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Marlins' top prospect Heaney stays on rise

Southpaw battling for rotation spot after impressive season in 2013

Marlins' top prospect Heaney stays on rise play video for Marlins' top prospect Heaney stays on rise

JUPITER, Fla. -- A strained lat could have derailed Andrew Heaney's 2013 season. Instead, it just delayed what turned into a rewarding year.

Ranked by MLB.com as the Marlins' No. 1 pitching prospect, the left-hander dominated at three levels last year -- Class A Advanced Jupiter, Double-A Jacksonville and the Arizona Fall League.

"Getting hurt is never fun," the 22-year-old said. "You have to take the positives out of it, even if it is an injury."

The positives are Heaney overcame adversity and showed why he is so highly touted.

In camp as a non-roster invitee, Heaney is considered a long shot to win a rotation shot. But the fact remains he has a shot, if he shows he is ready.

A number of teams are showing a willingness to give their young pitchers big league shots. Due to injuries, the Marlins promoted Jose Fernandez from Class A to the Majors.

Yet, even without the injuries, Fernandez showed he was ready to make the jump on Opening Day.

The Cardinals are another example, bringing up Michael Wacha late in the season.

Fernandez was the 14th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, while Heaney and Wacha were first-rounders in 2012.

Miami selected Heaney with the ninth overall pick, and St. Louis took Wacha at No. 19.

"I think teams are obviously going with younger and younger guys," Heaney said. "You can see it with Fernandez, maybe that might spur more teams to consider bringing guys up younger.

"I think sometimes we get caught up on how quickly you get up there. You see the guys like Fernandez and Wacha just dominating at that level. You don't notice the guys who get called up early, but get sent down. They kind of get lost in the shuffle. I understand why they have to be careful about bringing guys up too quickly."

Performance and health are keys for Heaney.

If he shows he is ready to make the leap, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefty could surprise and win a rotation spot.

Heaney also has to stay healthy.

Last spring, Heaney strained the lat on his left side in a simulated game early in camp, and it led to him going on the disabled list.

"Strength-wise, it's obviously big for me," Heaney said. "I'm a slender guy. You can't predict what injury you're going to have or whatever. But any little injury, you just stay on top of it."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter Less

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{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
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