The fireballing Fernandez was on his way to becoming one of the Cardinals better pitching prospects before biceps issues slowed his development the last 18 months. He didn’t pitch in game action this past season until June, unable to work out of the rotation while managing just 30 innings in 2018. Despite promising raw stuff, St. Louis didn’t have room for Fernandez on their 40-Man Roster after the season, leaving him unprotected as a first-time Rule 5 eligible player this off-season.
Undersized but muscular and broad, Fernandez is built like a power arm–albeit one who lacks traditional starter’s height. His heater touches the high-90s with solid running action down to the armside. The go-to off-speed pitch is a changeup that flashes above-average separation and sell, falling off the table from lefties at its best. Fernandez will need to find more depth on a short, cut-like slider to boost his chances of remaining a starter long-term. His walk numbers–historically fairly stable for a younger hard-thrower–cratered this past season, never able to fully find a groove coming back from biceps issues.
Fernandez has never started a game above Double-A, so it’s very unlikely any teams are looking at him in the Rule 5 Draft as a rotation option. His health and performance issues in 2018 could ward off any takers, though the arm-strength and long-term upside could entice a rebuilder to sacrifice a roster spot in order to acquire the player. In the event that he is selected this December, Fernandez’ fastball/changeup mix has a chance to survive a big league season if he is hidden in a middle relief profile.