As we inch closer and closer to Blue Jays Spring Training 2018, Jays From the Couch is set to look closer at the Non-Roster Invitees
Not every minor league prospect is selected in the Draft or signed as an International Free Agent with the expectation one they day they’ll become a ‘Top Prospect’. Some are simply signed/drafted to provide the organization with bodies; however, many ‘organizational filler’ prospects discovered within themselves. They defy the odds, fighting off complacency to climb the minor leagues until their existence can no longer be ignored.
The Toronto Blue Jays have invited a player to this year’s Spring Training which checks off all the boxes I listed above.
Non-Roster Invitee left-handed pitching prospect Jose Fernandez was signed as an unheralded IFA on January 5th, 2012. He has impressed at every level, starting out as a 19-yr-old in the Dominican Summer League.
The native Mao, Dominican Republic turns 25-yrs-old in a couple days, Feb 13th, and should be very excited to get his first taste of a Major League Spring Training camp.
Fernandez has good arm strength with solid mechanics. Despite this, he’s not blowing batters away with a low to mid 90’s 2-seam fastball. His fastball does have some arm side movement but is not overpowering. Jose Fernandez finds success by pounding the strike zone.
The 6-foot-3 lefty does a good job of mixing in a slider and change, both considered average to below average. The average to below average grade can explain why Fernandez’ BB/9 experienced a spike in 2016 as a member of the Dunedin Blue Jays and in 2017 as a member of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
2017 saw Jose Fernandez post a career worse 1.68 WHIP thanks to the high BB/9 and allowing more than a hit per inning pitched.
Jose Fernandez Stats
In 2017, Jose Fernandez lowered his BB/9 from 7.01 in 2016 to 5.05. Still not great for a guy whose main purpose is to prevent baserunners. However, Jose has managed to increase his K/9 each of the past three seasons. After posting a 7.14 K/9 as a member of the Lansing Lugnuts in 2015, Fernandez posted an 8.45 K/9 in 2016 with the D-Jays and a 9.32 K/9 in 2017.
According to MLBfarm.com, Fernandez’ top 3 batter results breakdown in 2017 were strikeout (56), single (46) and flyout (37). Managing to have two out of three at-bats resulting in outs is not too shabby.
Fernandez pitched in high leverage situations at the beginning of 2017, notching two saves in his first three appearances. His struggles pushed him out of late-inning situations and into more of a 5th, 6th, and 7th inning reliever. Despite seeing his role fluctuate from late inning to middle to late, Fernandez finished 17 games for the Fisher Cats.
If we remove an ugly May where he posted a 10.80 ERA over 8.1IP, we see a pitcher with an ERA closer to the 3.86 and 3.60 he posted in June and July. We see more proof that Jose Fernandez pitched better than his number suggest when comparing his 4.02 FIP to his 5.44 ERA.
Throughout his career, Fernandez hasn’t shown any definitive splits. In 2017, lefties batted .293 versus righties who batted .268. So it appears that Fernandez is not destined to become a situational lefty, rather, I can expect to see Fernandez used in any situation.
The road to the Majors will not be an easy one for Jose Fernandez. The Blue Jays farm appears flush with LHP who fit the same description as Fernandez.
The Toronto Blue Jays bullpen currently has lefty Aaron Loup with Matt Dermody and Tim Mayza on the 40-man roster. The Jays also have a pair of lefties battling for the 5th spot in the rotation, LHP Ryan Borucki and Thomas Pannone could impress enough to secure a spot in the bullpen.
In Triple-A, Chad Girodo, another non-roster invitee, will return as the Bisons’ situational lefty. The Herd can expect to see any of the names above on their roster.
In Double-A, Danny Young is new to the scene and had a nice offseason as a member of the Arizona Fall League championship team. If you’ve been reading any of my stuff this offseason you’d be familiar with how I feel about Kirby Snead.
Fernandez is set to gain invaluable experience in camp this spring; however, he is expected to repeat Double-A this season.
If Fernandez can post better a WHIP he has a good chance at replacing one of Dermody, Mayza, or Girodo if/when they make a trip to Toronto. Therefore, I expect Fernandez will shuttle between Buffalo and New Hampshire in 2018.
*Featured Image Credit: DaveMe Images
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.