In the wake of the Jose Fernandez tragedy, the Marlins are once again peddlers of hope, promoting top-prospect Andrew Heaney to satiate the hunger we all have for young electric arms. While Heaney's ceiling doesn't match that of Fernandez (but really, whose does?), he appears to have the goods to comfortably fill the number-two slot in the Marlins rotation for many years.
Heaney was drafted ninth overall by the Marlins in 2012, and was part of a dense class of starting pitching that included Kevin Gausman, Mark Appel (didn't sign), Kyle Zimmer, Lucas Giolito, Michael Wacha, Max Fried, and Marcus Stroman. According to Keith Law (c. 2012), Heaney (who didn't make Law's Top-100 in 2013) didn't "have the upside of the other college arms," but was a safe bet to slot into middle or back-end of a rotation. I'm sure he'd like to have those statements back, as Heaney broke out in his first full season of pro-ball in 2013, and as of his promotion, owns a career 2.31 ERA (2.50 FIP, 3.15 SIERA) with K/9 of 8.95, BB/9 of 2.13 in 199 innings. His prospect star has risen, and within the industry, the number-three-tag is likely more floor than ceiling.
(*Note: This post doesn't have many sexy GIFs because the feeds for Heaney on MiLB.tv were awful.)
In spite of his left-handedness, Heaney was only drafted in the 24th round (739th overall) in 2009 (TB Rays). His 6-foot 150-pound frame was fragile looking, and while Heaney grew in college to the 6-foot-2, he was still only 160-170-lbs come draft day. At Oklahoma State, he sat 89-91 with the fastball, occasionally ascending into 92-93 territory. For this reason, heading into the draft, Heaney's fastball was seen as merely "average."
Heaney has added 20-lbs of muscle since signing, and the average velocity has morphed into plus territory(60 or better on the 20-80 scale), as it now sits 91-93, and he can reach back for 97, impressive velocity from the left-side (I give +2 to lefty velocity). The pitch has natural cut-and-sink, boring down and in to right-handed hitters and darting away from lefties. He throws tons of strikes, and does an excellent job of keeping the ball down.It's a good enough offering to get poor contact in the zone.
If there's any slight on Heaney, it's that he gets too much of the plate, a pittance in my opinion.
Heaney doesn't fit the bill of a fastball/change-up lefty with a show-me breaking ball. Rather, the slider is the put-away pitch, but he does use the change-up often to keep hitters honest. In spite of its excellence, Heaney used the slider sparingly in the outings I watched, opting for it against lefties in pitchers counts. He'll likely need to use it more at the next level where he'll have more difficulty living off the fastball.
You can see the slider at (1:02) on the video.
Heaney's change-up is currently solid-average (about a 55 on the 20-80 scale), but is the chance to be a plus (60 or better). It's firm at times--meaning he throws it too hard--but when it's right, it's an above-average major league pitch.
Here's a Brent Lillibridge strikeout during the 4th inning of his May 27th outing versus Triple-A Round Rock Express (Rangers).
Mr. Heaney is a cool customer on the mound. The announcers in every single feed--home and away-- repeatedly mentioned his business-like demeanor and confident body-language. He's very slow and deliberate to the plate, and repeats his 3/4 delivery with above-average mechanics. He'll have an excellent command profile and should issue hardly any walks right from the start. He throws from the first-base side of the rubber, and the combination of his three-quarter arm-action, fastball movement, velocity and slider should make him devastating to left-handed hitters. Like seriously, they're going to be automatic outs.
The slow delivery, along with his slide-step from the stretch (don't ask me why) has given him trouble controlling the running game. Between 2012-13 he allowed a whopping 30 stolen bases in 31 attempts (the caught-stealing must be a catcher). There's reason to believe he's improved, however: In 2014, 5 of 9 attempted stealers have been caught while he was on the mound. I'm not sure what the adjustment is, but apparently it's working.
Heaney is a safe prospect for fantasy. Even if he never reaches the lofty ceiling of a number-two starter, he could pitch like one in Miami. He'll be in a division, league and home-park that will allow him, in his prime, to post excellent ratios, (think low 3.00's ERA, 1.10-1.15 WHIP) with a good amount of strikeouts (175-ish in a full season). He's got a remarkably high floor, and is worth rostering in every format; although I'm probably telling you what you already know...