Andrew Heaney is one of the reasons the Marlins have a brighter future than you might think. The team has a plethora of talented young arms, and the 22-year-old southpaw is poised to join Jose Fernandez and his 23-and-under brethren in the Miami rotation.
Drafted ninth-overall in 2012 out of Oklahoma State, Heaney was impressive this summer in his first full professional season. In 19 starts between high-A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville, he went 9-3 with a 1.60 ERA. The NCAA’s strikeout leader in his final year in Stillwater, Heaney features a low-to-mid-90s fastball and solid command.
Heaney — who is further honing his skills in the Arizona Fall League, with the Glendale Desert Dogs — talked about his repertoire and approach earlier this week.
Heaney on his pitching identity: “I shy away from the power-pitcher label. In this day and age, you have guys making 98 look normal. But while I wouldn’t consider myself a power pitcher, I do attack hitters. No matter what your stuff is, or what you label yourself as, that’s what you want to do. I like to go fastball early and then mix in slider-changeup.”
On his best secondary pitch: “Whichever is feeling better that day is what I usually go to for my second pitch. I’m trying to get comfortable with all three, working them in early, but [how sharp they are] varies.”
“It’s weird, but which of the two is the better pitch for me is game to game. I’ll usually get a feel for what’s working in the first inning. When my slider is working early, I tend to have a little more success. If you can establish a good breaking ball, and get guys kind of guessing a little bit, that’s good. But if you can get them off balance with your changeup, that’s good too.”
On his slider and changeup: “My slider is more slurvy than sharp. It’s bigger and not quite as hard as some guys’. I consider it a slider, but yes, that’s how it started [a curveball that evolved into a slider].
“My change is basically a circle that has a little run and sink. My primary fastball is a four-seam, but I throw a two-seam changeup. The way I pronate my two-seam changeup, it ends up rotating more like a four-seam, so I actually get better deception with it.”
On working with Jupiter pitching coach Joe Coleman: “It was awesome. I really liked working with him. I’m excited to hopefully see him again in spring training. He’s really good at watching and observing. He’s not filling your head with too much stuff. When he says something, you know it’s important to him. If he has nothing to say, he won’t say anything. Sometimes that’s the best thing.”
On working with Cincinnati Reds minor-league pitching coach Tom Browning in the AFL: “It’s good to get a different perspective, and the first thing he’ll tell you is that he’s not a mechanics guy. He’s more about the mental side of the game. When you’re pitching to hitters like this, that’s what you need. You need to be mentally on top of your game.
“A lot of times during the course of the season you’re getting tired, or working through different mechanical stuff, and especially now — the end of the year — you need to be mentally sharp. You have to work with what you have, physically.”
On mechanics and keeping things old-school: “Nowadays, with technology, some people think you can use video and make everybody the same mechanically. But in the end, it comes down to the fact you’re just throwing a baseball off a mound. That hasn’t changed in 100 years. They can change the mound — they can change whatever — but the act of throwing a baseball is never going to change. Nobody is going to revolutionize that.
“Nobody has ever told me to change my arm action, or anything like that, but I’ve worked on not closing myself off quite so much with my stride, and getting a little bit further out with a longer stride. That’s kind of helped me time everything up, and get me going toward the plate.”
On gearing toward next season; “The off-season is about getting stronger, more physical, and coming into camp in good shape. From there, I want to work on the things Miami wants me to work on, like holding runners. I want to keep throwing well, and keep progressing.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.