JUNIOR FERNANDEZ, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: March 2, 1997
Signed: Int’l Free Agent, 2014, St. Louis Cardinals
How Acquired: Waiver Claim (from Cardinals)
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Fernandez signed for a fairly high bonus on the strength of a fastball that occasionally reached triple digits. He also threw a change that scouts regarded very highly, and a fringy slider. He made slow progress through the Cards’ system as a starter. After he ran into some arm troubles in 2016-17, St. Louis moved him permanently to the bullpen. Now he sits in the upper-90s. His slider has supposedly improved and it’s his main secondary pitch, although he still throws the change some. Except for the 2019 season, Fernandez has never pitched all that well, and since then he’s mostly pitched very poorly. The main problem has been that he’s more of a thrower than a pitcher, so his command and control haven’t been good. The Pirates acquired him via waivers.
Fernandez’ debut in the DSL wasn’t overly impressive, with a very low K rate.
In the GCL, Fernandez made strides, with very good walk and K rates. Baseball America ranked him ninth in the Cards’ farm system after the season.
Fernandez made 14 starts in low A, then moved up a level. He didn’t struggle exactly, but he certainly didn’t miss many bats. BA ranked him 21st after the season.
The Cards sent Fernandez back to high A and he showed improvement, although for the pitching-dominated Florida State League the numbers weren’t greatly impressive. He missed the last five weeks of the season with arm soreness. BA ranked him 20th afterward.
Fernandez missed the start of the season due to continued arm trouble. When he returned in mid-June, the Cards moved him to relief. He did well in eight games in high A, then moved up to AA, where control became a big issue.
The Cards sent Fernandez back down to high A to start the season, but he eventually made it to the majors. In 13 appearances with St. Louis, he pitched reasonably well except for problems with walks. At three levels in the minors, he mostly dominated. BA ranked him 13th in the Cards’ system after the season.
During the pandemic season, Fernandez made only three appearances with the Cards. Some of the missed time resulted from getting COVID. Whether due to that or some other reason, his velocity was down considerably. BA ranked him 23rd in the system after the season.
Fernandez missed the month of April, then bounced back and forth between AAA and the majors. He wasn’t effective at either level. That was especially true in the majors, where left-handed batters put up a .970 OPS against him.
Except for a stretch from late June through late July, Fernandez mostly stayed in AAA. He got hit hard, with opponents batting .293 against him, and left-handed hitters again hammered him. The ERA with the Cards was misleading; his FIP was 5.85. St. Louis designated him for assignment in early September and the Pirates claimed him. Between the Pirates and Indianapolis, Fernandez logged 11.1 IP. He didn’t allow any runs, but he walked ten, so that problem remains.
Fernandez continues Ben Cherington’s trend of trying to find nearly all his relievers on waivers. So far, that trend has produced consistent failure. Fernandez has no options left, so he’ll have to figure it out right away.
|2023: Major League Minimum|
|Signing Bonus: $400,000
MiLB Debut: 2014
MLB Debut: 8/11/2019
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2027
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 8/6/2019
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2020, 2021, 2022)
MLB Service Time: 1.155
|July 3, 2014: Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an international free agent.
August 6, 2019: Contract purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals.
September 5, 2022: Designated for assignment by the St. Louis Cardinals.
September 7, 2022: Claimed off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals by the Pittsburgh Pirates.