I'll never get to watch the young Picasso make finger paintings, and I'll never get to watch the young Mozart tap out melodies on his starter piano. What I can do, however, is watch a budding mound artist make minor-league hitters look silly before the rest of the world realizes that a new genius has arrived. And Tuesday afternoon I was lucky enough to do exactly that.
Tacoma Rainiers right-hander Felix Hernandez just might be the best 19-year-old pitcher in more than 20 years. Sure, Steve Avery was pretty good in 1989. Pitching in Class A and Double-A, he went 12-7 with a 2.11 ERA and struck out 165 batters in 171 innings. The third overall pick in the draft just the summer before, Avery was the Kid with the Golden Arm.
But do his achievements compare to what Hernandez is doing? Hernandez is not only the youngest starting pitcher in Triple-A right now, he's also the youngest starting pitcher in Triple-A or Double-A. And he's thriving. Entering Tuesday's start against the Portland Beavers, Hernandez was 7-4 with a Pacific Coast League-leading 2.53 ERA. He is, right now, better than half the starting pitchers in the major leagues and he just turned 19 a couple of months ago. All of which is why I think he's the most impressive 19-year-old pitcher since 1984, when Dwight Gooden won 17 games in the major leagues.