Prospect #27: RHP, Junior Fernandez
Previously Ranked 16th in preseason and 21st at July reranking
International Signing in 2014
QUICK WRITE UP
Fernandez is yet another prospect on the list that I did not know exactly what to do about. He missed the first two months of the season because of an arm injury that he suffered during spring training. I'm always apprehensive about aggressively ranking prospects that are coming off of injuries, especially pitchers with arm injuries.
The other issue is, Fernandez is now exclusively a bullpen arm for the rest of the season. I hate putting minor league bullpen guys on these lists. As a matter of fact, he and Conner Greene are the only two that you'll find on this list and they have a good chance of being the only two that I ever rank. Most of the best relief pitchers in the majors were starters in the minors. There are exceptions, but this is true more often than not.
However, Fernandez stays relatively low on the list because he's been incredible since returning to action, his velocity is checking out, and his change up is still his change up; one of the best in the system. He also stays in the middle of the list because his fastball explodes out of his hand:
*UPDATED ON 8/23/2018*
I've decided to drop Fernandez a great distance on the list because he just hasn't been good enough in relief. He's walking too many and he isn't striking out enough hitters. Couple that with the uncertainty about his role moving forward and I just felt like the smart thing to do and more accurate picture to paint would be to drop him down while keeping him in the Top 30. We really need to see a strong finish, if not a dominat finish, from Fernandez to feel as good we should about him entering the 2019 season.
WHY TO GET EXCITED
Fernandez throws what is probably the best (certainly most-underrated) change up in the organization out of all of the pitchers that haven't yet made a major league debut. He throws it with good arm action and it has good movement.
His two-seam fastball has good sinking motion and he throws it consistently well.
If the bullpen is his ultimate future then he'll be in the majors quicker than he would have if he would have stayed a starter. He has the potential to be a very good bullpen piece with a chance to be a high-leverage reliever.
So far out of the bullpen, Fernandez has been really good when he is trusting his stuff and attacking the zone. His faith in his stuff isn't always there and it's evident when it is there, but when it is there is very good.
He's still only 21-years-old and he's pitching in an advanced league. There is still time to develop. There's still time to work and refine. Fernandez has a ton of talent and he's still worth getting excited for.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
INJURY. Fernandez' 2017 season was cut short because of arm trouble. His 2018 season started late because of arm injury/arm fatigue. He appears to be fine now, but that's a lot of time for a young man to miss because of injury.
Fernandez could once hit the high-high 90's with his fastball somewhat often. Now, he can hit the high 90's but he can't dial it up there as consistently. He does stay in the mid-90's so far.
It remains to be seen if pitching out of the bullpen full-time is in Fernandez' future or not. A bullpen arm doesn't have nearly the value that starter does so his value and prospect standing takes a big hit if he's going to stay in the bullpen. It might be the best thing for his career and his major league aspirations, but not for his perceived value.
There isn't much in the way of a defined third offering from Fernandez. The third offering that he throws, a breaking pitch of some sorts, is loopy. It doesn't look like a cutter or a curve or a slider. It's just... blah and he has little control of it.
In his brief sample size with Springfield, Fernandez isn't throwing many strikes. To me, when I watch him, it seems like he lacks faith in his own stuff or that he's trying to hard to "not get hit."
Well, this one, too, is a pickle. It's really tough to say. I'd like for Junior to move back into the rotation, but there's no guarantee that he'll hold up. A lot of his value is lost in the pen, but he'd probably get to the majors quick in the bullpen. He has the kind of stuff to be dominant in the pen if he just keeps himself under control. I'm going to cop-out here. He's relatively new to relieving, so let's give him some breathing room as a relief pitcher and see what his ultimate future is in the organization before we go back to throwing around comps. Just know that his potential is very high either way.
Thank you to Fangraphs for the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!