When a prospect is good enough, and a team is desperate enough, a player can jump straight from Double-A to the Major Leagues. That’s what Miguel Cabrera did on June 20, 2003, when he joined the Florida Marlins. Cabrera leapt straight to the Big Leagues from the Southern League’s Carolina Mudcats (now the Pensacola Blue Wahoos) after hitting .365/.429/.609 with 59 RBIs in 69 games, and he hasn’t left the Major Leagues since.
The move was not without precedent for the Marlins, who had called up pitcher Dontrelle Willis from the Mudcats in early May to great success – Willis was later named to the All-Star Game that year and won the National League’s Rookie of the Year award (fittingly, Willis and Cabrera would move to Detroit in the same trade four and a half years later). Searching for a spark after a 16-22 start, the Marlins had already sacked manager Jeff Torborg and replaced him with 72-year-old Jack McKeon before Cabrera got the call. With the 20-year-old inserted into a veteran lineup featuring Juan Pierre, Derek Lee, and Ivan Rodriguez, and a starting rotation anchored by youngsters Willis and Josh Beckett, the Marlins turned their season around to finish 20 games over .500 and clinch the NL Wild Card, going on to beat the New York Yankees in six games in the 2003 World Series.
Mick Gillispie told the story of the two-time MVP’s Major League debut during the sixth inning of Tennessee’s game with the Chattanooga Lookouts on Friday.