Marlins' Pitcher Heaney Could Give Rotation a Much Needed Boost
Miami Marlins 2014
Heaney debuts Thursday June 19th
Andrew Heaney needed only eight starts at double-A to convince the Marlins that he was ready for triple-A baseball. After arriving at the Marlins triple-A affiliate in New Orleans, he made only four starts before the Marlins decided that he was ready to make his major league debut. The Marlins pushed Heaney quite quickly this season, but at each stop he responded well to the promotion and never looked like he was overmatched in any situation. In his eight starts at double-A, he pitched 53 and two thirds of an inning with 52 strikeouts. At triple-A he pitched 23 innings with 27 strikeouts which helped to convince Marlins management that he was big league ready. At 23 years old, Andrew Heaney is now ready for the big leagues after just 38 minor league starts for the Marlins. Since Heaney does not have dominating stuff, it will be a learning process early, but his fastball is firm enough to set up his complementary off speed pitches that can be used as out pitches for him. Most importantly, Heaney's debut helps to fill out the Marlins rotation after they lost their ace Jose Fernandez.
A look at Heaney's minor league numbers
In his eight starts at double-A, Heaney received a pitching decision in six of them with a record of four wins and two losses. This record accompanied a 2.35 earned runs average over those eight double-A starts, to go along with a strong ground ball rate 1.25 groundouts for every fly ball out. At triple-A, Heaney maintained similar success by winning all three of his decisions in the four starts he made there, to go along with a 2.74 earned runs average. Heaney's ground ball rate of 1.22 ground outs for every fly ball out at triple-A, showed that his two seam fastball worked well as a ground ball pitch even at a more advanced level of professional baseball. Heaney's strikeout rates at each of these levels, shows that he understands the importance of establishing the fastball and can use his slider along with his changeup to complement his primary pitch. His total of three homeruns allowed in the minor leagues this season, suggests that he does a good job of locating his pitches to avoid having the opposition square them up. The deception and command in Heaney's delivery have played a huge role in his minor league success so far, and should allow him to continue that at the next level.
Expectations for Heaney
The expectations are that Heaney will pitch well for the Marlins in his rookie season. Jose Fernandez set the bar very high for Marlins top pitching prospects last season, but it is unrealistic to expect Heaney to pitch like Fernandez did last year. Heaney's fastball typically sits at 90 MPH or above and he can touch the mid 90s with his fastball, but he gets the most movement on his two seam fastball when it registers in the low 90s. As a polished strike thrower with strong command of the strike zone, Heaney should be able to eat many innings for the Marlins for as long as they keep him on the active roster. If Heaney is able to translate his strikeout rates from the minor leagues into high strikeout rates in the big leagues, he could be a top of the rotation type pitcher for the Marlins. Since Heaney does not fit the profile of a power arm however, he is likely to rely on finesse pitching that includes him changing speeds often. Ultimately this will probably lead to Heaney pitching like a number three starter in his rookie season, which will allow him to slot in nicely behind Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi in the Marlins' rotation.
The addition of Andrew Heaney to the Marlins' rotation, definitely gives them the much needed boost they were looking for. The Marlins now have their rotation filled out well, which will give them the opportunity to make a run at qualifying for a postseason berth in 2014. Not only that, but Heaney and others of the Marlins young starters are now getting valuable experience at the big league level just as the pennant races are starting to take shape. The 23 year old Heaney should be able to handle himself like a professional now that he has arrived on the Marlins big league roster, which will allow Jose Fernandez to re-join a very strong Marlins' rotation next season. The decision by the Marlins to promote Heaney, will ultimately prove to be a very good one as it works to further the progress their franchise has made towards being a contending ball club.