What Has Changed? Jose Fernandez

Al Bello

From beyond top-100 lists to top-5 prospect status and a spot in Miami's rotation, what a difference a year has made for Jose Fernandez.

Changes in a prospects' stock are quite normal as they rise through the ranks of the Minor Leagues. Injuries, hot or cold streaks, or even just new information can really elevate or drop a young player in rankings. Throughout the season, Kevin Nielsen and I will be looking at some players that have been profiled before at Fake Teams, and updating the reports. Today is my first installment in our "What Has Changed?" series, profiling Miami Marlins' right-hander Jose Fernandez.

Truth be told, this post was supposed to go up on Saturday, but I wanted to wait to see Fernandez's Major League debut first. Before we get to that, however, we need to backup because it is still somewhat shocking that the 20-year-old is even in the Big Leagues.

Despite being a first round draft pick and receiving a $2 million deal from Miami, Fernandez failed to make either Baseball America or Keith Law's top 100 prospect lists in 2012. Then the season started and everyone realized just how foolish that seemed. Fernandez put up video-game type numbers last year, finishing the season with a 1.75 ERA and 158/35 K/BB ratio split between Low and Hi-A and leading the minors with a 0.93 WHIP. Amazingly, the numbers seem to match up with the reports. Fernandez has a power pitcher's body, a thick 6'3" frame that is built to hold up to a starter's workload. He also sports some of the best stuff of any 20-year old pitcher, sitting in the mid-90s with the fastball, with three off-speed pitches that have all been called plus pitches by various sources. His performance earned him a trip to the Futures game where many felt he was the best pitcher on display. Just after the All-Star Break and the Futures Game, Jason Hunt profiled the Cuban hurler raving about his future potential and saying this about 2013:

I do think he finishes this season at High-A, with a promotion to AA to start 2013 at age 20.

Jason was correct that Fernandez would finish the season at High-A. And a promotion to Double-A seemed to be the logical next move. I mean sure he was a unanimous top-10 prospect heading into this season, but the Marlins are rebuilding and Fernandez has nay an inning above the Florida State League. None of that seemed to deter the Marlins though, as they placed him in the opening day rotation after just 2 scoreless innings in Big League camp. The move was seemingly prompted by injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovalid, but the Marlins' brass has reportedly stated they want Fernandez to throw 150-170 innings this year, most of them in the Majors.

For fantasy purposes, Fernandez's value in dynasty and keeper formats is sky high. He is a future number one, who can provide some value to your team right now. I love everything about the total package, the power repertoire, the body, and the confidence that has already garnered comparisons to Roger Clemens. He projects to have big strikeout totals, and in a spacious National League ballpark he should be among the top 15 fantasy starters annually beginning in just a year or two.

The bigger change in value has come in re-draft leagues, as most of us did not expect Fernandez to get anything more than a September callup this season. He obviously will have some struggles, but what can we realistically expect? BP's Jason Parks seems to think Fernandez will handle the promotion better than many players would:

The jump from the High-A level to the Double-A level is considered the second-largest talent jump in the minors, second only to the jump from Triple-A to the majors, and Fernandez is being asked to make both jumps at the same time. This is a monumental challenge that few prospects in the game could manage, both on a physical level (talent) and an emotional level (makeup). Fernandez has both, with room to spare, which isn’t to suggest his refinement level is up to major-league standards or that the decision to promote him so aggressively should be shielded from criticism; rather, Fernandez possesses the necessary characteristics to make such a leap justifiable, at least from a scouting perspective, and that puts him in elite company in that regard.

Now, not only did he make the opening day roster, but he also had a great debut, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 1 walk with 8 strikeouts in 5 innings. As former Fake Teams' contributor (now BP contributor) Bret Sayre noted, he is the first 20-year old with more than 7 strikeouts and fewer than 2 walks in a debut ever. I may be alone on this, but I think he is worth adding in almost any league format, because he has the upside to put up an ERA in the mid-3's with 140-160 punchouts this season. The potential is undoubtedly better than the last pitcher on your bench right now, so go get him if he's un-owned.

Andrew Ball is a writer for Fake Teams, Fantasy Ninjas, and Beyond the Box Score.

You can follow him on twitter @Andrew_Ball.

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