When could Heaney arrive in bigs? Mid-June likely

WASHINGTON — The last highly-touted lefty pitching prospect the Marlins had who wore No. 35 was Dontrelle Willis in 2003.

Eleven years later, Andrew Heaney is drawing some D-Train-like attention as he progresses through the Minor Leagues.

Heaney continues to build his case that he is close to being big league ready. On Tuesday night, while the Marlins were being rained out at Washington, Heaney was breezing through six innings of shutout ball.

For Triple-A New Orleans, Heaney made quick work of Round Rock in the Pacific Coast League. He yielded a first-inning single to Bryan Petersen, who formerly played for the Marlins. That was the only baserunner the lefty allowed, as he struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.

Heaney retired 16 straight and he came out for the seventh inning before the game was delayed and eventually stopped due to rain.

New Orleans won 9-0, giving Heaney his first Triple-A win in two starts. He wasn’t involved in a decision in his first outing.

The Marlins are moving differently with their top prospect. In years past, the organization repeatedly brought pitchers straight from Double-A to the big leagues, if they showed they were ready.

Willis did it in ’03, making the leap after six Double-A starts. The D-Train went on to be an All-Star that year, and he was the N.L. Rookie of the Year.

Miami’s change of thinking is to give their prospects some more experience against the highest Minor League level. At Triple-A, a number of those hitters have previously played in the Majors, like Petersen.

Heaney clearly is dominating at the Minor League level, and many wonder how good he will be in the Majors. In speaking with numerous talent evaluators, there is a feeling he will settle in as a solid No. 3.

But that isn’t the view of everybody.

I spoke to one scout the other day who has watched Heaney on numerous occasions. The scout feels the lefty can be a No. 1. Not as dominant an ace as Jose Fernandez, but a legitimate top of the rotation talent.

According to MLB.com, Heaney is the Marlins’ No. 1 prospect, and he ranks 25th overall.

Already he’s made two Triple-A starts. The question is when will he be ready for the big leagues?

It could be after two more Triple-A starts. He is next up on June 1, and after that, he lines up as June 6, when the Marlins are at Chicago to face the Cubs.

About that time the super two deadline will pass.

Heaney could make a fifth, and perhaps final Triple-A start on June 11, when the Marlins are at Texas. It is doubtful, the Marlins would want the lefty to make his MLB debut at a hitter-friendly road spot like Texas.

My guess is Heaney could debut with the Marlins sometime in the June 13-15 series against the Pirates at Marlins Park.

Joe Frisaro

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