If there has been an overarching theme to Jose Fernandez's career, it would be his uncanny ability to surpass expectations at every step. A year ago, Fernandez had completed an impressive season in high Class A Jupiter. I assumed he would graduate to Double-A this year, and perhaps pitch briefly for Miami in September.
The Marlins seemingly rejected caution, promoting him to the majors for Opening Day to supplant the injured Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. I joined in the chorus of criticism against the front office, acting on the assumption that the promotion was a publicity stunt and not a rational baseball decision. Turns out baseball has a way of making one look like an imbecile.
Fernandez pitched 172 and two-thirds innings with a 2.19 ERA, striking out 187 batters and walking 58. Producing league average numbers would have been outstanding for a 20-year-old rookie, but he finished 19th among all pitchers in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) at 4.2 wins. Better than Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner, and Stephen Strasburg.
His outstanding play has not gone unnoticed. Fernandez represented the Marlins in July's All-Star game, and now he has added the Rookie of the Year Award to his collection of achievements. He easily beat out finalists Yasiel Puig and Shelby Miller with 26 of 30 first place votes.
He was also named the top rookie in the league by the MLB Players Association and remains a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award.
Congrats to @josefernandez77 on winning the Rookie of The Year award Much deserved brotha!— Christian Yelich (@ChristianYelich) November 11, 2013
Fernandez joins Dontrelle Willis, Hanley Ramirez, and Chris Coghlan as the fourth Marlins player in the last ten years to win the Rookie of the Year Award. The Marlins have produced more winners in the past decade than any other team.
Fernandez's success cannot be overstated. He represents perhaps the best young pitcher in franchise history, exceeding the accomplishments of Willis, Josh Johnson, and Josh Beckett. The Marlins have found themselves a player to build a stellar rotation and a championship team around.