Recapping Jose Fernandez’s Amazing Rookie Season

Jose Fernandez has been spectacular this season. Forget for a moment that he made his Major League debut at the tender age of 20. His 2.19 ERA puts him behind Clayton Kershaw (1.92) for the ERA title in the National League. If it wasn’t for Kershaw’s MVP caliber season, Fernandez would likely take home the Rookie of Year award along with the National Cy Young.

If we look at his pitching percentages, he’s walked 8.5% and struck out 27.4% of opposing batters. Five of his 12 wins came against playoff bound teams.¬†Remembering, as always, that the Win is a poor measure of a starting pitcher, Fernandez has tallyed 22.6% of the Marlins wins this season. He plays on a terrible team. For comparison, Max Scherzer, who leads the Majors in wins, has accounted for 22.8% of the Tigers wins.¬†Five of the 9 home runs Fernandez allowed in 2013 came in the first or second inning. Although he’s cool as a cucumber, even at age 20, this seems to indicate that if he can keep him self calm, and get into his groove right when the game starts, he will be even more effective.

As we look forward to what we can expect from the precocious right hander, we can look at how he finished the season this year. He made 18 starts in the first half, with a 5-5 record, 103 strikeouts (24.3%), 2.75 ERA and a 1.080 WHIP. Pretty good right? Not nearly as good as his 2nd half. In 9 starts, he went 6-1, 79 strikeouts (34.6%), 1.33 ERA and a 0.787 WHIP. In 5 of his 9 2nd half starts he was facing a team for the second time, so his brilliant 2nd half wasn’t due to no one having seen him. It was the second time around and he still crushed them. There is no reason to believe that Fernandez will regress. He’s proven at a very young age that he has amazing talent. In his very brief stop in the minors (25 starts in 2012), he went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA.

He’s 6’2″, 240 lbs and has a body to log innings. He likely could have finished off the year in the rotation, but with the Marlins being so terrible there is no reason for him to push his innings count. He made a 38.2 inning jump this season (from 134 in 2012 to 172.2 this season) and you can expect a similar jump next season which would put him right around 210 innings in 2014. If you extrapolate out his 2013 stats over a full 210 inning season, Fernandez would be good for 230 strikeouts.

If you rolled the dice on him in this year’s draft, you’re very happy with your return. Because his start on Wednesday was his last of 2013, you may be able to pry him away from an owner in a keeper league that is going for a championship (assuming you don’t have a trade deadline). If you’re in a redraft league, be prepared to pay top dollar in next year’s draft for him. I expect to rank him as a top 5 starter next year and barring anything crazy happening, have him in the top 3.

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