Jose Fernandez is an interesting story coming out of Tampa Bay, Florida. If you like big live arms that could be very projectable at the next level then you're really going to like Fernandez. He's a big guy standing 6-3 and weighing 235 pounds at just 18 years old and has drawn comparisons to both Livan Hernandez and Bartolo Colon. His family moved to Tampa Bay from Cuba during his sophomore year of high school. There are many that question his age coming from Cuba and was even suspended pending an investigation. Jose Fernandez has an above average fastball and slider and is said to have a strong mound presence who goes right after hitters. He also features a curveball and changeup that will need to be developed, but hasn't used them often in high school.
Fernandez has a big arm that sits in the 92-95 mph range and has hit as high as 98 mph with his fastball. So needless to say, Fernandez features a big arm and has very good mound presence. He isn't afraid to go right after hitters, and shows above average confidence on the mound. He is a fastball and slider pitcher now, but does feature a curveball and changeup. If he develops these pitches and improves his conditioning he could turn into a staff workhorse who eats innings and features four plus pitcher. Some compare his ceiling to that of Bartolo Colon in his early years with the Angels. I would say that's a pretty nice ceiling for the 6-foot-3, 235 pound, 18 year old out of Tampa Bay.
It all seems to hang on what type of conditioning he develops as a pitcher. This could simply be the difference between him being a very good starter or just another arm out of the bullpen. Jose Fernandez tends to struggle with command of his pitches and can struggle from time to time. Scouts tend to question Jose Fernandez's conditioning. Sound familiar? He has a very similar body to Brett Wallace in which he has a very thick lower half and some scouts compare him to Livan Hernandez in physical size. It's a possibility that Jose Fernandez could develop into a spot starter or bullpen arm due to a lack of conditioning, above average fastball and slider, and poor body type.
Will the Astros pick him? If so, where?
Jose Fernandez is projected to go in the middle to late first round of the 2011 draft. The Houston Astros could target him with the 11th pick in the draft, but this could be a little high because of the talent that should be available. He is likely to go in the late first round is unlikely to make it past the Tampa Bay Rays with the ten first round picks that they have in the first round. Jose Fernandez is the type of high ceiling above average arm that Bobby Heck and his staff would love to add to the Houston Astros farm system. Fernandez would be a nice addition to the farm system, but would be considered a project of a prospect and is unlikely to fly through the system until he can develop his change and curveball.
Where is he projected to go right now?
ESPN: 17th to the Los Angeles Angels
Baseball America: 24th to the Tampa Bay Rays
What Scout's say about him...
Fernandez caught a lot of eyes when he hit 98 mph in his inning in the 2010 AFLAC All-American Game, and for pure arm strength he's tough to beat in this year's prep class.
He'll sit 92-95 and can touch 97 as a starter, although I doubt he'll pitch above 95 in pro ball. His upper-70s curveball has good shape with a near 12-to-6 break. He also throws a 81-83 mph slider that would probably miss bats in A-ball right now, but he struggles with his release point on both breaking balls and as a result doesn't command either of them yet, with one often running into the other.
Fernandez is well-developed physically and there's little projection remaining. He starts his delivery with a high leg kick and tilts his pitching shoulder down to generate more leverage, although he doesn't rotate his hips much and has a slight arm wrap before he turns his pitching hand over. This is unusually good arm speed that, with his current size, mean the team that drafts him won't have to wait on him to fill out; he'll advance as quickly as his command and feel for his off-speed stuff develop.
Even in a strong year in Florida last year, Fernandez stood out, and opposing hitters were measured by how they fared against him. He almost didn't get to pitch this season, as he was temporarily suspended pending an investigation into how much high school baseball he played in Cuba. It took two attempts for Fernandez, his mother and his sister to escape the island nation, and he's motivated on and off the field. One scout termed his demeanor as "high-level confidence." Fernandez has those who doubt his age and he'll be 19 before the mid-August signing date. He throws three swing-and-miss pitches: a fastball that sits 90-95 mph with heavy sink at times and a pair of breaking balls. Scouts aren't sure if Fernandez means to throw both a slider and a curve, but his slider can be sharp and his curve at times has 12-to-6 break. He's shown flashes of a changeup as well and could wind up as a four-pitch workhorse. Sturdy at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Fernandez has a mature body and will have to work to maintain his conditioning.
A very strong fastball-slider combination to go along with an outstanding feel for pitching and plus mound presence has Fernandez as another of the hard-throwing high schoolers hoping to hear his name called in the first round.
Fernandez has been up to as high as 97-98 mph this spring and can sit comfortably in the 93-95 range. He's picked up some velocity as the spring has progressed. His slider has the chance to be an out pitch, one with late movement that is nasty at times. He's got some feel for a changeup, but it needs work and is behind the other two offerings. He's around the strike zone more often than not, with advanced control for his age.
He'll have to stay on top of his conditioning, but the combination of a live arm and pitchability is a rare commodity indeed.