Reports are pouring in that Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez has sadly died in a tragic boating accident.
Details are sparse at this point but the death has been confirmed by multiple sources. Baseball has lost one of its youngest and brightest stars.
The 24-year-old right-handed native of Cuba (later came to the United States) came to the Marlins as a first-round draft choice in 2011 out of high school. He made the majors just two years later (winning Rookie of the Year Award), and despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014, came back as good as ever.
2016 was Fernandez’s first full season in the majors since his rookie campaign. In 29 starts this year, he had gone 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA and 253 strikeouts in 182.1 innings. His 2.29 FIP and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings both currently lead the National League, and he made the All Star team.
In 76 career starts, he was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA and 589 strikeouts in 471.1 innings.
Because of it being his first full year back from surgery, the team was still being cautious with his workload. Despite his dominance, the way he was handled with kid gloves meant that he never threw a complete game during his career. However, it is likely that he would have been turned loose in 2017, having reached a safer point in his recovery to let it all hang out.
With a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a devastating slider, Fernandez possessed an arsenal that made him a candidate to be one of the best pitchers in baseball for the next decade. A frequent target of trade rumors because of his value to the lower-budget Marlins, the team had elected to keep him to date, which was not only a testament to what he meant to the Miami community but also his immense talent.
Any death is tragic. That Fernandez was one of baseball’s best rising stars only takes that to a new level. Major League Baseball’s history is peppered with a number of in and out of season deaths but this immediately takes on historical significance. Other than Thurman Munson and Ray Chapman, one would be hard-pressed to think of another player of greater renown that passed away during a season.
The baseball world will be in shock for some time, and rightly so. One of its best and brightest has been lost. Fernandez’s star did not burn as long as many but in its abbreviated crest it burned so bright. He is leaving an indelible mark on the game and a sad legacy of what might have been. Rest in peace.
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