The Toronto Blue Jays have had an eventful offseason, but it’s two of the more lesser known acquisitions that are perhaps the most intriguing. Julian Fernández and Junior Fernández (slightly confusing and not related at all) were both recently acquired at little expense to the Jays and are both relief pitchers. Julian, a former Rockie, was signed to a minor league deal and is expected to begin next season in Triple-A Buffalo’s bullpen. Junior, ironically the younger of the two, was claimed off waivers from the Yankees and has taken the last spot on the 40-man roster, while being out of minor league options.
Both of these young men come with similar make ups. A lot of velocity, potential of a dominant secondary pitch, and control issues. Both Fernández’s have had little major league success, with Julian’s issue being giving up homeruns and Junior’s issue being control. The Jays are hoping to find something in at least one of these pitchers and follow a recipe for success seemingly perfected by rival playoff teams over the last few years.
Something in common amongst the Yankees, Rays, Astros, Mariners, Dodgers, and Padres, isn’t just that they all made the playoffs last year, it’s that they have taken low-risk chances on relievers and have had them pay dividends. Guys like Clay Holmes, Jason Adam, Paul Sewald, Ryne Stanek, Robert Suarez and Yency Almonte all arrived to their respective organizations without much notoriety. But what they did have was a high velocity, high potential arm, and their organization helped bring the best out of them and output a highly productive season.
These players bring immense value to their team, as it is both a low-cost acquisition to start, and their performances act as a bonus to an often already solid bullpen group. The Blue Jays have performed this magic a grand total of zero times over the last three years, and it’s come back to bite them. The lack of velocity in the pen was a glaring need this offseason, and it seems as though Ross Atkins is at last taking it seriously.
Julian and Junior Fernández both present an opportunity to make an impact reliever out of someone with untapped potential. Both relievers' fastballs average 99mph, and through seeing clips online (shown below) there seems to be some presence of capable offspeed pitches as well. These high potential arms are something not often seen in the Jays organization, and both of these guys will be fun storylines to track throughout the spring.
Here's Julian Fernández casually hitting triple digits with his fourseam fastball.
Here is Junior Fernández hitting 97mph with his sinker, a pitch that also reaches up to 99.
Both pitchers will be on the roster bubble once February rolls around. Julian has the benefit of minor league options, but could still contribute in the majors later in the season. Junior is out of options, and needs to show enough in Spring Training if he is to make the roster, or else be exposed to waivers once again, where he'd likely be claimed by another organization. These guys join Julian Merryweather (also out of options) and Nate Pearson as high potential, unproven arms to watch over the spring.