Miami Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez made his much-anticipated major league debut on Sunday and certainly did not disappoint. Flashing an elite arsenal, the composed rookie exhibited terrific command as he retired the first ten hitters he faced and powered his way through the Mets lineup. A blown save in the ninth cost the right-hander his first career win, but it’s hard not to be excited by a final line of 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8 K and just 1 BB.
Prior to Sunday, the Cuban defector’s highest level of competition was Single-A, where he went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 158/35 K/BB ratio in 134 IP last season. The 20-year-old threw two scoreless innings with the Marlins in spring training last month but was otherwise relegated to Double-A batters, whom he shut out over 12 IP in his last three appearances, allowing just three hits and striking out 19.
Despite his spring dominance, the 2011 first-round draft pick-- ranked #7 on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list-- was considered a longshot to make the Marlins season-opening roster, but he got the call after injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi opened up rotation spots. In addition to terrific makeup and a veteran’s feel for pitching, he possesses three plus pitches: a fastball that reached 97 mph on Sunday, as well as a curveball and slider.
From a fantasy perspective, the biggest factor holding Fernandez back this year will be his age. Marlins GM Larry Beinfest has said the ace-in-waiting will be on both an innings limit and a pitch-count limit, specifying 150-170 IP but not getting into details on pitch counts. Manager Mike Redmond has said the onus will be more on restricting innings over pitch limit, however.
Fernandez was removed from Sunday’s game after 80 pitches, but the results were clearly good enough that he’s worth using in standard roto formats. It’s not unreasonable to think he’ll work his way closer to a 100-pitch limit, in which case he’ll become a much more attractive option in head-to-head points-based leagues. Regardless, he needs to be owned in all leagues immediately; just don’t expect the wunderkind to pitch too deep into games and know that he’ll be shut down come September.
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