The Cardinals have already started adding to their bullpen. They are not finished but this looks like a good start.
In the Rule 5 draft, the Cardinals selected Ryan Fernandez. Fernandez is a right-handed reliever, that was drafted by the Red Sox in 2018 in the 23rd round. As a Rule 5 selection, it is all but certain that he will be part of our opening-day roster.
The Rule Five draft was put into place to keep teams from hoarding good players and keeping them in the minors for years. Now if you have been stuck in the minors you can get a chance to start with another team. The new team must keep the player on the major league roster or lose the player.
How excited should we be? Well, in 2012 Boston lost another pitcher named Ryan in the Rule 5 draft to the Minnesota Twins. He was later traded to Houston and now Ryan Presley is the Astros closer. Presley was an exception. Most Rule Five players have made very little impact over the years. If they were elite prospects they usually found a way to make the big league team. That is unless you are stuck behind someone like Paul Goldschmidt.
He should slot right into middle relief. Last year he pitched in A, AA, and AAA. His fastball has topped out in the high 90s and is effective when he gets movement. He has an above-average slider and cutter. I’m sure what gets the attention of the Cardinals is that in 2023 he had an 11.1 SO9. Only Helsley and Hicks had a higher number. His SO/W ratio was 3.72 last year and only Gallegos and Romero were better in that category.
This is what Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin from Fangraphs had to say about Fernandez:
“Fernandez is a single-inning relief prospect with some of the best stuff of anyone available in this year’s Rule 5 draft. He began 2023 on the injured list but was quickly bumped up to Triple-A once he was healthy. His four-seamer sits 94-96 mph and touches 97. To call his cutter a secondary would be misleading, as it surpassed his fastball usage at Triple-A, accounting for 48% of the pitches he threw at that level and inducing a 47% chase rate. His use of his gyroscopic slider dipped in 2023, but when he did throw it, it earned him a combined 63% whiffs (73% at Triple-A), and that kind of bat-missing ability is, ironically, nothing to shake a stick at. His strike-throwing ability makes him very likely to stick on St. Louis’ roster and contribute in a middle-inning capacity. This was the first relief-only pitcher to come off the board in the draft and is the one we feel most confident will have a good 2024. “
Another number that jumps out is his launch angle. Fangraphs show it at 7.9 degrees. Anything less than ten degrees will usually get you a ground ball. For a comparison, Giovanny Gallegos had an LA of 16.3 last year. That difference is why Fernandez allowed 0.9 home runs per nine innings pitched across his entire minor league career and Gallegos allowed 1.8 home runs per nine innings in 2023.
It sounds like if he can stay healthy Fernandez should be a nice addition to our bullpen.