Exit Interview 2019: Junior Fernandez

Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat.  Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them.  The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable.  Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.

If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez.  Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site.  My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast.  It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug.  So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!

Player: Junior Fernandez

Season stats: 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 13 G, 11.2 IP, 9 H, 2 HR, 6 BB, 16 K, 5.27 FIP, 1.286 WHIP, 12.3 K/9, -0.2 bWAR

Statcast: 7.1% barrel %, 90.7 exit velocity, 42.9% hard hit %, .322 xwOBA

Hero/Goat: Goat 1

Overall grade: C

Positives: Made his major league debut August 11 against Pittsburgh….after giving up two runs in his debut, was unscored upon for 7.2 innings in his next seven games….only allowed runs in three of his 13 appearances….struck out the side in an inning against the Brewers on September 14….had a 12-1 strikeout to walk ratio against right handed batters….allowed a .174 BA at home….if batters swung at the first pitch they wound up with a .438 OPS….batters had a .422 OPS when they had two strikes….limited batters leading off an inning to a .111 average….batters slashed .143/.294/.143 with nobody out in an inning….allowed a .148 average in low-leverage situations….Cubs and Brewers went a combined 2 for 17 against him….had a 1.55 ERA at Springfield and a 1.48 ERA at Memphis….struck out 80 in 65 minor league innings….batters hit under .200 against him at all three minor league stops last year.

Negatives: His biggest mistake almost looked to cost the Cardinals the NL Central, as he allowed a grand slam to Ryan Braun with two outs in the ninth on September 15….allowed six of his nine inherited runners to score….allowed four runs in 1/3 of an inning against Arizona in the last week of the season….allowed a 1.456 OPS in day games….had a walk rate of 11.1%….walked more lefties than he struck out….had a 6.75 ERA away from home (mainly because of that Arizona game)….never appeared in a game the Cardinals won….fourth, fifth, and sixth place hitters combined to go 3-8 with three walks and a home run….batters hit .500 on his first pitch….allowed a .993 OPS with runners on….in four late-and-close plate appearances, gave up a single and a homer….had a 1.262 OPS in high-leverage situations….had a 2.000 WHIP at Memphis in August.

Overview: Fernandez has been a starter most of his career but shifted to the bullpen and that helped him speed his climb up the ranks to make it to the big leagues.  He’s got some dominating stuff but he still needs to learn to control it.  The outing against the Brewers in September is always going to stand out as a game the Cards really needed to win disappeared in an instant, but hopefully that won’t be the defining moment of his career.  You have to like a guy that can put up double-digit Ks per nine, but he’s got to not walk batters at a similar rate.  You think of guys like Maikel Cleto, people that had a ton of stuff but no idea where it was going.  I don’t think Fernandez is going to be like that, but right now he’s on that end of the spectrum.

Outlook: I would expect Fernandez will get some more time at Memphis next year and probably get used to riding the shuttle between AAA and the bigs.  Major league experience should help him quite a bit and if he ever figures out how to put more pitches in the strike zone, he could be a huge asset for the Cardinal bullpen.  He’ll get plenty of chances in 2020 to show that he’s taking the next steps.

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