The Yankees have been adding an exorbitant number of minor league contracts to compete this upcoming spring training. One of the more exciting players was Junior Fernandez, a 25-year-old relief pitcher coming off a solid season with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Across 18.2 innings last season, he recorded a 2.41 ERA, a 93.3% left-on base rate and a 58.9% ground ball rate. He did give up a few home runs, recording a 1.45 HR/9 rate, but he was otherwise strong, utilizing insane velocity to his advantage.
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The Yankees might’ve been able to get the best out of Junior Fernandez:
Having spent time with the Cardinals and Pirates, the Yankees were intrigued by his services at such a young age. He primarily utilizes a sinker and slider combination. His sinker averages out at 98.7 mph with an 88.9 mph slider, which struggled to a degree despite recording a 44% whiff rate. His slider generated -112% horizontal movement compared to the average pitcher, indicating it had more of a gyro movement than a sweeping one. His sinker only produced 1% more horizontal movement than the average, indicating it’s not a great pitch but still maintains great velocity.
He gives off strong Albert Abreu vibes, one of the team’s reserve relief arms. High velocity and not a ton of control — Abreu will likely fill a similar role.
Unfortunately for the Bombers, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to swoop in and claim Fernandez off waivers on Thursday. Ranking in the 98th percentile in fastball velocity and never dipping below the 94th percentile certainly suggests he has some value, but the Yankees already have a strong bullpen arsenal that likely wouldn’t have demanded his services anyway.
With an elevated walk rate and allowing too many home runs, Fernandez still needs plenty of additional work moving forward, but with Matt Blake and his stellar team of assistants, the Yankees might’ve been able to get the best out of Fernandez; instead he heads over to one of their Al East rivals