After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season. They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post. Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. This year, of course, was anything but typical. So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative. There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable. As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!
Player: Junior Fernandez
Season stats: 18.00 ERA, 3 G, 3 IP, 6 H, 1 HR, 2 BB, 2 K, 8.19 FIP, 2.667 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, -0.2 bWAR
Postseason stats: DNP
Statcast: 16.7% barrel %, 90.8 exit velocity, 58.3% hard hit %, .466 xwOBA
Best Statcast category: Did not qualify
Worst Statcast category: Did not qualify
On COVID IL: Yes
Overview: Three innings tell you nothing about a pitcher. Three innings tell you less than nothing when that pitcher has had to deal with being infected. I can’t seem to find after a quick search if Fernandez had any symptoms, but even without it Fernandez sat for longer than his healthy teammates and had to build back up strength. His three appearances were all in low leverage, of course, so he didn’t really do any damage, but even if the three innings don’t tell you anything, they were an ugly three innings.
But actually, it was an ugly one inning. Fernandez faced the Pirates in his first outing in July and his last outing in September. Of course, it was the Pirates, but in those two innings Fernandez gave up no hits, walked no one, and struck out a batter. It was the middle outing, the one against the Indians in August, that was the bad one. Cleveland was a strong team that beat up on everyone that took the mound that night (not including Tyler Webb and Max Schrock), so that has to be a factor as well.
You look back at 2019 and you see Fernandez had strike out stuff but stuff that also could get hit hard. The little bit of 2020 that we saw seems to reinforce that. That’s all we have at the big league level–less than 15 innings–so it’s still a bit impossible to know what he is capable of at the major league level.
Outlook: Hopefully Fernandez got some quality instruction at the alternate site in Springfield and can figure out how to harness his potential. He will be 24 right before next season is scheduled to start and there’s still some time for him to grow into a flamethrowing option out of the bullpen. Of course, it’s also possible that he’ll never quite put it all together, being more Esteban Yan than Jordan Hicks. He needs more than 15 innings in the bigs to make that determination, though.