ST. PETERSBURG — Jose Fernandez’s promotion to the Miami Marlins to begin the season was unexpected considering he hadn’t thrown an inning above Single-A. Wil Myers’ mid-June arrival was highly anticipated and somewhat delayed, according to some who follow the Rays.
Both were impact players and proved early that they belonged in the big leagues.
Tonight, both are expected to be rewarded with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Rookie of the Year Award for their respective leagues — Fernandez in the National and Myers in the American.
The awards will be announced at 6 p.m. on MLB Network.
Fernandez, the Alonso High product, reached the major leagues less than two years after the Marlins took him with the 14th pick in the 2011 draft.
He thought he would begin the year at Double-A and maybe pitch his way into a September call-up.
“It came out a little better than that,” he told reporters in Miami near the end of the season.
Injuries to a pair of Marlins starters plus Fernandez’s work in spring training landed the then 20-year-old right-hander a spot on the Opening Day lineup.
Fernandez struck out eight New York Mets in five innings during his major-league debut. He held the Philadelphia Phillies to a pair of hits over six innings in his next start to earn his first big-league win.
Fernandez finished the season 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA in 28 starts. He threw a perfect inning against the American League in the All-Star game. He turned in a quality start (six innings pitched, three or fewer earned runs allowed) in 16 of his final 18 starts.
“It was definitely more than anyone expected,” Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said of Fernandez’s rookie campaign.
Fernandez, also a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award, is joined by St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig as finalists for the rookie of the year.
Myers is joined by teammate Chris Archer and Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias.
Myers was acquired along with three other prospects in December from the Kansas City Royals in a trade for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.
Sent to Triple-A Durham for more seasoning at the start of the season, Myers joined the Rays on June 18 for a doubleheader in Boston. He played 88 games and had the most doubles, RBIs and runs scored on the team through the remainder of the season.
“Wil stepped right into the middle of an order of a playoff-contending team and really hit the ground running,” Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “There was a time in the season where he had only been up for 60 games and it felt like a year-and-a-half. He had been through so many different things and was a big part of the success that we enjoyed this year. He’s a guy who is still learning the different nuances of the game. He’s still extremely young. I think the thing that really stood out about him was the work ethic and the passion for what he does. The success he had this year gives us the confidence that he’s going to continue to get better.”
The Rays were 36-33 before Myers’ promotion and 56-38 with him on the team.
Archer reached the Rays on June 1. He was 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 23 starts. He ranked first in ERA, opponent average (.226), complete games (two), shutouts (two), hits per nine innings (7.5) and WHIP (1.13) among all AL rookie pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings pitched.
“We wouldn’t be nominated for this award if we didn’t have guys in the lineups surrounding (Myers), setting him up to see good pitches, and the guys playing defense behind me,” Archer said. “We can credit ourselves probably a good portion. Wil and I were talking earlier. We don’t forget the reason why we’re here is because of the team we’re on.”