Why Jose Fernandez Will Be 1st in His Rookie Class to Win a Cy Young Award

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2014

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins pitches during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on September 11, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In 2013, we saw the emergence of a handful of quality, top-of-the-rotation starters in Major League Baseball.  Gerrit Cole helped pitch the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs, while Michael Wacha's contributions set up a long playoff run for the St. Louis Cardinals.  

Many of the rookies from 2013 have the potential to be elite, but Miami Marlin Jose Fernandez will be the first of that class to win a Cy Young Award.  

Miami drafted Fernandez in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft, and by spring training of last year he was named one of the five starters for the club.  In 28 games, Fernandez picked apart opposing lineups, going 12-6 on a very bad Marlins team with an incredible 2.19 ERA in 172.2 innings pitched.  

He also held a WHIP of .979 while striking out 9.7 batters per nine innings pitched.  Fernandez's efforts earned him the National League Rookie of the Year award along with an All-Star selection and third place in the National League Cy Young Award race.  

On a quality team, Fernandez could have easily picked up anywhere from 17 to 20 wins last season, as he was stuck with 10 no-decisions in 2013.  

Fernandez ranked first in the entire league with only 5.786 hits allowed per nine innings pitched in 2013, while his ERA was second only to the great Clayton Kershaw, who had a dream season with an ERA of only 1.83.

If Fernandez improves his numbers from last season, then any bit of inflation in Kershaw's numbers could land him his first Cy Young Award in 2014.  

Fernandez throws four different offerings and uses them all very effectively, mastering the art of mixing up pitches in different situations.  According to FanGraphs, he throws his four-seam fastball 57.3 percent of the time, while mixing in his slider (12.7%), curveball (21.3%) and changeup, which he throws with a frequency of 8.7 percent.  

Another quality that really stood out about Fernandez in 2013 was his ability to keep runners from scoring. The statistic is called base-out runs saved.  Anything above zero is considered above average, and he has a score of 33.09, which ranked fourth in all of baseball.  

Fernandez was sensational in 2013, striking out 9.7 batters per nine.
Fernandez was sensational in 2013, striking out 9.7 batters per nine.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Still, he is only 21 years old, as he will turn 22 on July 31 this year.  When people look back on the outstanding pitching performances from young starters in 2013, the hurler that usually comes to mind is Matt Harvey of the New York Mets—though he wasn't technically a rookie, having exceeded the rookie innings limit over 10 starts in 2012.  However, Fernandez was better than Harvey in ERA, strikeouts-per-nine and wins above replacement.  

Matt Harvey is an outstanding pitcher, so Fernandez's superior statistics show just how dominant this young man is, and why he will be the first starter of that rookie class to win a Cy Young Award.

The Marlins have Fernandez under contract through 2019, and it will be interesting to see if they will keep or trade him for prospects as Miami has been known to do in the past.  

Either way, they are fortunate to have Fernandez, as he has the stuff to pitch at the top of any rotation in Major League Baseball.  Look for the young star to continue his domination of lineups in 2014 and to even possibly win a Cy Young as early as 2014.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs