Prospect Report: Will Andrew Heaney Be The Next Jose Fernandez In Miami?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Last season fantasy owners were caught off guard when the Miami Marlins opened the season with Jose Fernandez in their rotation.  This season we should all vow not to be taken by surprise by the franchise once again.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (click here for his blog post) recently published the following quote from Marlins’ president of baseball operations Mike Hill:

“We are never shy [about going with a prospect] if the person earns it, to give him the job,” Hill said. “If he’s the best pitcher, he’ll be there…. We really haven’t had a lefty in our rotation since Scott Olsen left us. But it’s all about getting people out.”

The competition certainly isn’t stiff, with names like Brad Hand, Tom Koehler and Brian Flynn in the mix.  There’s no question that Heaney will get an opportunity, at some point, but is he truly prepared to follow in Fernandez’ footsteps?

To an extent it’s not a fair comparison, as expecting anyone to replicate Fernandez’ success would be a major mistake.  Fernandez had thrown more innings in 2012 (138.1) as compared to Heaney in 2013 (95.1).  That alone tells us that Heaney likely won’t be able to work as deep into the season, capping his 2014 upside.

That, unfortunately isn’t the only difference between the two.  Check out their minor league career IP, K/9, BB/9 and groundball rates:

  • Fernandez – 138.1, 10.73, 2.54, 45.7%
  • Heaney – 122.1, 8.75, 2.35, 41.3%

We could argue that Heaney has seen time at Double-A (33.2 innings), something Fernandez never had, but that’s hardly enough of an explanation.  It’s not to say that Heaney doesn’t have a big upside, he’s just not Fernandez.  Here’s how Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 (click here for the full Top 10) recently described Heaney’s arsenal:

“His fastball sits 90-92 MPH and he is able to spot it to both sides of the plate allowing the pitch to move up a grade.  The command is actually quite impressive and he is therefore able to get plenty of swings and misses with the pitch.  The slider is another plus pitch that sits 83-84 MPH.  When I had a chance to see him in the Arizona Fall League for three innings, both the fastball and slider were working very well as he notched six strikeouts.  However, the pitched that made me stop and shake my head was his change-up.  I had heard it was inconsistent and still emerging.  However, for those three innings, it was impressive.  If he can find consistency, that’s three potential plus pitches with very good command.”

Sounds like the ability is there to significantly improve on his strikeout rate (only a 6.15 K/9 at Double-A).  He also brings impressive control and is going to call a pitcher’s park home.  That means there is tremendous upside and he is worth drafting in all formats as long as you keep things in perspective.

If you draft him expecting Fernandez v2.0, you are going to be sorely mistaken.  Instead, take him as a late flier who could prove to be a solid selection, but one that still has some developing to do.  It was a short sample size, but the lack of Ks in Double-A is a bit of a red flag for the southpaw.  He should get there, in time, but needs to be given the chance to develop.

Sources – Minor League Central, Prospect 361, Miami Herald

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