Blue Jays sign substitute Julian Fernandez Minor league contract, reports Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smithtwitter link). Bullfighting hard hitting the top minors will add depth.
Fernández has more than two years of major league service, but nearly all of it has been spent on the injured roster. The Giants left the Rockies organization in the 2017 Rule 5 draft. Before making a pitch for San Francisco, Tommy John suffered an elbow injury that required surgery and spent the entire following season on the MLB casualty list. The Marlins claimed he was waived off the next season, but spent the entire 2019 season at IL thanks to continued elbow issues.
Outside of the 2019-20 season, Miami waived its Rule 5 rights. This sent him back to the original organization, the Rockies, without requiring a 40-man squad spot. Fernández ruined two years of MLB service without a game, but eventually got his first real opportunity late in the 2021 season. Colorado selected him to their 40-man roster as their September call. He allowed eight runs in 6 2/3 hits in six laps, struggling with his control, but averaging 99 MPH on a fastball that fell just under 101.
Fernández remained on the roster with Colorado last winter, but spent the first few months of the season on an optional assignment to Triple-A Albuquerque. He struggled and was appointed to the post in mid-June. He completely removed the waivers and stuck to Isotopes all season, hitting 57 in 58 games. The Dominican-born pitcher allowed a 6.63 ERA in this extremely hit-and-miss league, scoring a staggering 2.37 home runs per nine innings. He hit 24.9% of his opponents with an impressive 13.6% swing percentage, but the long ball and 12.3% walk rate proved too problematic for him to return to the major leagues.
After qualifying as a minors free agent at the end of the season, Fernández finds a new opportunity in Toronto. While his minor league performance history is inconsistent, his arm strength is certainly of interest to the Jays shooting development team. The 27-year-old still has two minor league options years left, so if he beats Toronto’s 40-man roster at any point, the next few seasons can oscillate freely between Rogers Center and Triple-A Buffalo.