Based upon his maturity and polished mechanics, it is very difficult to grasp the fact Miami Marlins right-handed pitcher Jose Fernandez is still only 20 years old.
Truth be known, it was an absolute treat to watch Fernandez pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Fernandez's most recent start.
The Marlins rookie went 7 1/3 innings, his longest Major League outing. He threw 103 pitches, 71 of them for strikes.
Fernandez should have enjoyed a better fate in the outing. His offense didn't produce for him, and his late-game control hiccup cost him dearly. However, the result does not tell the story of his stellar performance.
Fernandez defines the phrase "power pitcher."
The 2011 first-round Draft pick showed tremendous mound presence and maturity beyond his years. He pitched like he was a seasoned veteran. He had a calm and confident approach that allowed him to retain an even tempo and rhythm inning after inning. He was in total charge on the mound.
Fernandez was rolling along, pitching effortlessly and with outstanding results, when he suddenly lost command and walked two of the first three hitters he faced in the eighth inning. Those two runners scored when Cody Ross hit a dramatic three-run home run off reliever Mike Dunn. Fernandez took the loss.
Fernandez handled the D-backs with a repertoire that varied from the first part of the game until the last two innings he worked.
Setting up hitters with high-powered two- and four-seam fastballs, ranging in velocity from 93-98 mph, his two-seam sinking fastball generated ground balls that kept his infield busy. Fernandez mixed an occasional curveball and slider into the arsenal, keeping hitters off balance and changing their comfort level. Few balls were hit hard.
Later in the outing, Fernandez threw more curves and sliders, including a changeup or two as well. He had the hitters set up for the high-octane fastball, but it came with less frequency. It was a very crafty way to stay in control of the game. His first 3-0 count didn't come until the eighth inning. That's when his control eluded him for a bit, although a couple borderline pitches could have just as easily been called strikes.
With the exception of his huge thighs and legs, Fernandez is not an overwhelming physical presence. At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Fernandez has broad shoulders, but his trunk helps him generate amazing power in his ever-consistent and clean mechanics. He repeats his delivery and hits his spots with the precision of a surgeon. His location is superb.
The game marked my first opportunity to scout Fernandez, who entered the season as the Marlins' No. 1 prospect and the No. 7 prospect on MLB.com's Top 100 list.
Because he uses little effort in his delivery, and because of his advanced command and control, Fernandez has a tremendous future. He is capable of anchoring a very promising staff of Marlins power arms and athletic pitchers for years to come.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.