Wake Up With the King: Felix Hernandez's Debut
19 year-old pitching sensation Felix Hernandez debuted Thursday against the Tigers with surprisingly little fanfare or promotion by MLB or the Mariners.
Fans and analysts were a different story. Prospect experts at Baseball America have been hyping Hernandez on their website and in their book for quite a while now. Baseball Prospectus has been on the bandwagon for a couple of years as well - going as far as saying "all will bow before King Felix" in the excellent 2005 edition of their book. Even The Roto Authority has been extolling his virtues here and here.
Although he's as excited as the rest of us, David over at the Seattlest blog argues against Felix's call-up at this point in 2005. He makes an excellent point:
"All the Mariners are doing is costing Hernandez a year of major league experience, and therefore making him eligible for free agency sooner-- as happened with Alex Rodriguez when they brought him up in 1994, who was then eligible to become a jerk after the 2000 when he could have become one after the record breaking 2001 season."
With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Hernandez went out Thursday and performed almost exactly as we predicted. We're not kidding - compare the prediction versus the actual.
Prediction: 5 innings, 1 ER, 8Ks, 3BB
Actual: 5 innings, 1 ER, 4Ks, 2BB
Of course, one might argue that The Roto Authority simply got lucky here.
Moving on, can we truly expect greatness from Felix Hernandez so soon? Eric Karabell cautions against young pitchers in his fantasy baseball blog, saying:
"I don't play the game of upside and potential with arms."
Karabell goes on to say how a debut hasn't been this hyped since Mark Prior in 2002. There's a reason for that: Hernandez has a chance to be just as good. We suggest you do play the game of upside and potential with Hernandez. Both Hernandez and Prior started their games today by loading the bases with no outs. Only King Felix was able to pitch out of the situation with minimal damage.
Due to pitch count limitations, don't expect more than six innings out of Hernandez in his starts this year. He's an injury risk, and his slightly high walk totals hurt his WHIP. He's also backed by the third-worst offense in the league.
Despite all that, Felix Hernandez will supply the Ks and solid ERA that you crave in 2005, and he'll only get better as he enters his early 20s. Barring injuries, Hernandez will be an ace by 2007.
Read about Felix Hernandez's second start against the Twins here.