Junior Fernandez (ranked #29 on my Prospects1500 Cardinals Top 50) is a St. Louis pitching prospect born in 1997 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Cardinals signed him in 2014 as an international free agent as a 17-year-old. Fernandez was then sent to the Dominican Summer League where he didn’t fair to well posting an 0-5 record in 6 starts with a 5.79 ERA in just 28 IP.
In 2015 Fernandez started the season in the Rookie League for the Gulf Coast Cardinals. He went on to pitch in 11 games, 9 of those being starts. He ended his 2015 Rookie League tenure with a 3-2 record. He lowered his ERA to 3.88, and vastly improved his K/9 rate from 4.2 in the DSL, to 10.2. Fernandez was then moved up to Palm Beach and got a small sample of High-A ball. He only pitched in 6.2 innings but had a minuscule 1.35 ERA.
The 2016 season saw Fernandez get to pitch in 1 inning in Spring Training, but he ended up walking 2 batters, and giving up 3 runs. He went on to pitch in 24 games starting 20 between Low-A and High-A. Collectively he finished the season with an 8-7 record, 4.06 ERA, and a 6.5 K/9.
— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) February 25, 2017
Fernandez started the 2017 in High-A Palm Beach where he made 16 starts, had a 5-3 record, and struck out 58 in 90.1 innings. Fernandez ended up feeling some soreness in his bicep, and spent alot of time on the DL.
In 2018, Fernandez moved from a starter to strictly a reliever role. He also moved up from High-A to AA Springfield. While in High-A he pitched in 9.2 innings with 7 strikeouts, and didn’t allow any runs. He then got called up to AA where he pitched in 21 innings, 17 strikeouts, and a mediocre 5.14 ERA. A somewhat decent season for someone changing roles and coming off an injury plagued season.
This season Fernandez started back in High-A due to his lack luster performance in AA to finish off 2018. He pitched just 11.2 innings before getting the call back up to AA. He’s pitched in 20.2 innings in AA this year and is looking great so far. Fernandez is sporting a 2.18 ERA, has 2 saves, and a whopping 12.6 K/9. I think it’s safe to say he’s fully recovered from the injuries that derailed his 2017 season. With the numbers he’s put up in AA this season I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets called up to AAA, or even end up in the Cardinals bullpen at some point this season.
Springfield Cardinals (AA) teammates RHP Junior Fernandez (10 G, 1.02 ERA, 24 SO, 2 SV) and OF Dylan Carlson (.304/.393/.559, 21 R, 17 RBI, 13 XBH) have been named our May Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Month. pic.twitter.com/rsqQDMZz9W
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) June 3, 2019
For his pitching arsenal, Fernandez deploys a high 90’s fastball, with an above average change-up. He can also mix in a slider but it will need to develop more. His control can be an issue and times but other times he’s locked in. To me I believe he should stay in the bullpen. He has had a little success as a starter at the lower levels, but with what he’s been doing this season it would seem he’s settled right into the bullpen role. If he can stay locked in he could be an 8th, or 9th inning pitcher in the MLB in the near future. The development of his slider could make him that much more dangerous, as well as limiting his control issues.
@Sgf_Cardinals pitcher and #stlcards prospect Junior Fernandez is back and dominating. The hard-throwing right-handed reliever and his manager share their insights with The Cardinal Nation’s @D_Shore23. ($) https://t.co/D6pfXkKtLv pic.twitter.com/4rIjBEQ7kZ
— Brian Walton (@B_Walton) June 3, 2019
Stay tuned for my next article where I will highlight some of the players the Cardinals recently drafted.