Andrew Heaney had quite the busy offseason. He was traded twice in one mid-December’s day, traveling around Los Angeles from team to team. After a horrific Spring Training, he headed to Salt Lake and entered the Bees rotation in the Pacific Coast League.
Heaney has since made his 2015 Major League debut and has looked like… well, the pitching prospect many have envisioned he would, possibly even surpassing some expectations. Did the Marlins jump the gun on Heaney and give up on him too quickly after a rocky 2014 Major League debut?
Heaney was the Miami Marlins ninth overall draft pick in the first round of the 2012 draft. He came into the league out of Oklahoma State with a fastball that hit between 90 to 95 and two solid out pitches with a very good slider and change-up. Just take a look at him fooling Robinson Cano in his last outing before the Break.
Heading into both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Heaney was a Top 30 to Top 40 prospect across the board, as one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Last year, after a solid performance between two levels, Heaney earned his big league debut with the Marlins. It wasn’t pretty.
Heaney allowed 19 runs over five starts and seven total appearances spanning 29.1 innings. He looked sharp in his debut, going six innings and allowing just one run taking the tough luck 1-0 loss to the Mets. He would allow no less than four runs in each of his next four starts.
Even more frightening was that he allowed at least one home run in every start, finishing the year by allowing six long balls in those 29.1 innings for an 18.1-percent home run to fly ball ratio. Even the very hittable Nathan Eovaldi had just a 6.6-percent HR/FB. He finished with a 5.83 ERA (5.45 FIP), a 1.33 WHIP and a career low 6.14 strikeout per nine ratio.
So, the Marlins shipped him off to the Dodgers for Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas. The Dodgers would ship him off to the Angels for Howie Kendrick. It is forgivable for the Dodgers to trade him away, as they have a solid rotation in the Majors and some of the better pitching prospects on their pipeline. The Marlins, however, may have acted a bit prematurley.
Gordon is having a sensational season, don’t get me wrong, but are the Marlins better off with him? Remember not so long ago, the Marlins came into the 2015 season behind a lot of hype after a strong finish to 2014. They were expected to contend for the Wild Card slot, perhaps even the division by some, but instead have plummeted to a 38-51 record. The Angels, well, since recalling Heaney, they have propelled themselves into first place.
As John Sickels said earlier this month, "last year looked like he needed to make some final adjustments with his location, learning exactly what he can get away with in the majors. It looks like he is doing that." Heaney has looked like the prospect people thought he was over hist first four starts.
The 24-year old lefty is sitting on a three game win streak, 3-0 on the season with a 1.32 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. He has allowed just two home runs over his first 27.1 innings, which includes two starts against the Astros and the Yankees, who are No. 1 and 2 respectively in home runs this season. Could you imagine him in the NL East getting to face off against the Mets, Braves and Phillies woeful offenses?
His strikeout rate is up to 7.6 per nine — still not as high as 8.9 Minor Leagues career — and his walk rate is down. Batters are only hitting .194 against him with a .233 BABIP. He has stranded 94-percent of his runners, so any jams he is finding himself in, he is quickly getting out of.
Does any of this mean that Heaney’s numbers are going to hold up for the rest of the season? Probably not, but he is certainly looking like a solid Major League arm.
Now the Marlins are eagerly awaiting the arrival of top prospect Tyler Kolek, but he is just 19 and quite bit away. Justin Nicolino fared better than Jose Urena in his big league debut, but neither look quite ready to enter the rotation on a regular basis. Heaney clearly is. When trading an elite prospect, you better get a game changer back.
Gordon is electric and exciting, but he has not helped the Marlins move forward. Miami has a rotation that has been hit by the injury bug pretty hard with Henderson Alvarez and Mat Latos seeing a lot of the time on the DL and Jarred Cosart in the Minors working out his issues. It may be hindsight, but I think the Marlins are wishing they still had Heaney.