Top 12 Jays Draft Targets, JJ Edition: #10 RHP Jose Fernandez

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This message will continue to be posted on each of the top 12 draft targets I will be listing daily until draft day: the players listed are not “the best” players in the draft, they are simply those that I believe could be around when the Jays draft, and that could wind up being selected by the Blue Birds when their turns come up. The list has 12 of the top targets and will be presented in reverse order (from least likely, to most likely).

#10: Jose Fernandez (18)

RH Pitcher / 6’5″ 235 lbs / Cuba

Born: 31st of July 1992

High School Team: Alonso HS

College: NA, Committed to the University of South Florida

Quick Facts:

  • Was only able to continue attending HS in Alonso after his Grandmother provided officials with the proper paperwork concerning his age.
  • Made the 2011 Rawlings 1st Team All-American.
  • Was on the 2010 AFLAC All-American.
  • Was on the 2010 1st Team All-Suncoast.

Stats:

  • 2010: 10-1 / 0.87 ERA / 11 GS / 72.1 IP / 36 hits / 23 BB / 107 Ks
  • 2011: 13-1 / 1.35 ERA / 16 GP / 93 IP / 51 hits / 21 BB / 134 Ks

Interviews/Videos:

Pre-Draft Rankings (out of all hitters in brackets):

  • BA Ranking May 25th: #20 (13)
  • John Sickels May 20th: #16 (10)

The next player on this list is a power pitcher who has been rumored to touch 97 MPH, but generally works between 90-95 MPH with his fastball – as a HS pitcher!!! Now that I have your attention, you should also know that Fernandez had a hard time getting off of Cuba, it took him 2 tries to make it to U.S. soil. The problems that this caused for Fernandez included some questions about how much HS time he played in Cuba, and also some questions about his age. Whatever the case, he can pitch, and he can pitch extremely well.

Fernandez is a very confident individual on and off the mound. His on the mound confidence stems from his great fastball, and also a slider, a curve, and a rudamentary change up. The funny thing is that some scouts wonder if he actually tries to throw a curve or a slider, or whether he attempts to throw both the same way. Either way, it breaks extemely well and is a true strikeout pitch.

He also has great control, which is something you don’t hear often for pitchers coming out of HS. His action is smooth, and he has room to improve enough to grow into a starting role as a pro. However, there are many who are already placing him as one of the top candidates to become a closer in the majors. I won’t jump to that conclusion this early, but as usual, it depends on how well he develops his change up. If he can upgrade it to the point where he throws it at 80-83 MPH or so, he should have no problem creating enough deception to become a true workhorse in a rotation.

The one issue that seems to be in every single report I read on Fernandez is his conditioning. I personally don’t buy into it much. After watching guys like David Wells and Bartolo Colon do extremely well despite weight issues, I think he’ll be fine as long as his arm holds up. Remember, Roger Clemens was exactly the slimmest guy in the world either, and some would point to his size as one of the reasons for his durability. That and work ethic of course, something that Fernandez is said to have plenty of.

As a player of Cuban decent, Fernandez, if selected by the Jays, would join Adeiny Hechavarria and Yunel Escobar as prominent Cuban players. J. P. Arencibia also has some Cuban ancestry, so the clubhouse would definitely be gaining a Cuban feel overall once (if) all of them wind up playing together in the future. The Jays would be able to ensure that all of them feel comfortable on the team, which can be important particularly when bringing young players (Hechavarria and Fernandez) into Toronto.

The reason I see the Jays being interested in Fernandez is not only due to his talent, it’s also due to his being the perfect kind of project for them. As a team that needs to build an arsenal of workhorse or Closer type pitchers, the Jays would know that they are going to get a very nice live arm in Fernandez, one that could go either way in terms of role. However, it’s the attitude he comes in with that makes him such an intriguing prospect. As he stated in a Sports Illustrated interview:

“I never give up. When I start something, I just wanna finish.” and adds later “A lot of people say that I look like this guy Roger Clemens.”

If he winds up being anywhere near what Roger Clemens was, he’d be more than worth a 1st rd pick. If the Jays believe that he can become this great a pitcher, and he’s still available at #21, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that they’ll be all over him and will find it very hard to pass him up. That being said, I do expect him to go in the 16-20 range, so I would be slightly surprised if he makes it to the Jays, which is why I have him listed at #10.

If he’s available at #21, he’d be within the top 2 on this list.

Expected Selection (if selected by the Jays): First round, 21st overall.

He’s not my favorite available prospect in this draft, but I would not be disappointed in the least to see the Jays land Fernandez at #21. He actually has a slight shot at developing into a #1 starter, a closer, but at worse (in my mind) he’ll become a #3-4 starter. There are very few sure bets in any draft, so that makes Fernandez a very enticing 1st rd pick for the Jays that could allow them to be a little more aggressive in the sandwich rounds and later on in the draft.

– MG

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