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Fernandez, Myers top MLB rookies

Jeff Dahn

Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Perfect Game National Showcase alumni Jose Fernandez from the Miami Marlins and Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays, are the winners of the National League and American League Rookie of Year Awards, respectively, Major League Baseball announced Monday night.

The Jackie Robinson ROY Awards, voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), provide a perfect capper to the phenomenal rookie seasons turned in by Fernandez, the Marlins’ sensational, hard-throwing right-handed starting pitcher, and Myers, the Rays’ terrific, sweet-swinging right-fielder.

Fernandez won the NL ROY Award with 26 of 30 first-place votes and four second-place votes, good for 142 points. He was a finalist for the award along with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig (four first-place votes, 95 points) and St. Louis Cardinal right-handed starter Shelby Miller (12 points).

Myers received 23 first-place and five second-place votes from the BBWAA panel, and totaled 131 points. He easily out-pointed Boston Red Sox/Detroit Tigers’ shortstop Jose Iglesias (five first-place votes, 80 points) and his Rays’ teammate, right-handed starter Chris Archer (one first-place vote, 35 points), the other finalists for the award.

Fernandez, a native of Cuba, was overwhelming for an undermanned Marlins team after making his debut on April 7 at the age of 20. A National League All-Star, he finished with a 12-6 record and a 2.19 ERA with 187 strikeouts and 58 walks in 172 2/3 innings pitched, and his .182 opponents’ batting average was the best in Major League Baseball. The Marlins finished 62-100 but were 18-10 in Fernandez’s 28 starts.

“I think anyone who watched the game of baseball last year and watched Jose pitch every five days, knows how spectacular a young man he is,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told Joe Frisaro of before the winner was announced. “He’s the Rookie of the Year in my book and I am hopeful the writers agree.”

The Marlins selected Fernandez with the 14th pick of the first round in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft right out of Braulio Alonso High School in Tampa, the school he attended after arriving in the United States from Cuba in 2009.

He participated in eight Perfect Game events in 2010, including the Perfect Game National Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla.; the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego; and the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., playing with FTB Mizuno. His fastball topped out at 97 mph at the PG WWBA World after reaching 95 at the PG National and 94 at the All-American Classic.

Myers, a North Carolina native, came over to the Rays from the Kansas City Royals in a December (2012) seven-player trade that sent him and three other Royals prospects east in exchange for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis, and a player to be named. Myers was coming off a 2012 season split between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha in which he had hit .316 with 26 doubles, 37 home runs with 109 runs batted in.

He started the season at Triple-A Durham but was called up and made his major league debut on June 18 at age 22 in the first game of a double-header with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Myers went 0-for-4 in a Rays’ loss but that was in no way indicative of what lay ahead. He played in 87 more games the rest of the season and hit .293 with 23 doubles, 13 home runs, 53 RBI and 50 runs scored, and posted a .831 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

The Rays were 36-33 the morning of June 18 but were 56-38 (.679) with Myers on the roster. They finished as runner-up in the American League East, beat the Texas Rangers in a one-game tie-breaker and then beat the Cleveland Indians in the AL Wild Card game.

"It's been pretty cool just to be able to be called up to the big leagues and play on a good team; I'm having a good time," Myers said during an interview with PG from Terry Park in Fort Myers, Fla., on Aug. 1. "The guys are great in the clubhouse and it's just a lot of fun. They keep it loose in there and (manager) Joe Madden does a good job with everything there.”

Myers played in five Perfect Game events in 2007-08, which included a strong showing at the 2008 PG National Showcase in Minneapolis. He also played in four PG WWBA tournaments – including the 2007 and 2008 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. – all with coach Andy Partin and the North Carolina-based Dirtbags Baseball.

"I had never played with a team where I had more fun playing baseball than that," Myers said of his Dirtbags experience. "All the guys on the team were great, the coaches they do a great job and they keep it loose, and Andy does a great job with what he does. It's the most fun I've ever had playing baseball at that age.”

"It was really neat to watch that guy develop, and he was super talented when we got him," Partin told PG in August. "He could just do things on the field that not a lot of kids could do and he was great for us. It's been a lot of fun because he's had success at every level. He's had to earn it to get (to the big leagues) and I'm glad he's up there; I think he's going to be there a long time."

The selections of Fernandez and Myers make it six straight years Perfect Game alumni earned at least one of the two ROY Awards:

The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout and the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper won the AL and NL awards, respectively, in 2012; the Tampa Bay Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson won the AL honor in 2011; the San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey won the NL award in 2010; the Florida Marlins’ Chris Coghlan was the NL winner in 2009; and the Chicago Cubs’ Geovany Soto took home NL honors in 2008.

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