You’ve seen us tweet about Xavier Fernandez several times recently. That’s because he is doing a great job this season and we feel that he will be a big league catcher. Somewhere. Fernandez is Rule 5 eligible after this season as a 2013 11th round pick who was under 21 when he signed. The problem the Royals have is a roster crunch with some young, controllable players.
Honestly, I think Fernandez could have been a backup catcher in the bigs during this season. His defense is outstanding. Fernandez blocks well and is a tremendous receiver with soft hands that frame well. As far as throwing, he has gunned down minor league runners at a 39% pace in his career and 41% this season in NWA. His throws are low, on the money, and carry well. Of all the catchers I’ve seen at NWA this season, he is the best overall.
Fernandez’s bat seems to have developed this year and he is hitting .328/.382/.504 at NWA. I’ve always heard it said that RBI and hits are found on the opposite side of the field. Fernandez seems to have figured that out hitting 37.5% of pitches the other way in NWA. His pull rate is the lowest in his career at just 32.7%. For reference, his previous low for pull rate was 37.1%. Now, this is somewhat of a small sample size alert because he has only 131 plate appearances in NWA. Fernandez is carrying a .328 batting average with a .360 BABIP which suggests that he isn’t getting lucky and perhaps has more luck on his side in the future.
Looking deeper into Fernandez’s bat we find a 7.6% BB rate compared to a 13.0% K rate this year at NWA. Over the course of his career, Fernandez’s walk rate is 7.7% and the strikeout rate is 13.3%. This year is a little better than his career norms on both accounts. A couple of other telling numbers are his ISO at .176 and wRC+ which is 138. Both those numbers are from this year at NWA which is a little more of a hitter’s park.
Fernandez struggled to get his first hit this year at NWA after hitting some balls really hard and fell victim to some web gems. When he finally got his first hit in AA, his teammates had some fun with him jumping up and down in the dugout. They really over did the celebration as Xavier sighed visibly in relief on the field before laughing.
One other interesting fact is that Fernandez is 2-3 in big league spring training games with a double.
With Meibrys Viloria getting called up and showing his talents for the Royals I don’t know what will happen to Fernandez. I don’t know if Gallagher will be the backup to Salvador Perez next season or if it will be either Viloria or Fernandez, but it’ll be an interesting battle in spring training next year between these three. The decision will probably come down to who works with the pitcher’s the best and who the club feels calls the best game. Of course, the club could want to save service time for both Viloria and Fernandez and move them both along a level at a time. Another thing to consider will be consistent at bats for each and if those players will need to get those at Omaha or NWA.
Fernandez is a solid catcher who will be a big league catch at some point in the near future. Like I mentioned earlier, I think he could be a backup immediately in the majors. The Royals have to figure out how they will protect him or if they want too. Fernandez will continue his development in the instructional league or Winter Ball this off season.