Fernandez finalist for NL Cy Young, Rookie of Year
Young Marlins righty burst onto scene with memorable All-Star campaign
MIAMI -- Three times in franchise history, the Marlins have boasted the National League Rookie of the Year. Could Jose Fernandez become the fourth?
The chances are pretty good because Fernandez on Tuesday night was named as a finalist for the top rookie honor presented by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA).
But rookie recognition isn't the only big prize Fernandez is in contention. The 21-year-old right-hander also is a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award, a more uphill climb.
If Fernandez could pull off the upset, he would be the franchise's first Cy Young Award winner.
Twice, the Marlins have had a Cy Young runner-up -- Dontrelle Willis in 2005 and Kevin Brown in 1996.
While Willis went 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA in '05, St. Louis' Chris Carpenter took first place. Brown set the Marlins' ERA record of 1.89 in '96, but he ended up second behind Atlanta's John Smoltz.
Willis, however, is one of the Marlins' previous Rookie of the Year winners, earning the trophy in 2003. Hanley Ramirez ('06) and Chris Coghlan ('09) are the organization's other two.
In the Rookie of the Year competition, Fernandez is up against St. Louis right-hander Shelby Miller and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.
In the Cy Young race, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and St. Louis' Adam Wainwright join Fernandez.
The National League Rookie of the Year will be announced on Nov. 11 on MLB Network and the Cy Young follows on Nov. 13 on MLB Network.
If other offseason honors are any indication, Fernandez is not merely a finalist, he is the Rookie of the Year front-runner.
On Monday night in the MLBPA Players Choice Awards, the players voted Fernandez as the National League's Outstanding Rookie over Miller and Puig.
And a couple of weeks ago, Fernandez was named top NL rookie by The Sporting News.
Also on Monday, Fernandez was a finalist with Kershaw and Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano for NL Outstanding Pitcher in the Players Choice Awards, but Kershaw won.
In a rough 2013 season for the Marlins as a team, Fernandez emerged as one of the bright young stars in the game, earning All-Star recognition.
The hard-throwing right-hander was 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA. He struck out a franchise rookie-record 187, and he posted a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) of 0.98.
Opposing batters hit a mere .182 off him.
Not only are Fernandez's numbers dominating among NL rookie pitchers, they also rank among the best in the game.
From June 1 to the end of the season, Fernandez's 1.50 ERA was the best in the NL.
Consider from that date, the Miami ace was 10-3 with 135 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings. Kershaw was 11-6 with a 1.82 ERA with 150 strikeouts in 148 2/3 innings in that span.
Because Fernandez was on a pitch limit that was set before the season started, he was shut down after his Sept. 11 start against the Braves. The rookie capped his year with a win and his first big league home run.
Fernandez's meteoric rise made him one of the top new stories in the Majors.
His story is one of triumph and inspiration.
At age 15, he defected from Cuba, and five years later, he was in the big leagues at age 20. He turned 21 on July 31.
The 14th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Fernandez entered Spring Training projected to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville. But because of injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi, the Marlins decided to give Fernandez a shot.
So Fernandez was asked to make the leap from Class A ball in 2012 to the big leagues.
He made the transition seem easy.
Because of his youth and inexperience, the Marlins set a preseason innings range of 150-170 for the right-hander, whose fastball was clocked as high as 99 mph.
It didn't take long for the rookie to establish himself as an ace. Miami, a team that finished 62-100, went 18-10 in Fernandez's 28 starts.