Sleeper prospects emerge in every organization throughout the minor league season. These are guys that were generally discovered later than most, but despite their late discovery these guys refuse to become complacent by defying the odds with hard work and determination.
Taking this concept to heart, Toronto Blue Jays‘ left-handed pitching prospect Jose Fernandez is continuing to amaze fans at every stop he has made in his professional career. While improving is what you want to see from every prospect at every level, Fernandez was never viewed as much of a legitimate prospect when he signed with the organization as an international free agent in 2012.
Initially viewed as more of an organizational guy when he signed, Fernandez has continued to silence his critics since his days in the Dominican Summer League.
Currently competing in his first full season with the Lansing Lugnuts, Fernandez is turning heads with his ability to pound the strike zone with his excellent two-seam fastball that has the ability to hit the mid-90s with consistency.
But Fernandez is more than just a pitcher with great arm strength. He also has the ability to keep hitters off-balanced with his slider and changeup. This excellent blend of three pitches has earned the Dominican Republic-native a lot of late inning work out of the Lugnuts’ bullpen.
Appearing in 38 2/3 innings so far this season; Fernandez has racked up 30 strikeouts and maintained an impressive 1.14 WHIP. These numbers are due largely in part to the prospect’s ability to command his pitches in any situation.
In fact, Fernandez has only walked nine batters so far this season in his 27 appearances. But the most promising sign is his 1.55 GO/AO as the young prospect does an excellent job of keeping the ball low which results in a number of ground balls being hit off the bat.
With this being Fernandez’s first full season he obviously had some goals he wanted to achieve throughout the season. He has done a very good job of that so far, but is hoping for one more to come soon as he would like to earn a promotion to the high-A Dunedin Blue Jays in the near future.
“In my first full season I want to keep getting better while staying focused on the things that got me this far,” explained Fernandez. “I feel if I can do that I’ll have a good chance to keep moving up the levels in the Blue Jays system.”
Impressed with the development Jose Fernandez has made with his delivery since the beginning of his professional career Lansing Lugnuts’ pitching coach Jeff Ware has noticed some direct differences between the prospect from then to now.
“Jose Fernandez is repeating his delivery a little better,” stated Ware. “Jose is also commanding and controlling his pitches better as well. In the past he was more of a thrower. But now he’s a pitcher. Jose is learning how to use his slider and fastball better. He also has a changeup that he throws in there from time to time. He’s got good life. Hitters have a tough time picking him up and I think he’ll have a lot of success in the game as he has a lot of arm strength.”
Crediting some of his success this season on the mentoring he has received from Ware, Fernandez has nothing but respect for the way the former major leaguer handles his business in a professional manner.
“Jeff Ware is a really good person,” said Fernandez. “You can talk to Jeff as a friend. Before making any adjustments with you he’ll talk to you to see if you’re okay with it first. After that you can work on the things you need to from there.”
While there are some obstacles for Fernandez to get through to be a major leaguer it’s safe to say he is on the right track for the future. If he is able to find continued success at the higher levels of the minor league ladder there’s a very good chance you’ll see this talented southpaw in the show one day.
Until then we hope he’ll continue to develop his game in the right areas in the Blue Jays’ minor league system.