Pop quiz hot shot: Who was the last pitcher to pitch a 9-inning complete game for the Mariners affiliate Jackson Generals? Was it Taijuan Walker, one of the top prospects in the world? Danny Hultzen, the number two pick last year? James Paxton, the hard-throwing lefty that struck out 52 batters in 46.1 innings before hitting the DL?
No, it's right there in the headline you dimwit. Anthony Fernandez.
Called up to replace Hultzen when he was moved up to Tacoma, Fernandez (yet another southpaw), made his Jackson debut on June 23rd and pitched the Generals first complete game in three years, allowing six hits, 1 ER, 1 BB and 5 strikeouts in his nine innings. It was only the second time in his minor league career (signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006) that he had gone nine innings but he had been fairly dominant in the unforgiving High Desert. Fernandez had a 3.68 ERA for the Mavericks with 79 Ks and only 14 BBs in 88 innings.
So Jackson had lost one of their top players in Hultzen and replacing him with anyone else in the organization was going to be a downgrade, but Fernandez is making a strong argument that he can be just as effective. If not moreso...
Last night he took the mound for the second time in AA and for the second time he pitched a complete game, this time pitching a shutout at Pensacola with 8 strikeouts and only 1 walk. Fernandez, 22, is quickly moving his way up prospect boards and up the organizational ladder. He's rarely ever pitched bad during his minor league career, but has never been known to have "the stuff" that would make him a great pitcher in the major leagues. However, if he keeps pitching like this he could find himself at the back-end of a major league rotation before we know it.
He's already proven to be much more than just a "replacement."