The Miami Marlins promoted top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney to the major league roster yesterday. Obviously we have no choice but to make Heaney Tuesday's Prospect of the Day.
Heaney was well-known to scouts as a high school player growing up in Oklahoma City, but most felt he needed more development time and would benefit from going to college. He was just 6-0, 150 pounds and did not look up to the rigors of pro ball. He was still drafted in the 24th round by the Rays in '09 but, as expected, he did not sign and went off to Stillwater to play college ball at Oklahoma State University. His freshman (5.16 ERA, 55/24 K/BB in 66 innings, 81 hits) and sophomore seasons (4.03 ERA, 51/23 K/BB in 67 innings, 77 hits) were nothing special, but he took a large step forward in the 2011 Cape Cod League, blossoming into a potential early pick entering 2012.
He met or exceeded all expectations during his junior year, posting a 1.60 ERA in 15 starts with a 140/22 K/BB in 118 innings, allowing just 74 hits. By this point, he was 6-2 and somewhere between 160 and 170 pounds. Drafted ninth-overall, he signed at the last minute for $2,600,000. He made six pro starts between the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic Leagues, combining for a 30/6 K/BB in 27 innings.
Slowed by a strained lateral muscle last spring, he wasn't up to full strength until early summer but was lights-out once he got going, posting a 0.88 ERA in 62 innings for High-A Jupiter with a 66/17 K/BB in 62 innings, followed by a 2.94 ERA with a 23/9 in 34 innings for Double-A Jacksonville. He's remained similarly effective in 2014 (2.47 ERA, 79/15 K/BB in 77 innings combined between Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans) and it is fair to say that minor league hitters are not challenging him at this point.
Born June 5, 1991, Heaney makes dominance look easy, throwing a 90-95 MPH fastball (sometimes as high as 97) with a low-effort delivery. He locates the fastball with precision, made all the more effective due to the contrast with a wicked slider (likely his best overall pitch) and a very good changeup.
Some scouts expressed concern when he was drafted that his slight frame might lead to a problem with durability, but it doesn't look like much of an issue at this point, mitigated by his overall athleticism, efficient approach, and additional physical maturity that has him up to 6-2, 185 pounds. There have been some complaints about trouble holding baserunners and an occasionally erratic changeup, but any flaws with Heaney seem like just a matter of gaining experience. His overall makeup is considered quite positive and he performs well under pressure.
Heaney has just four starts of Triple-A under his belt, albeit four excellent starts (2.74 ERA, 27/2 K/BB in 23 innings). As with any young pitcher he can be expected to take some lumps at some point, but overall he has everything needed to be an above-average, even excellent, big league pitcher.