Miami Marlins 2011 Draft Review: The coming of Jose Fernandez

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins made one very important selection in the 2011 MLB Draft, and it may have been the best draft pick in team history in starter Jose Fernandez.

The Miami Marlins got their bright future started in the 2010 MLB Draft with the selection of Christian Yelich, who appears poised to be a great contributor to the Marlins in the coming years. Miami got a great talent in the outfield in Yelich, but there are still questions about whether he is an All-Star anchor or just an above-average supporting member of a playoff team in the future.

In the 2011 draft, the Marlins selected a player with some question marks who immediately became a dominant force and followed an unusual path to the majors. When he got there, he continued wrecking hitters until an unfortunate elbow injury this week sidetracked the wonderful start to his career.

First Round: Jose Fernandez

Drafted: First round, 14th overall
School: Braulio Alonso High School (Tampa, FL)
Current Level: MLB, Miami Marlins
Baseball America Top Ranking: 5th (2013)
Minor League Ball Top Ranking: 8th (2013)

The Miami Marlins selected Jose Fernandez with the 14th selection in part because he was a local kid out of Tampa who struggled through troubled life trying to get to the United States from Cuba. They took him in part because he flashed excellent stuff and strong tools with a fair amount of upside, thanks in part to his hard-throwing ways. The team ignored concerns on work ethic and his body shape and how they might affect his development.

The Marlins were rewarded. Fernandez had one of the most dominant minor league campaigns as a pitcher in recent memory, putting up a combined 1.75 ERA and 2.23 FIP in Low- and High-A in 2012. His 30.8 strikeout rate was insane, and he thoroughly dominated both levels without a hiccup before contributing to a star-laden High-A Jupiter team in the playoffs.

For an encore, Miami asked a lot of Fernandez. The team promoted him straight to the majors in 2013 after two injuries to starting pitchers that yaer, and Fernandez only pulled off a Rookie of the Year campaign for the ages. He put up a 2.19 ERA and 2.73 FIP through 172 innings, and his 27.5 percent strikeout rate was among the best in baseball. He flashed 95 mph heat consistently alongside the Defector hammer curve that fooled all hitters and made their knees tremble in fear.

Unfortunately, the hard-throwing abilities of Fernandez may have gotten the best of him. Fernandez suffered a torn UCL in his last start against the San Diego Padres and will have to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery tomorrow.

Second Round: Adam Conley

Drafted: Second round, 72nd overall
School: Washington State University
Current Level: Triple-A, New Orleans (Miami Marlins)
Minor League Ball Highest Ranking: 144th (2014)

Adam Conley came as a relief pitcher from Washington State University, but Miami saw something in his arsenal of fastballs and mediocre secondary offerings and attempted to turn him into a starter. The results were always fantastic. By the time prospect maven Sam Evans reviewed his game before 2014, he had turned his slider into an above-average pitch and the changeup into close to an average offering.

As a result, Conley has been fantastic since 2012. He followed Fernandez from Low-A Greensboro to High-A Jupiter and threw for the playoff squad in Jupiter, and he put up a combined 3.47 ERA and 2.87 FIP with a strong 25.2 percent strikeout rate. His stuff improved enough in a full year in 2013 in Double-A, in which he posted a 3.25 ERA and 2.66 FIP and 22.2 percent strikeout rate. His continued development earned him a Triple-A promotion this year, but an elbow injury has sidelined him after six impressive starts. Conley may be the most Major League-ready starter the Marlins have in the minors.

Other Notable Players

Austin Barnes was a ninth-round selection out of Arizona State University with a particularly interesting skill set. Throughout his career in the minors, he has split time from behind the plate and at second base, two positions of great need for the Miami Marlins. Barnes spent most of 2012 as a converted second baseman after being drafted as a catcher, but then he caught all of last year and this season. Meanwhile, the bat has proven to show the contact tool; he is a career .295/.382/.414 hitter who is batting a respectable .299/.347/.410 (.351 wOBA, 119 wRC+) in his second stint in High-A. His high-contact, high-walk approach makes him a safe hitting choice, even without power. Miami could fast-track him to the majors as a middle infielder, but they may be working on him back as a catcher full-time, in which case he faces some competition in front of him on the organizational depth chart.

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