Heaney could be big piece to future rotation

MIAMI — If projections pan out, the Marlins’ rotation promises to be strong for years to come.

Another potential top of the rotation arm was added to the system on Monday night when Miami selected Andrew Heaney from Oklahoma State with the ninth overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft.

Assuming there are no hangups signing the left-hander, Heaney could soon be joining a strong rotation at low Class A Greensboro.

Heaney, who turns 21 today (June 5), was the Pac 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year.

Because he has college experience, he has three years of development past high school. The left-hander could be on a career path similar to Adam Conley, who turned 22 in late May.

Conley, another lefty, was the Marlins’ second round pick in 2011. He’s currently 6-1 with a 2.83 ERA at Greensboro.

Heaney and Conley may not be looked at bonafide aces, but both have the ability to be strong Nos. 2 or 3 caliber left-handers.

The Marlins feel they do a future ace in their system. Jose Fernandez, their first-round pick in ’11, is dominating at Greensboro. The right-hander is 6-0 with a 1.50 ERA, and 78 strikeouts to 20 walks in 60 innings.

Fernandez will turn 20 on July 31.

As an organization, the Marlins don’t need to rush Fernandez, Conley or Heaney.

But clearly, the franchise is seeking legitimate pieces to the rotation in the next few seasons.

The Marlins rotation faces the possibility of losing Anibal Sanchez after this season. Sanchez is eligible for free agency, and the organization has not had contract talks with his agent regarding 2013 and beyond.

Also after this year, Carlos Zambrano could pursue free agency. Indications are the Marlins could look to bring back Zambrano, who clearly is comfortable pitching in Miami and for manager Ozzie Guillen.

Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are signed through 2013. And Mark Buehrle is in the first of his four-year deal.

So Buehrle, Johnson and Nolasco project to be back next year. If Zambrano returns, there is a chance the club could be seeking to replace Sanchez.

The way the organization is shaped now, there are options at Triple-A New Orleans to replace one rotation spot. Wade LeBlanc would likely be the first choice.

LeBlanc has thrown 293 innings in the big leagues, and he has more than 650 innings in the Minor Leagues. The left-hander has been solid at New Orleans.

Alex Sanabia and lefty Brad Hand also are gaining more Minor League seasoning in Triple-A. Both have pitched in the big leagues.

How fast Heaney can make it to the big leagues will depend largely on him. Players usually let teams know when they are ready.

Right now, the Marlins have more internal options to go with when there comes a time to fill rotation spots.

Joe Frisaro

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