With left-hander Andrew Heaney following in the footsteps of Jose Fernandez and a number of other top Marlins pitching prospects to break into the Majors, lefty Justin Nicolino is now Miami's top pitching prospect in the Minors.
He sure pitched like it Saturday.
Nicolino, the Marlins' No. 4 prospect, threw a five-hitter for his first career complete game, leading Double-A Jacksonville to a 6-0 win over Birmingham. Nicolino struck out four batters and didn't walk anyone, going the distance on 102 pitches, 71 of them for strikes.
The 22-year-old left-hander, ranked No. 67 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, improved to 7-2 with a 3.04 ERA on the year. Nicolino lacks the strikeout stuff of his heralded Marlins predecessors, having only fanned 39 batters in 91 2/3 innings, but he's giving up fewer than one hit per inning and he's walked only 10 batters in 15 starts this season.
Brought over in Miami's blockbuster trade with Toronto in November 2012, Nicolino posted an 8-4 record and 3.11 ERA in 142 innings over 27 starts last season between Jacksonville and Class A Advanced Jupiter.