Since this is the first part, I'll take a second to explain the point behind the series.
In each article I will examine one of baseball's brightest young talents. The basic motivation is to take a closer look at some of the players who could possibly be the stars of MLB in the not-so-distant future.
For every player I will provide a short bio, a brief scouting report, and my analysis. I encourage any readers to leave comments with their own thoughts or with any player requests.
Felix Abraham Hernández was born on April 8, 1986 in Valencia, Venezuela. When he was first discovered by a Mariners scout at the age of 14, he could already throw 94 MPH.
The Mariners signed King Felix as an undrafted free agent on July 4, 2002. He spent the better part of 3 years in the minors, excelling at each level. His best season was 2005 with AAA Tacoma where he went 9-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 100 K's in 88 innings.
That performance was enough to win him several awards, as well as the Mariner's attention. He made his major league debut on August 4, 2005, finishing the season with the team and going 4-4 with a 2.67 ERA.
2006, his first full year in the majors, was something of a setback, as Felix ended up 12-14 with a 4.52 ERA. Showing up out of weight to camp, he struggled during the season with his mechanics and had trouble handling adversity for the first time in his career.
Felix's 2007 season was a step in the right direction. He posted a 14-7 record in 30 starts with an ERA of 3.92. As of today, he is 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA and a AL-leading 41 K's.
- 4 Seam Fastball (95-100 MPH) - Rises with excellent pop.
- 2 Seam Fastball (93-97 MPH) - Has excellent sink and induces a lot of ground balls.
- 12-6 Curveball (81-83 MPH) - Sharp, hammer style break. Catches a lot of hitters looking with this Uncle Charlie.
- Slider (87-90 MPH) - Felix's favorite pitch. Sharp, late break produces problems for hitters on both sides. Already one of the best in the game.
- Circle Change (83-88 MPH) - Excellent pitch, but he appears to lose confidence in it at times. Needs to learn to locate it better.
- Has excellent overall command, struggling most with his change-up. Still has good enough command to throw most of his pitches in any count.
- Struggles getting on top of his pitches sometimes, getting him into trouble.
- Will get flustered at times.
What is there not to like about King Felix? He's only 22 years old and he will have over 3 year's experience, 500 strikeouts, 500 innings, and 40-50 wins by the season's end. And we've already seen how he responds to failure, as evidenced by his bounce-back 2007 season.
His arsenal of pitches is already one of the best in baseball. A hitter can't sit on any one pitch with Hernández, as he will often "pitch backwards." His excellent control combines with his plus-plus stuff to create a devastating combo.
As Felix matures and enters his prime, I believe he's going to be a perennial contender for the Cy Young Award. He's already light years ahead of most pitchers his age.
I also think he will be able to sustain his success through a long career. His body type (6' 3", 230 lbs.) is ideal and will allow him to sustain his power even as he ages.
King Felix will indeed live up to his nickname, and we can expect him to rule over baseball as one of its top 5 pitchers for years to come.