Many St. Louis Cardinals fans were disappointed, to say the least, with the results of the July 31st trade deadline. The front office did not make a single move of significance, not even the acquisition of a bullpen piece.
There are obvious holes left on this St. Louis Cardinals team, from a short lineup to a shallow rotation to an overworked bullpen. None of these areas were addressed whatsoever, despite a bevy of available options. There does remain a slight glimmer of hope in terms of an internal addition, however, in the form of Junior Fernandez.
Fernandez began his pro career as a starting pitcher with a big fastball and a good changeup. his lack of control and a third at least average offering forced a permanent move to the bullpen in the 2019 season, which has generated fabulous results.
Across three different levels, Fernandez is 2-1 with a 1.51 ERA and 74 strikeouts over 59 2/3 innings. His performance has been consistent from one level to the next, and by that, I mean utter domination over hitters. His strikeout stuff and power arm profile perfectly as the upgrade John Mozeliak failed to trade for this past week.
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Even at AAA Memphis, Fernandez has been untouchable. The Redbirds play in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, wherein Fernandez has posted a 1.42 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP with 21 strikeouts in 19 innings.
The current bullpen boasts a solid back end, especially with the emergence of Giovany Gallegos. Carlos Martinez has done well as the closer, Andrew Miller has been fine, and John Gant and John Brebbia have been great set-up men.
But besides those few pitchers, the current Cardinals bullpen lacks depth. Mike Mayers and Brett Cecil have both struggled with injuries, Chasen Shreve has been utterly ineffective, Tyler Webb is a mediocre pitcher, Adalberto Mejia is entirely unproven, and Jordan Hicks is done for the year.
Enter Fernandez. As a former starter, his ability to go more than one inning makes him incredibly valuable to a postseason bullpen. Recent examples of this include Andrew Miller in 2016 and Nathan Eovaldi last year with the Red Sox.
Both pitchers proved to be invaluable to their clubs by way of their stellar multiple inning performances. With the right timing and the ability to work with Yadier Molina, Junior Fernandez could quickly become the bullpen force the St. Louis Cardinals need for the rest of 2019.