Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/17/14
As spring training gave way to the regular season, the Marlins turned some heads when they announced that Jose Fernandez had made the team. No, not just made the team, but that he wasn’t even an injury replacement for Henderson Alvarez or Nathan Eovaldi — he was here to stay. Yesterday, he made his debut, and he made quite an impact. The debut was arguably one of the best for a pitcher of his age in baseball history. Just 20 years old, Fernandez won’t turn 21 until the non-waiver trading deadline. Drafted by the Marlins with the 14th overall pick in the 2011 first-year player draft, Fernandez becomes the fourth player chosen in that draft’s first two rounds to debut in the majors after Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy and Jackie Bradley Jr. He signed early enough in ’11 to get into two games, one with the Gulf Coast League Marlins and one with the short-season Jamestown Jammers. It was just 4.1 innings though, and as such expectations were tempered nationally heading into 2012. Fernandez placed third on the Marlins’ top prospects list at Baseball America, and both our Marc Hulet and ESPN’s Keith Law had him second behind Christian Yelich on theirs, but neither BA, Hulet nor Law ranked Fernandez as a top-100 prospect. That would change heading into this season, and with good reason. The Marlins challenged the 19-year-old with a spot in the South Atlantic League, and he was one of just 13 teenage pitchers to rack up 70 innings in the SAL last season. There were a few big names among those 13 pitchers, but Fernandez’s 1.78 FIP and 1.59 ERA were the best of the group. In fact, they were the best marks of all 94 pitchers to toss at least 70 innings in the league period, with his ERA being nearly a full run better than second-place finisher Tyler Anderson. Fernandez then moved to High-A Jupiter, where he kept on dominating. He would toss just 55 innings in the Florida State League, and was the only teenage pitcher to do so. There, his 2.15 FIP was second among those who tossed at least 50 innings in the FSL, and his 1.96 ERA placed fourth, though the pitcher who bettered him in FIP was 24, and the pitchers who bettered him in ERA were ages 22, 25 and 22, respectively. Simply put, Fernandez was on fire. Heading into this season, he placed fifth on BA’s top 100 prospect list, eighth on Hulet’s and 16th on Law’s, giving him one of the most meteoric rises from ’12 to ’13. And now he’s in the majors. Since 1983, only 40 players aged 20 or younger have made their major league debut as a starting pitcher, and it’s not hyperbole to say that Fernandez’s start yesterday was one of the very few that can be considered the best of that group. In his outing yesterday, Fernandez tossed five innings and 80 pitches — the Marlins will keep him on a loose innings count of 150-175 this season, so low innings totals per start are nothing to be alarmed about — and according to Brooks Baseball, featured a fairly balanced four-pitch mix. He featured his four-seamer and curve most frequently, but mixed in enough changeups and sinkers to keep hitters honest. He worked mostly off of his fastball when behind in the count, and exclusively off of his fastball and curve once he got to two strikes on a hitter. Both pitches were incredibly impressive. He touched 97 on the four-seamer, and averaged 94.8 mph with the pitch according to Pitchf/x and 95.6 according to Brooks. Either way, his velocity puts him in league with Stephen Strasburg, Jeff Samardzija and Brandon Morrow for fastest fastball velocity by a starter a week into the season. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that he was able to freeze both left-handed and right-handed hitters with his curveball — Lucas Duda, Ike Davis and David Wright all walked back to the dugout with the bat on their shoulders after watching Fernandez’s curve drop into the zone for strike three. In all, Fernandez allowed just one run on three hits and a walk. That alone would have put Fernandez on the short list for best debut start for a 20-year-old in the past 30 years. Of the 40 pitchers on the list, only six worked five innings and allowed three hits or less — Jeff D’Amico, Matt Cain, Dwight Gooden, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia and Jacob Turner. But Fernandez upped the ante by striking out eight of the 19 hitters he faced, for a silly 42% K%. No one else on our debut list struck out eight, and only three — Clayton Kershaw, Oliver Perez and Kerry Wood — struck out seven. From a holistic perspective, we find that Fernandez’s 64 game score ties him with Edwin Jackson for fifth-place on this list all-time: Rk Player Age Date GSc 1 Ramon Martinez 20.144 8/13/1988 68 2 Joel Davis 20.193 8/11/1985 67 3 Jeff D’Amico 20.184 6/28/1996 66 4 Jose Fernandez 20.250 4/7/2013 64 5 Edwin Jackson 20.000 9/9/2003 64 6 Jordan Lyles 20.224 5/31/2011 63 7 Alex Fernandez 20.354 1990-08-02 (1) 61 8 Clayton Kershaw 20.067 5/25/2008 60 9 Dwight Gooden 19.143 4/7/1984 60 10 Scott Kazmir 20.212 8/23/2004 60 11 Jacob Turner 20.070 7/30/2011 57 12 Felix Hernandez 19.118 8/4/2005 57 13 Oliver Perez 20.305 6/16/2002 54 14 Dennys Reyes 20.085 7/13/1997 54 15 Gil Meche 20.301 7/6/1999 53 16 Madison Bumgarner 20.038 9/8/2009 53 17 CC Sabathia 20.261 4/8/2001 52 18 Matt Cain 20.332 8/29/2005 51 19 Rick Ankiel 20.035 8/23/1999 49 20 Zack Greinke 20.214 5/22/2004 49 24 Kerry Wood 20.300 4/12/1998 44 26 Julio Teheran 20.100 5/7/2011 43 30 Phil Hughes 20.306 4/26/2007 37 31 Rick Porcello 20.103 4/9/2009 36 36 Carlos Zambrano 20.080 2001-08-20 (2) 25 You’ll recognize a lot of the names on this list, in which I included the top 20, and then the players on this list that is currently pitching or just recently stopped pitching. Fernandez is in some pretty good company here. One start is one start is one start, and since Fernandez had never pitched above Single-A ball before and didn’t face the Mets during Grapefruit League play this spring, there’s a pretty good chance that they were going in blind yesterday. Yes, the Mets had been raking, but if you’ve never seen a pitcher before that is generally considered a big advantage for said pitcher. As video builds up on him, the league is likely to catch up to him. But a guy with a 97-mph fastball, a knee-buckling curve and no fear (unless it’s roller coasters or snakes, that is) is a dangerous pitcher. Yes, 20-years-old is young for a pitcher, but the Marlins are hardly setting precedent here. If the Cuban native can keep pitching even in the neighborhood of how he pitched yesterday, we will be enjoying his starts for quite some time.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

DeMarco Murray: 'I'm not worried about the Cowboys'

Turner has great quote in defense of Bridgewater

Gary Bettman's quote about expansion makes no sense

Beltre sends Richards invoice for three broken bats

Herschel Walker: Vikings should trade Adrian Peterson

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Raiders fielding calls about fourth overall pick

WATCH: UAB football player brings helmet to graduation

Andrew Luck to students: 'I'm only 25, I don't have advice'

Mark Sanchez: Tebow is another arm while Bradford recovers

Report: Former LSU CB Jalen Collins failed multiple drug tests

Six players suspended for White Sox-Royals brawl

WATCH: Demetrious Johnson wins with last-second submission

WATCH: Jerryd Bayless beats Bulls with buzzer-beater

John Legend catches Belichick checking out Chrissy Teigen

Jim Rice to Jim Palmer: 'Quit complaining'

Time Warner-Comcast failed merger hurts Dodgers fans

WATCH: Bucks mascot devours fan

Protestors tried to have Orioles-Red Sox game called off

Greg Hardy abandons his Bentley during flash flood

WATCH: LeBron James hits full-court shot after practice

Peyton Manning announces $3 million gift to Tennessee

WATCH: Leah Still scores TD in Temple spring game

WATCH: Todd Gurley shares video of himself sprinting

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

UAB player brings helmet to graduation

Leah Still scores in Temple spring game

Sanchez shares thoughts on Tebow

Stephen A. Smith blasts Tom Brady

Kris Humphries apologizes for Jenner tweet

Five most boring NFL prime time matchups for 2015

Bruce Jenner: "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman"

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: Perception vs. reality

Report: Gronk dating former Patriots cheerleader

NFL exec compares Jameis Winson to JaMarcus Russell

NFL does not care about Rams' future in St. Louis

Nothing gleams like late-round draft gold

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.