Low Level Prospect Review: Jose Fernandez, RHSP, Miami Marlins

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. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

Every Friday through the rest of the season I plan on looking at a prospect who is currently in the lower levels of the minors, but should be on the radar of every dynasty league owner for their next minor league draft. Today's prospect is one who was considered to be a first round talent in last year's draft, but there was a lot of uncertainty as to what he could become. He has announced his presence among prospect rankers, to the point where he jumped into Baseball America's midseason top 10. That prospect? Miami Marlins' 2011 1st round pick, Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez' personal story is a lot more interesting than his history as a potential draftee, so let's a take a brief look at that instead. Fernandez was born in Cuba, and it took him 4 attempts to successfully defect from the island nation. Over that time, he had to spend time in jail for attempting to defect, had to save his mother's life on one attempt, and finally was able to escape to the Tampa area. As a result, his makeup is considered to be practically off the charts great. This stems back from the fact that he has obviously gone through more already than nearly every other kid his age. But what about the actual performance itself?

Fernandez was sent to the Marlins' Low-A affiliate in Greensboro, and he was extremely dominant there. In 14 starts, Fernandez won 7 games, posted an ERA of 1.59, struck out 99 and walked 18 in just 79 innings pitched. He was named to the Futures Game roster, and was sitting above 97 with his fastball during his brief 1 inning stint. The Marlins have since promoted Fernandez, who has made 3 starts for their High-A affiliate, striking out 17 and walking 4 in 15 innings pitched so far.

It sounds like based on other scouting reports that Fernandez is not expected to sit that high on his fastball long-term, but more likely in the 92-95 range. Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospect Nation posted a scouting report on Fernandez back in May, and noted at the time that Fernandez also throws a curveball and changeup, but that neither were particularly impressive at the time. In his scouting report prior to the season, George Utter of Prospect Instinct noted that Fernandez also throws a two-seam fastball and a slider.

I watched the inning that Fernandez threw during the Futures Game, and two things really stood out to me:

- This kid is already a big kid despite being just 19 years old.
- His throwing motion looks very smooth for such velocity.

Fernandez is definitely one of the prospects who has jumped the most on rankings as the year has gone on, as evidenced by his #8 overall ranking by Baseball America and a #42 ranking by Keith Law in his midseason update. I do think it is too early to tell exactly what his ceiling could be when he gets to the Majors, but I don't think it is completely unrealistic to think he might be a top-of-the-rotation type down the line. I want to see more data to be sure, but so far he looks like he has the potential to be very good for fantasy owners. I do think he finishes this season at High-A, with a promotion to AA to start 2013 at age 20. Either way he is definitely one to watch, as he seems very likely to continue to get better.

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