St. Jose Fernandez is #17 in our Top 20 Marlins series – and let’s just say, don’t blame me, he’s comfortably within my personal top 10. The 23-year-old Cuban-born right hander was drafted 17th overall by the Marlins in the 2011 amateur draft, and has since posted a 2.40 lifetime ERA – 160 ERA+, a 2.52 FIP, and a staggering 10.5 K/9 over 289 innings. And oh- he’s got two homeruns!
Reader discretion is advised, homerism may not be appropriate for small children.
Beyond the stats, St. Jose represents everything I love about baseball: an electric fastball, a fall off the table curve, and most importantly his swashbuckling joie de vivre. He’s already building the kind of appointment viewing reputation the Marlins haven’t had since 2010 Josh Johnson. Every fifth day during the season – Marlins ticket sales jump, I light a candle to the UCL gods, and I wish my neighbors, colleagues, and even frenemies a “Happy Jose Day”. He’s well on his way to building Miami’s version of the King’s Court in Seattle, especially during the long cellar-dweller stretches where a King Felix start was all deprived-Mariner fans had to look forward to. (Fish fans in attendance will instead get a .500 ball club, 50+ jacks courtesy of Sir Stanton, and a decent pan con lechón.)
Speaking of Sir Stanton and his Jacks.
On the above note, let’s discuss St. Jose’s attitude. The guy is having fun playing this game. And he is, in fact, playing the game the right way – with an energy, passion, and personality too often squeezed out of professional athletes, forced to present a clean-shaven stoicism, while repeating inane one-liners about taking it one game at a time. Yeah, I know, there’s 162 of them. But at least for 30 of those games (*lights another candle*), I’ll be having a good time too. The only thing that could make me love St. Jose more was if he kept a bat by the pitcher’s mound and flipped it Korean-style after each and every strikeout.
Going forward, I hope the Marlins scour all of Loria’s couch cushions and sign St. Jose to a Stanton-esque deal (I would actually support a GoFundMe or a county tax to that effect – there are MLB precedents for the latter). For a pitcher with one Tommy John surgery and one and a half seasons under his belt that seems like a staggeringly bad idea, but I just don’t care. I will happily watch and root for a Marlins team consisting of St. Jose, Sir Stanton, and 23 AAAA players – careful what I wish for, this may be the roster come August. As it stands, St. Jose is likely to be with the club for three more seasons (criminally negligent free agent service time management notwithstanding), and – as a Boras client – an extension is unlikely. Nevertheless, I predict that by November 2018, St. Jose Fernandez will enter free agency as the Marlins franchise leader in every major pitching category; and at the end of his career, the first Hall of Fame inductee to enter the Hall as a Marlin.
Happy Jose Day everyone.