Fernandez prioritizing 'little details' during winter ball

November 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Rockies No. 2 prospect made a big first impression when he advanced from High-A Spokane to Double-A Hartford in June – with a 1.014 OPS and five homers and 10 RBIs in his first 11 games with the Yard Goats.

But Fernandez, 20, a corner outfielder, knows the struggles the rest of the season – .194 with three homers and 15 RBIs in his final 45 games – were just as important to his development, which he hopes will land him in the Majors in 2024.

Before being promoted, Fernandez batted .319 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs at Spokane. Club officials were just as impressed with his enthusiasm for learning the finer points of offense and defense, and his constant conversation with coaches. Fernandez is furthering his education with Leones de Ponce in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

“This is why I’m here,” Fernandez said in Spanish, with Rockies assistant hitting coach and Ponce bench coach Andy González interpreting. “I’m paying attention to the little details that I’m learning – understanding how they’re going to pitch me, why they are pitching me that way, understanding where to throw the ball when I’m in the outfield, when to attack the ball. It’s all about game situations.”

Fernandez, hitting .207 with one home run through eight games at Ponce, was one of four prospects the Rockies placed on their 40-man Major League roster on Tuesday. Also added, and thus protected from being selected by another club in the Rule 5 Draft in December, were No. 1 prospect , a middle infielder, and right-handed relief pitchers and Juan Mejia.

A Havana, Cuba, native, Fernandez signed with the Rockies – who had followed him closely when he represented the national team in age-group competition – for $295,000 during the 2019-20 international signing period. He showed power at each stop, and previewed his talents before a wider audience when he managed a single and made a 103.3 mph throw from right field during the Futures Game at All-Star weekend in Seattle.

Hartford was Fernandez's first speed bump. No small part of his struggles stemmed from soreness in his right shoulder that cost him eight days in early July. But the slow finish hasn’t dampened the Rockies’ belief in his potential. 

“He’s a true hitter to me,” González said. “He definitely has a lot to learn about the game, but he will hit – and he will be an impactful hitter once he understands how he is being pitched, and how to make adjustments. For me, it’s always valuable to struggle and figure out how to get out of it.”

For incentive to learn and improve, Fernandez looks to an increasingly young Major League roster.

“I know that young players are playing for the Rockies, so I’m looking forward to my opportunity to show what I can do,” Fernandez said.