The 2008 season was a very good one for Miguel Fermin. Getting his first taste of baseball on American soil after two seasons in his native Dominican Republic, the 23-year-old catcher enjoyed a breakout season for the Jamestown Jammers, leading the New York-Penn League in batting average (.347) and home runs (17) and finishing fifth in RBIs (47).
His performance, in which he became just the third NYPL player since 1967 to lead the circuit in both batting and homers, earned him the George M. Trautman Award that is given annually to the league’s top player.
· Miguel Fermin’s player page
Four years later, however, Fermin found himself in a difficult position at the end of Spring Training when it became clear to Marlins management that he was not going to have the opportunity to continue developing as a catcher. Instead, they approached him with another option: how about taking a shot at becoming a pitcher?
“We had that conversation with him, gave him a night to sleep on it,” said Marlins director of player development Brian Chattin. “He came back the next day and kind of liked the idea, so we made a change.”
The season, and Fermin’s pitching career, is just five weeks old, but his transition to the mound has encountered a few rough patches. The athletic right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.65 ERA in 13 appearances. In his last six outings, from July 12-24, he has allowed six runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Marlins management remains unconcerned, however, as long as he continues to grow comfortable in his new role.
“This first year, because it’s so new, we’re just looking for a little bit of a feel to how a delivery works, a little bit of repeatability in the delivery and hopefully a little bit of the arm strength we saw as a catcher translating onto the mound,” said Chattin. “So if you can get a repeatable delivery and you can show a little bit of stuff that you can look at to potentially grow and develop with, then we’re satisfied with the first year.”
While expectations are understandably low, Fermin’s performance has been a pleasant surprise in at least one area: his ability to throw strikes. He’s walked just four batters and struck out 11 in 14 1/3 innings this season.
“He’s been in the zone from the first day we put him on the mound and has really shown an ability to fill up a strike zone with not just his fastball, but also his slider,” said Chattin, noting that Chris Hatcher, who underwent a similar conversion last season and has appeared in 13 Major League games for the Marlins as a pitcher, demonstrated the same early aptitude for throwing strikes. “That’s a real encouraging sign that we weren’t expecting this early.”
Off the field, Fermin impresses those who interact with him on a daily basis by maintaining a consistently positive attitude even with his professional career at an uncertain juncture.
“Fermin is the type of guy who always has a smile on his face,” said Scott Eddy, who was Jamestown’s director of baseball operations and media relations in 2008 and has served as the team’s play-by-play broadcaster since 2009. “He was like that in 2008 and he’s like that now, even though I’m sure things have not gone as planned and he’s back in the NYPL four years later. His love of the game and being at the park is always written all over him.
“Even with the language barrier, that kind of thing just rubs off on all of his teammates.”
Brian Moynahan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.