Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Better know a minor league affiliate: Jupiter Hammerheads

The Hammerheads, the Marlins FSL Affiliate (High A), finished dead last in the Eastern Division last year with a 48-84 record. Ex-Mets farmhands 3B Grant Psomas (.291/.341/.427, 8 homers) and SP Gaby Hernandez (9-7, 3.68 ERA, 35-115 BB/K in 123 innings) were probably the two best prospects for Jupiter coming into the season. Former Baseball America #10 prospect Trevor Hutchinson put up a nifty 3.27 ERA as well, but with significantly less strikeouts (45 in 71 innings); it also hurts him that he’s about 300 years old. Asides from the bullpen, these were the only two players of any real consequence on the team for most of the year. The starters were brutal all year for the club and the offense had only two other players with more than 100 at-bats who posted an OPS over .700.

However, the big story that came out of Jupiter this year was 21 year-old RHP Jose Garcia. He started the year off many a scout’s sleeper, and ended it as arguably the best prospect in the Marlins organization. He was called up to AA Carolina after just 11 dominating starts with the Hammerheads, where he posted a 1.87 ERA in 77 innings, while striking out 69. Later, he made it all the way to the big club.

The Red Sox contributed greatly to this Hammerhead team. Of all the people who stuck with Jupiter throughout the year, the best was probably 22-year-old closer Harvey Garcia, who had a 2.92 ERA, 21 saves, and struck out 83 batters in just 64 2/3rds innings after coming over in the Josh Beckett trade this offseason. Garcia was originally signed by the Marlins, but after being released and picked up by the Red Sox, worked on his control enough to lower his walks allowed from 30 in 2004 to 18 in 2005. His partner in that trade, 22-year-old Jesus Delgado, also pitched in the Hammerhead bullpen. Delgado managed a 2.58 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 38 1/3rd innings.

Like all minor-league teams, the Hammerheads also had a great promotional slate. Halloween in April, Pay It Forward (Free tickets if you give up contact information), Kid’s Hygiene Awareness Night (first 500 kids receive a free dental gift bag!), Guaranteed Win Night (If the Hammerheads lose, all fans get a free ticket to an upcoming game; they did win). Most importantly, they celebrated the birthdays of Hamilton R. Head and Robbie the Redbird on September 2nd, with a mascot kickball game before the baseball.

Roger Dean Stadium has hosted both the Cardinals and Marlins FSL teams and Spring Training since it was opened in 1998, and it is the only minor league ballpark that hosts two teams simultaneously throughout the season. It is apparently run by Nazis, as you are not allowed to bring signs or banners into the park. It’s ballpark A-Z has a very strict policy on interfering with balls in play, then brings up probably the only thing that Cardinals and Marlins fans actually have in common.


As the team only began operation in 1998, very few players who played for Jupiter are actually established MLB players. Probably the biggest two are current Marlins Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. They were originally a Montreal Expos affiliate, and so they also housed former Expos Milton Bradley, Brad Wilkerson, Carl Pavano, Jorge Julio, and Tony Armas Jr.

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