13. Jose Fernandez (13.9)
Jose Fernandez was a 6-foot-3, 240 lb. right-handed wizard from Santa Clara, Cuba. Born on July 31st, 1992, the legend of his Cuban defection are well known. After three failed attempts, and a prison sentence in his young teenage years, Fernandez was successful in getting out by boat in the Gulf of Mexico.
Fernandez was a first round choice of Florida in the 2011 MLB Amateur Entry Draft, taken 14th off the board out of Braulio Alonso HS in Tampa, FL. He made his major league debut in 2013, making the all-star team and winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. He was 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings, along with a 0.979 WHIP and an NL-best 5.8 H/9 allowed. Fernandez finished third in the NL Cy Young Award vote, just months after his 21st birthday.
Fernandez started out the 2014 season going 4-2 over eight starts, with a 2.44 ERA, a 0.948 WHIP and 70 K’s in only 51 2/3 innings. In mid-May, he learned that he would have to miss a significant chunk of time to go through Tommy John Surgery. According to Steve Dorsey at MLB.COM:
"It was sad, because I felt I let my team down. It’s sad I left my teammates hanging. That’s the painful part. Forget about pain, it’s just sitting at home watching my teammates."
Better than ever upon his return just 12 months later, Fernandez closed out the 2015 season by going 6-1 in 11 starts. His 2.92 ERA was a career-worst, and still well better than the NL average of 4.11. He whiffed another 79 batters in 64 2/3 innings and finished the season with a 1.160 WHIP.
Fernandez went 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA in 29 starts in 2016, making another all-star team. Sadly, we were sure it was the second of many at the time. He struck out 253 batters in 182 1/3 innings and earned a 1.119 WHIP. His 12.5 K/9 was a career-high and led the N.L. evidence pointed to Fernandez only getting better from there.
On September 25th, 2016, Fernandez and two of his friends lost their lives in a boating accident. Now forever 24-years-old, Fernandez’ loss shocked the baseball world and shook the Marlins organization to its core.