Every other day over the next two months, John Nagel and Kyle Reis will announce a new prospect on The Redbird Daily’s Top 30 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect List. For each prospect, John and Kyle will reveal where that prospect landed on their personal lists and also few thoughts on the prospect. We hope you enjoy!
Prospect #11: Junior Fernandez – International Signee, 2014
2016 Stats: Peoria/Palm Beach – 8-7, 4.06 ERA, 122 IP, 88 K, 54 BB
Kyle Reis (Prospect #12 On Personal List)
I had to triple check what year it was when the Cardinals signed Fernandez. 2014 seemed like it wasn’t long enough ago. I feel like I’ve been talking about Fernandez for as long as I’ve been talking about Alex Reyes. Alas, it was 2014 when the Cardinals signed the then 17 year old out of the Dominican Republic for $400,000.
Entering the 2016, scouts and pundits alike viewed Fernandez as a potential #2 starter. Some viewed his as the steal of the 2014 International signing period. But, after a rough 2016 season, many scouts have turned on him. Baseball America moved him all the way back to #21 in the Cardinals system one season after he placed 9th on their 2016 list. Many now project him as a relief pitcher. It’s a justifiable claim to make, especially because of command problems and how he mixes a 100 MPH fastball with an above average change up. Still, I think it’s crazy to turn on a kid so strongly, especially when that kid will be spending the entire 2017 season as a 20 year old.
I’m choosing to largely ignore Fernandez’ turn at Palm Beach and, instead, focus on the situation surrounding the promotion. He was the first pitcher from the Peoria staff to get a promotion. He was the youngest pitcher on that staff, too, and he was still picked for the promotion. It wasn’t a promotion of a top prospect over better performing, less pedigreed prospects either. That Peoria staff featured Sandy Alcantara, Ryan Helsley, and Jake Woodford. I think that’s a good measure to evaluate how the organization views his poise. That’s a tough jump to make, especially for a 19 year old.
Peoria is where he should have stayed, and he was good there. He wasn’t exactly over powering or Ace-like, but he was still very good pitching in the Midwest League before his promotion. In 14 starts for Peoria, Fernandez went 6-5 with an ERA of 3.33. He also struck out 63 in 78.1 Innings while holding hitters to an average against of .244. Like with many high octane starters, Fernandez struggled to throw strikes. The 3.9 walks per 9 at Peoria is….. alarming to say the least.
I’m not going to hold Fernandez’ struggles at Palm Beach against him. He went from pitch at a level 3 years older than him to a league that was 4.1 years his senior. If the scouts that turned on him are right, I see Fernandez developing into Fernando Rodney or Alex Colome at the back end of the bullpen. If he can stick as a starter by developing fastball command and progressing a slider, I could easily see a career path of Ervin Santana. Fernandez was never the scrawniest prospect, but it looks to me like he’s beefed up a bit entering the 2017 season. I think, perhaps incorrectly, that the added bulk will help with a small degree of his command issues.
John Nagel (Prospect #12 on Personal List)
Again, Kyle and I come to total agreement on a prospect. I like Fernandez and he has electric stuff, but like Kyle, I wonder how much longer he will be a starter. He has two negatives going against him. First, he is 6’1″ 180 lbs, which is not ideal for a starting pitcher. Second, he throws the ball really hard. Which, in itself isnt a negative, but if you combine it with his lack of size, all signs point to the bullpen.
With that said, there is a perfect example of over-coming these odds right there on the Cardinals starting rotation. Carlos Martinez is probably a tad smaller than Fernandez and was also once thought of as a reliever (I remember Keith Law had him pegged there).
If Junior Fernandez can “beat the odds” and fine tune his command, he will likely rise on my personal list. Until I think of him more as a future dominant reliever, he has no where to go but down on my ranking.
Baseball America and Derrick Goold have Fernandez ranked #21 on their prospect list. This tells me they 100% believe that he will end up as a reliever. If I were that certain, I woul probably have him in that area too as I don’t believe relievers have much prospect upside. That being said, I do think there is a chance he can stick as a starter.
Goodness, his stuff is electric though.
How we rank prospects: Click Here
Best of The Rest: Click Here
#30 Prospect: Daniel Poncedeleon
#29 Prospect: Jonathan Machado
#28 Prospect: Jeremy Martinez
#27 Prospect: John Gant
#26 Prospect: Alvaro Seijas
#25 Prospect: Nick Plummer
#24 Prospect: Jordan Hicks
#23 Prospect: Zac Gallen
#22 Prospect: Bryce Denton
#21 Prospect: Johan Oviedo
#20 Propsect: Randy Arozarena
#19 Prospect: Connor Jones
#18 Prospect: Dylan Carlson
#17 Prospect: Ronnie Williams
#16 Prospect: Paul DeJong
#15 Prospect: Ryan Helsley
#14 Prospect: Eli Alvarez
#13 Prospect: Jake Woodford
#12 Prospect: Dakota Hudson
#11 Prospect: Junior Fernandez
#10 Prospect: 3/15
#9 Prospect: 3/17
#8 Prospect: 3/19
#7 Prospect: 3/21
#6 Prospect: 3/23
#5 Prospect: 3/25
#4 Prospect: 3/27
#3 Prospect: 3/29
#2 Prospect: 3/31
#1 Prospect: 4/2