One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Junior Fernandez
Season stats: 0-0, 2.93 ERA, 13 G, 15.1 IP, 17 H, 3 HR, 8 BB, 12 K, 10 IR, 7 IRS, 5.85 FIP, 1.630 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 0.1 bWAR, -0.3 fWAR
Statcast: .309 xwOBA, 3.6 barrel %, 86.5 exit velocity, 35.7 hard hit %, 16.7 K %, 14.3 BB %
Best Statcast category: Fastball Velocity (98th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Fastball Spin (16th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Goat 1
Positives: Went until his 11th appearance before being charged with an earned run….struck out at least one batter in nine of his 13 games….in 23 plate appearances against them, didn’t give up a single extra-base hit to lefties, who hit .235 overall….kept batters to a .542 OPS at home and put up a 0.84 ERA there….had a great June, allowing a .000/.050/.000 line in 19 big league PA….had a 1.93 ERA in save situations, though that was just 4.2 innings….fifth place hitters went 0-10 with two walks against him….typically finished people off when ahead in the count, with a .447 OPS against….retired all eight Cubs he faced….retired five of the six Brewers he faced.
Negatives: Allowed earned runs in his last three outings as a Cardinal, including three in one inning to the Blue Jays….allowed six of his last seven inherited runners to score….was fortunate not to be hit worse, given the difference between his ERA and FIP….righties had an .822 OPS against him….in large part due to the Toronto game, gave up a 1.076 OPS on the road….allowed a 1.312 OPS in July….was hurt by the middle of the order, as the third and fourth hitters combined to nine for 19 with a double, a homer, two walks, and two strikeouts….batters had a 1.445 OPS if they hit his first pitch….batters had a 1.071 OPS when ahead in the count….they had a 1.050 OPS when they led off an inning against him….allowed a .316/.480/.526 line in 25 AB with runners in scoring position….with two outs, that jumped to .333/.500/.667….gave up a .929 OPS in high leverage situations….pitched the seventh inning the most and batters had a .965 OPS against him in that inning….had a 5.45 ERA in Memphis.
Overview: Ironically, the only major league team Fernandez faced after his trade to Pittsburgh was the Cardinals, as he saw them three times in the last six games. That meant the Cardinals were on the other end of the Fernandez experience–he didn’t allow any runs, but he walked three batters in one inning while striking out two in the second. Fernandez never fully developed into the weapon the Cardinals thought maybe he could be in the bullpen with his fastball. Looking at how batters hit his slider, well, man can not live on bread alone and pitchers only on a fastball. Getting some value for him via trade might have been the best case scenario for how he could help the club.
Outlook: It was a little surprising that Pittsburgh immediately sent him to the minors, given that they weren’t exactly going anywhere. I would expect he’ll have a strong chance to make the team out of spring training, though. He’s out of options, so he’ll need a good spring to make sure he doesn’t get waived, but I would think that the Pirates could afford him the opportunity to see what he can do in the bigs to start 2023. There’s no guarantee he finishes there, though.