In the 2011 MLB Draft, the Miami Marlins drafted a Cuban-born pitcher from Tampa named Jose Fernandez. That decision will haunt the Atlanta Braves for as long as the Marlins are able to hold on to the 21-year-old pitcher. Just two years after being drafted, Fernandez was selected as an All-Star, won NL Rookie of the Year, and finished third in the NL Cy Young voting. He also happens to really love facing the Braves.
Fernandez faced off against the Braves twice during his rookie season in 2013. He allowed just three runs in his 13 innings against Atlanta, all coming via the home run. The Marlins rookie struck out a batter per inning, and allowed only eight hits over those two starts. Just as impressive was his offense, going 3-for-5 against the Braves. One of those three hits was a home run that he admired long enough to start a brouhaha with catcher Brian McCann.
As good as Fernandez was against the Braves last year, he was even better on Tuesday night. The electric right-hander struck out 14 and walked zero over eight shutout innings. After allowing a leadoff single to Jason Heyward in the first inning, only three Braves reached base off Fernandez. The Braves only got a runner to second base twice, and both times Fernandez got out of the inning without any trouble.
The Marlins’ young ace is great because he’s a starter with stuff comparable to Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. Like Kimbrel, Fernandez has a rising fastball that runs in the high-90’s along with a knee-buckling breaking ball. Unlike Kimbrel, he can also toss in a changeup and a sinker to keep hitters off balance. When his command is on like it was on Tuesday, he’s almost unhittable.
The Marlins are notorious for not holding onto young talent once they get near free agency, and the Braves can only hope that happens with Fernandez. He’s still three months away from turning 22, and his best years are still ahead of him. If the Marlins break tradition and lock down Fernandez through his prime, he will be a huge problem for the Braves for years to come.