With the ninth overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft the Miami Marlins selected Oklahoma State left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney. The former Cowboy was widely viewed as the best lefty in the college ranks and was tabbed this year’s version of Danny Hultzen. A ‘polished’ college lefty with advanced feel for all of the pitches in his arsenal who should move quicker through the minors than the average prospect. The Miami Marlins, who often target high upside prep talent in the early rounds, broke from tradition to nab Heaney who I believe will pair nicely with their 2011 1st round pick right-hander Jose Fernandez. Both should contribute to one of the more dominant young pitching combos as early as September 2014.
Heaney was all smiles on draft day but this wasn’t the OK-State Cowboy’s first draft rodeo (yeah I went there). He heard his named called in 2009 when the Tampa Bay Rays tabbed him as their 24th round choice out of Putnam City High School. He of course declined the Rays offers and instead headed to Oklahoma State. In his 15 starts in 2012 Heaney absolutely dominated opposing hitters. He compiled an 8-2 record with a 1.60 ERA, 140 strikeouts and only 22 walks in just 118.1 innings. Additionally he racked up six complete games, three of which were shutouts. In three seasons with Oklahoma State he blossomed into the 2012 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team All-American and Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist.
2012: 8-2 with a 1.60 ERA and 140 K in 118.1 innings
2011: 7-4 with a 4.03 ERA and 51 K in 67 innings
2010: 5-4 with a 5.16 ERA and 55 K in 66.1 innings
Heaney is a 6-2, 175 lb hard-throwing lefty who consistently sits between 90-93 mph with his fastball and is able to touch 95 mph. He compliments his plus fastball offering with a sharp slider and solid change-up. He pitches from a high 3/4 arm slot (he will drop down lower versus lefties) and scouts have described his mechanics and fluid, low-stress, and easily repeatable. In 2012, Heaney was able to showcase his command of the strike zone and his willingness to attack hitters, both left and right-handed, which proved he has the potential to be more than just a traditional efficient lefty. Various sources had him being selected anywhere from 9th to 20th prior to Monday’s draft, however his collegiate success coupled with a recent upwards tick in velocity added just enough helium to his draft stock. The Marlins, void of advanced pitching talent, deemed him too good to pass up.
This video highlights Heaney’s delivery and solid mechanics. It’s a delivery that is very “easy” and almost looks slow. It is his late quick arm action that allows his fastball to explode out of his hand and he has a cutting action on the pitch making it even more effective. As the video shows he can leave the fastball up in the zone from time to time and he will need to continue to work on keeping the ball down as he advances through the minor leagues. His secondary pitches are advanced for his age but still continuing to develop. He will need to improve his pitch sequencing to add more value to those offerings but both his slider and change-up project to be above average Major League offerings. In the end it was his polish and strong strikeout potential that had the Marlins sold on his ability to contribute sooner than later and I expect him to appear in Miami within the next few seasons.
Assuming that Heaney signs he looks like he has the ceiling of a number two starter or an above average number three. The development of the secondary pitches will determine if he becomes the former. If he fails to reach his ceiling I could see him performing well as a back-end rotation anchor for many years. I don’t think the bullpen should be considered at all at this point since he has a strong three pitch mix and a delivery that suits rotation work. If the Marlins are serious about fast-tracking the southpaw I could foresee Heaney getting a chance to showcase his talent in High-A Jupiter due to his advanced feel for pitching, but only if he signs quickly. Personally I expect the recently turned 21-year old to start his professional career at Class-A Greensboro and join Fernandez in the Grasshopper’s rotation with a chance for promotion later in the season. If the Marlins decide to buck the popular consensus and take a more conservative approach with their newest weapon, look for him to make a couple starts for the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League and then move up to Greensboro quickly with a chance to start 2013 in AA-Jacksonville. All that said it will be interesting to see how Heaney takes to full season work, as he has a wiry frame, and 2014* should be the earliest anyone should expect to see him toeing the mound in Miami.
*It is worth mentioning that the Mark Buehrle is the only starting pitcher on the Marlins who is currently signed through 2014 so there will be some holes to fill.
In their coverage of the draft MLB.com had Derek Holland tabbed as a player that Heaney compares favorably to due to the fact that they are both high velocity lefties, have strong secondary offerings, and upright deliveries. Heaney will have to beef up if he plans on reaching Holland’s sustained level of velocity and I am skeptical he will ever be able to sit in the upper-90’s mph. At one point Harold Reynolds threw out Chris Sale‘s name as another comparable for Heaney based on body type, advanced feel for pitching, and their abilities to move quickly through a system. I again think this is a bit off as Sale, like Holland, has superior velocity that I just don’t see Heaney ever reaching. Fortunately, Heaney does not need to over-power hitters at the next level to be successful. He has the secondary offerings to play up his fastball as well as excellent control, something both Holland and Sale were not as proficient in when they were drafted.
In my opinion the Marlins broke from tradition at the right time to select the best left-handed collegiate pitcher available and it is a good pairing as the Marlins are sorely lacking advanced pitchers. To add a lefty of Heaney’s pedigree has to be considered a win for Miami. Likewise Heaney should be excited that he was drafted by a team that views him as a fast mover and someone to build around. From the early looks of it he will have every opportunity to push the envelope and advance quickly at each level something not all prospects can claim. It was a lower risk pick than most Marlins fans are probably use to and ultimately Andrew Heaney will decide how great the reward will be.