Jose Fernandez: The Youngest Ace in Baseball

Marc Serota

The Marlins handed pitching prospect Jose Fernandez a chance to be one of their top five starters out of spring training, and he is now one of the best pitchers in the game.

One of the biggest shocks coming out to spring training back in late March was the Marlins decision to give pitching prospect Jose Fernandez a starting rotation spot. Many, included me, felt the Marlins were rushing their prize pitching prospect, and the move seemed to run counter to the offseason bail trade they made with the Blue Jays. I remember thinking that the Marlins front office probably just wanted to create some excitement amongst their fan base after dealing away some of the stars of their team.

He has made just 21 starts thus far in 2013, and maybe he will be the next Mark the Bird Fydrich and become the next one year wonder, but with the way Jose Fernandez is pitching right now, one can make the case that he is one of the best starters in the game. Yes. He is an ace, at the young age of 21 year old.

Fernandez just turned 21 on July 31st, but he is a fantasy ace that fantasy owners need to pay more attention to. On Friday night, Fernandez completely dominated the Indians lineup, allowing just 3 hits, a walk and striking out 14. He is the first pitcher since Randy Johnson (2004) to strike out 13 or more batters in two consecutive games, and the first rookie to do it since Kerry Wood did it in 1998.

Thus far in 2013, Fernandez has made 21 starts, going 8-5 with a 2.54 ERA, 2.80 FIP, a 3.08 xFIP, a 1.01 WHIP, and a 138-43 strikeout to walk rate in 127.2 innings. I like to see how many times a starter has given up two runs or less in 7 innings or more, and Fernandez has accomplished that feat 9 times in his 21 starts so far. Looking at all of his starts, he has given up two runs or less in 16 of his 21 starts, and 3 runs or less in 18 of his 21 starts. Quite amazing for a 21 year old starter.

His 2.54 ERA and 2.80 FIP ranks eighth amongst qualified starters, per FanGraphs. He strikes out just under 10.0 batters per nine innings (9.73), while walking just over 3.0 batters per nine. When he is not striking out batters, he keeps the ball on the ground at a 45% clip. Fernandez throws plenty of strikes, as his 62.3% first pitch strike rate indicates.

The fantasy writers here at Fake Teams recently released our consensus starting pitcher rankings, and Fernandez ranked #43 overall. Looking back now, I would easily rank him in my top 30-35 starters, and I could make a case that he should be in the top 20 right now. In addition, there are a few starters who are ranked above Fernandez due to their name value, who Fernandez has outperformed in 2013, including Justin Verlander, Matt Cain and C.C. Sabathia. But that is an article for another day.

The Marlins have place their star pitcher on an inning limit, somewhere between 150-170 innings, and based on the fact that he averages just over six innings per starts, he has about 4-7 more starts before he is shut down for the season.

Fernandez's recent dominance has firmly placed him in the National League Rookie of the Year talk, assuming he continues to pitch this well. Other candidates for NL ROY include Mets ace Matt Harvey and Cardinals starter Shelby Miller. All three have been outstanding this season, so the race is really too close to call at this point.

Heading into the offseason, I am sure you will read plenty of articles on the season Fernandez is having, which will push him up starting pitcher rankings. Some of those you may find here at Fake Teams, as I am on board with the talent he possesses and could see him in the Top 20 starting pitcher rankings this offseason.

For me, he is the youngest ace in baseball. No question about it. Earlier this season, Rays manager Joe Maddon stated that Fernandez is the best young starter he has ever seen. That is saying a lot. Others have compared him to Felix Hernandez. Yes, King Felix. Do the Marlins have a King Jose now?

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