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Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was named the National League's 2013 Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Monday by the Baseball Writers Association of America, capping of a memorable season for the 21-year-old Cuban rookie.
Fernandez nabbed 26 of 30 first-place votes in the BBWAA's balloting, topping fellow NL finalists Yasiel Puig, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Shelby Miller, a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. He finished second in the majors with a 2.19 ERA (best among rookies), allowing the fewest hits per 9 innings (5.8).
Opponents hit just .182 against Fernandez all year, and he led all NL rookies with 4.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAR is an advanced statistic that measures a player's total value to a team.
The award was the second momentous event for Fernandez in two days. On Sunday night, he was reunited with his grandmother for the first time since he defected from Cuba six years ago.
The righthanded Fernandez finished the year with a 12-6 record, one of the few bright spots for a Marlins team that lost 100 games. He was the club's only representative at the All-Star Game, and he retired the side in his inning-long appearance, striking out former American League MVP Dustin Pedroia and home run champion Chris Davis.
The Marlins selected Fernandez with the 14th pick of the 2011 MLB draft. His promotion to the majors coming out of spring training was a surprise, but he quickly proved his worth. In his first two starts of the year, Fernandez gave up just one run over 11 innings. He gave up one earned run or less in 15 of his 28 starts.
Born and raised in Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez defected to Mexico by boat with his mother in 2008. It was their fourth attempt to leave the country. They eventually settled in Tampa, where Fernandez excelled at Tampa Alonso High School.
"It has been pretty hard for me to get here — not to the big leagues, but to the United States," he said this summer. "Living in Cuba for 15 years taught me a lot. Life over there is pretty tough. I'm incredibly blessed to be in the United States."
Fernandez is the fourth Rookie of the Year winner in Marlins franchise history, joining pitcher Dontrelle Willis (2003), shortstop Hanley Ramirez (2006), and outfielder Chris Coghlan (2009). He is also the first Cuban-born player to win NL Rookie of the Year.
He is also a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award, given to the league's top pitcher. Fernandez is up against 2011 winner Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (widely considered to be the favorite) and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright.
The Cy Young winner for each league will be announced Wednesday.