Willis became an immediate rage in a season he won National League Rookie of the Year honors.
Could Jose Fernandez mania be next in Miami?
If the 20-year-old's MLB debut on Sunday was an indication, Fernandez has the makings of a rising star. The right-hander struck out eight and allowed one run in five innings against the Mets at Citi Field.
"Will the fans embrace it?" Marlins president David Samson said. "We didn't know the fans would embrace Dontrelle like they did. You never know when it's going to happen. It's hard to plan it."
Fernandez is an inspiring story. A Cuban defector who was Miami's first-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, he has made the leap from Class A ball to the big leagues.
Mike Redmond was the Marlins' backup catcher in '03 when Willis inspired the team. The new Miami manager believes Fernandez can give the '13 Marlins a similar impact to what Willis did a decade ago.
"His stuff is so good," the first-year skipper said. "His stuff is so polished as a pitcher. He is throwing the 94-95 mph fastball, and it's amazing how good his secondary pitches are. He threw some nasty changeups and some great curveballs as well.
"We've definitely got a couple of guys banged up. We need guys to go out there and step up. A lot of times you don't say, 'Hey, it's going to be a 20-year-old rookie to be the guy.' But, it could be."
The Marlins are closely monitoring Fernandez, limiting him to between 150-170 innings. That's why his afternoon was done after 80 pitches at New York in his debut.
With Fernandez, the team is taking it easy. They are easing him in to what promises to be big-time success.
The righty's next start is set for Saturday night against the Phillies.
"We're not doing a Jose Fernandez section in the ballpark, or a Jose Fernandez bobblehead," Samson said. "If he starts 12-0 with a 1.25 [ERA] like Dontrelle, or whatever he did, then those things are going to happen."