Encarnación to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Travis Ezi. Encarnación hit .235 in 86 games for the Dodgers, then they sent him back to the Marlins with Paul Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota for Hee-Seop Choi, Bill Murphy, and Brad Penny. Encarnación hit just .238 the rest of the way.

2005 would be a full season for Encarnación as Florida’s everyday right fielder, and he improved his slashline once again to .287/.349/.447, with 16 homers and 76 RBI. After the season, they didn’t extend him an offer, and Encarnación signed instead with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Encarnación, who is turning 44-years-old today, played in St. Louis for two seasons. His career came to an end on August 31st when a foul ball struck him in the face while he was warming up in the on-deck circle (1:46:40 in the video above).

Encarnación didn’t play in affiliated ball after that date. In 1,259 major league games, he totaled 156 homers and 667 RBI, also stealing 127 bases while putting up a career slash of .270/.317/.441.

Next: Big Expectations from Humberto Mejia