Miami Marlins Will Consider Jose Fernandez for 2013 Pitching Rotation

July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; World pitcher Jose Fernandez delivers a pitch during the second inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Could you be seeing Fernandez in a Marlins uniform sooner than expected? Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

While the 2012 Miami Marlins finish up their ugly season, the 2013 Marlins are trying to piece together a year so that they will not look as bad as their predecessor. One of the challenges of the 2013 season will be piecing together a starting pitching rotation behind Josh Johnson, set to begin his final contract year with the Fish, and Mark Buehrle, who is locked in for another three years starting next season. Provided the Marlins cannot find a partner for a trade, Ricky Nolasco is sure to be in the mix somewhere, although his career has seen better days than this season. Pitching prospect Jacob Turner, acquired in the trade with the Detroit Tigers, has shown just enough that he will likely be in the mix as well. Wade LeBlanc, Nathan Eovaldi, or a potential free agent addition should be involved for the last slot.

Well, it seems the Marlins are not ruling out the possibility of top pitching prospect Jose Fernandez also getting involved with that competition. Here is Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post on the issue.

Fernandez’s rapid ascent through two low minor-league levels this season has elevated his name into front-office discussions about the composition of the Marlins’ starting rotation in 2013.

He almost certainly will start the season at Class AA Jacksonville. But if he dominates Southern League hitters the way he did batters this season in the South Atlantic and Florida State leagues, the Marlins could promote him as early as May or June.

The Marlins are considering bringing up Fernandez if he dominates in Double-A next year, very similar to how the Fish brought up Giancarlo Stanton after he dominated Double-A in his first and only stint at the level. Rarely do the Marlins skip Triple-A with pitching prospects, but then again, "Marlins pitching prospect" has not been a real concept for some time.

The article brings up the example of former top pitching prospect Josh Beckett, who was drafted in 1999 by the Marlins and quickly ascended to three different levels right out of high school before making a debut showing two years later in 2001 and never looking back. Fernandez's case may actually be fairly comparable to Beckett's.

First-Year Comparison

Player, Level K% lgK% BB% lgBB% ERA lgERA
Beckett, Midwest League 26.3 18.8 6.5 9.9 2.12 3.84
Fernandez, South Atlantic League 33.6 19.8 6.1 9.0 1.59 4.18
Fernandez, Florida State League 27.1 19.1 7.8 8.5 1.96 3.86

The above all occurred during each player's first full season in professional baseball (Fernandez made two starts in 2011 before the year ended). Both players began in Low-A, Beckett in the more pitcher-friendly Midwest League and Fernandez in the "Sally" League. Both pitchers showed similar levels of dominance over those leagues, however. Fernandez was in fact better than Beckett was, and Beckett was a little older, having turned 20 years old about a month and a half before Fernandez did in his respective season. Fernandez, in fact, was so good that he moved up to High-A Jupiter a full year before Beckett received his promotion, though Beckett only threw 59 2/3 innings in his first professional year due to injury. Fernandez, of course, went on to dominate in the Florida State League, though not to the same degree as he did in the South Atlantic League.

In 2001, Beckett's second professional year, he was asked to start in High-A, and he promptly began his mindless destruction of opposing hitters that season. While Fernandez seemed unhittable in the minors this year and shot up the prospect rankings, Beckett's level of domination was absurd. as he struck out 39 percent of batters, 204 in 140 innings, and posted a 1.54 ERA over two levels. Had Beckett pitched a full professional year in 2000, you have a feeling he would have received a call-up in 2001 at midseason.

Domination Needed

And that is the sort of template of destruction that Fernandez would have to show to earn himself a midseason promotion. With the Marlins rotation occupied, though not necessarily happily filled, Fernandez would essentially have to force his way with a statistically superior season in Jacksonville for him to receive the promotion in the middle of the year. If he shows is he has nothing else to prove in the minors, much like Stanton did in 2010 on the hitting side, then the team will make way and force one of their starters into the bullpen.

Another season like the one he displayed this year, and Marlins fans may get a glimpse of a player who will hopefully be the next bright pitching star on this team. But if he gets by and does just "well" in Double-A, expect the Marlins to go with the usual September cup of coffee and follow through with a 2014 promotion when rotation spots really open up.

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