The Yankees announced that right-hander Junior Fernández has been designated for assignment. The club has recently made their signings of Aaron Judge and Carlos Rodón official and needed to open a roster spot.
Fernandez, 26 in March, has spent most of his career as a Cardinal, getting sporadic opportunities with them since his 2019 debut. Over the past four seasons, he’s tallied 54 innings in the big leagues with a 5.17 ERA and a solid 49.4% ground ball rate. His strikeout and walk rates have both been subpar, however, coming in at 18.7% and 13.9%, respectively.
The fact that Fernández hasn’t been able to rack up strikeouts is surprising since he has elite velocity on his fastball. He averaged 98.8 mph on his four-seamer this year and 98.7 mph on his sinker. Per Statcast, that puts his velocity in the 98th percentile among qualified pitchers. He’s been better at getting punchouts in the minors but without improved results overall. Over the past two years, he’s thrown 58 2/3 Triple-A innings with a 5.22 ERA, despite striking out 27.1% of batters faced.
The Cardinals evidently ran out of patience with his lack of results, as he was designated for assignment in September. He was claimed by the Pirates and made three appearances for them down the stretch. In November, the Bucs also sent him to DFA limbo, with Fernández landing with the Yankees on a waiver claim.
The righty is still young and could turn things around, but he is now out of options and won’t be easily shuttled between the majors and the minors. But he does have just under two years of MLB service time, giving him plenty of cheap control that could appeal to clubs. The Yanks will have one week to trade him or pass him through waivers.