In a previous post, I highlighted a reliever to watch in the Royals system, Tyler Zuber. In this post, I’ll highlight another bullpen arm that is on the verge of the major leagues and possibly could make his debut in 2018.
Pedro Fernandez, a righty arm signed out of the Dominican Republic, has been steadily climbing through the Royals minor league ranks since 2012. He originally bursted onto the scene with the DSL Royals, posting a 1.93 ERA in 51.1 innings. Fernandez continued to pitch adequately up until he reached full-season ball. He hit a bit of a rough bump with the Lexington Legends, putting up a 4.99 ERA and 4.71 FIP in eight starts and eight relief appearances.
That could have been the first sign that Fernandez wasn’t ready for a starter’s workload, but despise this, the Royals continued to increase his workload, as Fernandez nearly doubled his career high for innings pitched in 2015, pitching between A and A+.
Fernandez found his success from the lower minors to start 2016. In his six starts for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, he posted a 2.14 ERA and 2.69 FIP, earning himself a promotion to AA. It was there he struggled with inconstancies and injuries to finish the year.
2017 was the first year Fernandez spent a majority of his time pitching out of the bullpen (39 total appearances, 3 starts) and it was about time. Fernandez spent most of the year in AA, excelling with a 2.66 ERA, 2.33 FIP, 9.1 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9. This earned him a late season promotion to AAA, where he was less dominant.
Part of the reason Fernandez couldn’t handle a starter’s workload was his size. He stands with a small 6’0″ 175 lbs frame. What he lacks in size is made up with athleticism and strength. Suited better for the bullpen is also the heater Fernandez holds in his arsenal. He’s able to run it in the mid-upper 90s, sometimes unhittable when he’s blowing it by opposing hitters. But my favorite pitch is the changeup. It prides itself on fade and deception, working in the low-80s. The slider is the problem, as it lacks movement and command.
Look for Fernandez to probably start in the Omaha bullpen next spring. If the Royals quit trying to stretch Fernandez out, he has the potential to be a decent one inning reliever, flashing two very above-average offerings.
Photo Credits: Ken Inness