by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It was a remarkable rookie season, despite concerns that the Marlins had rushed Jose Fernandez to the Majors. The truth was that with little chance for the Marlins to be competitive in the Majors and limited professional experience (138.1 innings in the minors, having not pitched above High-A), exactly what benefit was there?
Still, the Marlins left Spring Training with the 20- year old (he turned 21 in July) as part of their rotation and never looked back. It was a fantastic season (a serious understatement) as he posted the following line:
187 Strikeouts (9.75 K/9)
58 Walks (3.02 BB/9)
79.4% Strand Rate
Yes, there was some obvious luck involved in his emergence. The BABIP came despite a 21.6% line drive rate and the stand rate is obviously favorable. Still, even if he regressed in both of those spots would anyone really have complained about a kid his age posting an ERA around 3.00 and a WHIP around 1.15 or so (rough estimates)?
Obviously, his home/road split is going to bring at least a little bit of concern:
- Home – 1.19 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
- Road – 3.50 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
He obviously calls a favorable park home, but the numbers were buoyed by a .222 BABIP and 88.2% strand rate (on the road he was at .262 and 70.7%). Are the road numbers closer to the truth? Probably, though we would still expect a better strand rate. Still, even with the regressed numbers, road WHIP still would’ve placed him in a tie for 20th among qualifiers in 2013.
Prior to 2013 Baseball America said the following about his repertoire:
“Fernandez’s confidence—or cockiness—earns him comparisons to Roger Clemens. It’s not arrogance if you can back it up, which Fernandez can. Numerous scouts cited his stuff as the best of any hurler in the 2012 Futures Game. His four-seam fastball sits at 94-95 mph and touches 99 with unbelievable explosion. Using an easy arm action, he’ll dial his velocity up and down and climb the ladder on hitters. He also mixes in a 92-93 mph two-seamer to induce groundouts. Fernandez also can overmatch hitters with a hard three-quarters breaking ball that he can run up to 85 mph. He can command it for both called strikes and swinging misses, and he’ll throw it any count. He also can use a true slider that’s effective. He flashes a plus changeup with deception and nice fade, though he doesn’t consistently command it down in the strike zone.”
The strikeout numbers were obviously there, as he averaged 94.9 mph on his fastball and generated a 10.1% SwStr%. Given his stuff and those numbers, there’s no reason to think that he can’t continue to strike out well over a better per inning.
As for the control, it was good overall but got even better as the year progressed:
- First Half – 3.44
- Second Hald – 2.38
In fact, after posting a 4.13 BB/9 in April he was below 3.25 in each subsequent month. He was at 2.54 in the low minors, so there definitely is the potential for him to continue avoiding walks.
He also improved his line drive rate as the season progressed, from 22.8% to 19.6%.
The groundballs (45.1% for the season) also improved, standing at 49.0% in the second half. That number alone would be fantastic, but if he can take another step? He could be downright dominating.
You would expect that, as people see Fernandez more and more, the numbers could regress. Instead his underlying numbers all seemed to improve. That speaks volumes.
It all comes together for the following projection for 2014:
200.0 IP, 15 W, 2.88 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 215 K (9.68 K/9), 62 BB (2.79 BB/9)
Obviously there’s going to be a bit of risk involved in Fernandez, but it’s hard to not love the stuff. He has the full package and the repertoire to back it up. With unlimited potential and a great home ballpark, he should be considered a SP1 in all formats immediately.
Sources – Fangraphs, Minor League Ball, Baseball America
*** Make sure to order Rotoprofessor’s 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide and be entered to win an autographed David Price mini bat! The guide comes complete with projections of over 625 players, expended rankings, sleepers, Top 50 prospects and so much more (including constant updates up until opening day). For just $6 you will get everything you need to dominate your fantasy league! For more information and to place your order, click here. ***
Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: