While Victor Fernandez didn’t make our mid-season top 50 prospects list, he is a name worth remembering. After a double and a single last night, the 21-year-old outfielder now has a .383/.457/.543 slash line in 23 games this season. It’s obviously still considered a small sample size and we saw last year with Carlos Munoz why you should show some caution with a player putting up big stats in Bristol. While Munoz had great plate patience and some power as his calling card, Fernandez is all about speed.
Before the 2014 Dominican Summer League season, I was getting scouting reports on some of the new players and didn’t even know Fernandez was there because his signing wasn’t announced anywhere. They play a Spring Training in the DSL just like down in Bradenton, with it mirroring that of the Major League side as far as length and games. They get there in early April and start playing games within a month. Then after a month or so of games, they start their season within a few days of June 1st every year.
I started asking for information in early May and one of the players wrote me out of the blue and said there is a new guy down there and his speed is unreal and that he has never seen anyone that fast. In Spring Training that year, Fernandez went 11-for-11 in stolen bases. Then when the season started, he hit .289/.407/.461 in 45 games and stole 14 bases. That earned him an invite to the Fall Instructional League in Bradenton.
Those are strong numbers, with the one caveat that he didn’t sign until he was 19 years old. We have seen recently with some players who the Pirates signed out of the Dominican that they went to college first (Yeudy Garcia, Edgar Santana), or in the case of Matthew Mercedes this year, his parents wouldn’t let him sign until he graduated from high school. In other cases, players are just late bloomers and you have to consider their age when judging their performance in the DSL.
For Fernandez, he was a late bloomer and part of that is because he used to pitch. Another thing about him signing late with the Pirates is that is almost didn’t happen because he spent most of 2013 with the Yankees at their Dominican academy. He never played a game for them. at least not a regular season game, but shortly after being cut, he signed with the Pirates in February of 2014.
So cut to the 2014 Fall Instructional League and Fernandez was a human highlight reel with his speed. We had video of him hitting a double to left field, where he was standing on second base in seven seconds flat. Not him reaching the bag in seven seconds, he was stopped on the bag after a pop up slide. There was also the video of him reaching on an infield single in which, from the right side of the plate, he was a step past first base at four seconds. For reference, this Fangraphs article shows an assortment of player times to first base and their best on a swing from a right-handed batter was 4.00 from A.J. Pollock.
Unfortunately in 2015, Fernandez had some minor hamstring issues and he appeared to fill out a little more. The plus-plus speed wasn’t there, but he was still a plus runner, just not someone who made everyone else look slow. He hit .240/.310/.341 in the GCL last year and was among a number of recent DSL Pirates, who had trouble adjusting to the better pitching in the U.S. He still went 16-for-18 in stolen bases, so he is clearly a threat to steal all the time and his speed is still a weapon, he’s just a step slower than he was before.
So far in Bristol, he has hit from day one. He is fifth in the Appalachian League in OPS and his lead over his next closest teammate is 255 points in that category. He is also 7-for-10 in stolen bases.
The main reason Fernandez didn’t make the new top 50 is because it’s a small sample size and you can’t ignore what he did in the GCL. Another reason is what you don’t see on paper, and that’s the reports we got from Extended Spring Training, where he was behind a number of guys in hitting down there. Extended ST runs from early April until right before the season starts in mid-June, so it’s clearly a bigger sample size than 23 games for Bristol.
The final reason is that he is still a project in the outfield. His speed helps him cover up a lot of mistakes out there, but he still has a long way to go before he’s considered a strong defender at a corner spot. Because he was a pitcher at one point and because he is hitting well, with plus speed as a tool, he is still a player to keep an eye on, even if he didn’t make our top 50 yet.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 4-0 to the Phillies on Friday night. They now send Tyler Glasnow to the mound for his second start in the majors. He allowed four earned runs over 5.1 innings in his debut on July 7th in St Louis. Since then, he pitched once for Indianapolis, giving up three runs over six innings. He will need to be added to the roster before the game. The Phillies will counter with Aaron Nola, who has a 4.41 ERA in 102 innings, with 111 strikeouts and a 1.24 WHIP. In his lone start since the All-Star break, he threw six shutout innings against the Marlins.
In the minors, Chad Kuhl goes for Indianapolis, coming off six shutout innings for the Pirates on Sunday. His last minor league start was June 20th, when he allowed two runs over 5.2 innings. Bradenton had their game suspended yesterday in the first inning with no score. They will finish that game today, then play a seven inning game. Brandon Waddell goes for Altoona, while Luis Escobar goes for Morgantown in his second start back in the rotation after moving to the bullpen due to control issues.
Fourth round pick Braeden Ogle makes his second start for the GCL Pirates (he was pushed back one day), while Blake Cederlind goes for Bristol. That’s a total of five top 50 pitchers going on the same day….six if you count Glasnow in the majors.
MLB: Pittsburgh (49-47) vs Phillies (45-53) 4:05 PM
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (6.75 ERA, 2:5 BB/SO, 5.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (51-50) vs Charlotte (45-56) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (2.58 ERA, 16:59 BB/SO, 76.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (53-45) vs Akron (54-46) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (4.43 ERA, 35:51 BB/SO, 69.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (51-45) vs Daytona (50-44) 5:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (3.57 ERA, 31:63 BB/SO, 103.1 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (50-47) @ Rome (40-56) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Bret Helton (3.68 ERA, 35:66 BB/SO, 95.1 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (17-17) vs Connecticut (20-14) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Luis Escobar (3.54 ERA, 15:16 BB/SO, 20.1 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (13-15) @ Greeneville (16-13) 6:00 PM (season preview)
GCL: Pirates (11-14) vs Yankees West (11-14) 10:00 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates (15-26) vs Rangers1 (29-11) 10:30 AM (season preview)
Here is Josh Bell taking charge on an infield pop up and making a nice play.
7/22: Erik Kratz clears waivers. Elects free agency.
7/21: Chris Diaz placed on temporary inactive list.
7/20: Jose Regalado assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
7/20: Ryan Vogelsong assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/19: Francisco Cervelli activated from disabled list. Erik Kratz designated for assignment.
7/19: Jameson Taillon activated from disabled list. Chad Kuhl optioned to Indianapolis.
7/19: Frank Duncan placed on disabled list.
7/19: Elias Diaz assigned to Indianapolis.
7/19: Justin Topa assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.
7/17: Jonathan Schwind assigned to Altoona.
7/16: Elias Diaz assigned to Altoona on rehab.
7/16: Gerrit Cole activated from the disabled list. Josh Bell optioned to Indianapolis.
7/15: Pirates sign Austin Shields. Assigned to GCL Pirates.
7/15: Pirates sign Boomer Synek. Assigned to GCL Pirates.
7/14: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/14: John Kuchno assigned to Altoona.
7/14: Jordan George promoted to West Virginia
7/13: Daniel Zamora placed on West Virginia disabled list.
7/13: Colten Brewer activated from temporary inactive list. Nick Neumann placed on Bradenton disabled list.
7/12: Rob Scahill claimed off waivers by Brewers.
7/10: Ryan Vogelsong assigned to Altoona on rehab.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus four trades of note. We start with the trades, which I’ll quickly summarize.
2003: The trade that everyone would love to forget happened 13 years ago. The Pirates sent Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to the Cubs for Bobby Hill, Jose Hernandez and Matt Bruback. You can check the link if you want to relive this one. At least the Pirates ended up getting Ramirez back for a little bit, so that was fun to see the end of his career.
1999: Four years earlier, the Pirates made another trade that didn’t work out well long-term, though this one was for a team doing well that suddenly had a need. The Pirates sent Jose Guillen and pitcher Jeff Sparks to the Devil Rays, in exchange for Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota. The Pirates had just lost Jason Kendall to a season-ending injury, so the catching depth was necessary. Guillen ended up having a strong career, though it took him about four years to get on track.
1996: Danny Darwin dealt to the Astros for Rich Loiselle. This trade actually worked out well, as Darwin was a veteran signed to a one-year deal, while Loiselle spent five years with the Pirates, occasionally used in the closer role.
1986: The final deal worked out the best, as the Pirates sent pitcher Jose DeLeon to the White Sox for Bobby Bonilla. DeLeon was a decent starter after the deal, but Bonilla was a superstar that helped the Pirates reach the playoffs in 1990 and 1991.
As for the players born on this date, Ginger Beaumont was a star center fielder for the 1901-03 Pirates teams that won three straight NL titles. You can read more on Beaumont in this link, which is in addition to the one at the top. He hit .321 for the Pirates in 989 games and scored 757 runs. He has the eighth highest batting average in team history, falling right between Arky Vaughan and Pie Traynor. On a team with Hall of Fame players Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke, Beaumont hit lead-off and led the NL in hits for three straight seasons from 1902 until 1904. He also led the league in average in 1902 and runs scored in 1903.
The other two players born on this date are 1928 second baseman Mack Hillis and 1934 pitcher Ed Holley. If you want to know more about them, just ask. Spoiler alert: My answer will be to check the link at the top of this section.