Marlins Find A Survivor In Fernandez





FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. On one of his failed attempts to escape Cuba, Jose Fernandez saw a passenger fall overboard. He dove in, unaware he was about to save his mother.
 
The Marlins aren't likely to faze Fernandez with anything they throw at him in the minor leagues. The Marlins made the Tampa Alonso High righthander the 14th overall selection in the draft.
 
"We liked everything about him," Marlins vice president of scouting and player development Jim Fleming said. "He's a big, strong kid with pitches in place. His fastball is anywhere from 92-97 (mph). We have what we think is a plus breaking ball and he throws strikes. He has a really good feel to pitch, which a lot of times in the high school kid with this kind of stuff is still developing."
 
In most cases, a high school kid's physicality is subject to projection as well. Fernandez already is a hulking mound presence at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds.
 
"The thing you like about him is if you get up on him, he's got a baby face, but his body, he's a big man," Fleming said. "He's a guy that's got great work ethic and stays in command of that body. We've watched that through the past year. He's become more fit and that was something we liked because he's trending the way he's going to have to be.
 
"Any big man like that has to stay on top of his body and we really feel he'll do that. The durability factor you always wonder about when you take a high school guy as they physically mature, it's not as big a deal here."
 
Fernandez can boast a fastball in the 92-95 mph range that's touched 97. His two-seamer doesn't have heavy sink, rather what Fleming described as a bat-breaking boring action into righthanded hitters. He complements that with a breaking pitch that Fleming said some call a slider because of its velocity (78-84) and others a curve because of its break.
 
Though Fernandez didn't have much use for a changeup in high school, Fleming saw him throw it a few times and termed it a workable pitch.
 
"(His breaking ball) is a little bigger than most sliders," Fleming said. "We're just going to call it a good, hard breaking ball that really has some bite and teeth to it."
 
Fernandez became the fifth straight first-rounder and sixth in seven years the Marlins have taken out of the prep ranks. Six of their last 11 first-round picks dating back to 2005 have been high school pitchers: Chris Volstad, Aaron Thompson, Ryan Tucker, Sean West, Chad James and now Fernandez.
 
"One of the things we look (for) in a high school kid going through the minor league system, you face a lot of adversity," Fleming said. "This guy has faced a lot worse things than anything he's going to face going through our system . . . He pitches with no fear, very aggressive and you see a confident air to him we really liked."