Fernandez ready to prove himself in Spring Training

February 23rd, 2024

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.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The nerves hit Rockies outfield prospect immediately upon stepping into the batter’s box.

It was last spring against the Royals when the Rockies sent Fernandez up against countryman , forever one of the baseball beacons from Cuba. Fernandez produced a solid line-drive out and a good overall plate appearance -- after the jitters calmed.

“I went out there a little timid and not knowing how to go about it,” Fernandez said, with Rockies bullpen catcher Aaron Muñoz interpreting. “But after the first pitch, seeing his throwing mechanics, I was able to relax and have a good at-bat. I don’t know if he knew anything about me, but I definitely knew about him.”

Now it’s time for Fernandez to introduce himself in his first full Major League camp -- in his first year on the 40-man roster.

At 21, Fernandez is ranked 72nd on the MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects. He’s the No. 3 Rockies player on the list, behind switch-hitting infielder Adael Amador (No. 28), and last year's top Draft pick, right-handed pitcher Chase Dollander (No. 52). Fellow outfielder Jordan Beck is ranked No. 81.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, Fernandez’s calling card is 60-grade power. He knocked 17 homers in 58 games at High-A Spokane and eight in 56 games after a promotion to Double-A Hartford. He also brings a strong left arm that totaled 11 assists at the two stops. The game gave him homework assignments – 78 strikeouts in 268 plate appearances and a .206 average after the leap to Double-A, where he was one of the younger players in the Eastern League.

“I’m just trying to make good contact and show that I can be a good hitter,” said Fernandez, who left Cuba for the Dominican Republic, and signed with the Rockies for $295,000 during the 2019-20 international period.

The Cactus League season will bring about an intriguing competition. Fernandez, Beck, 2020 first-rounder Zac Veen (Rockies' No. 5 prospect), 2021 top pick Benny Montgomery (No. 8) and fast-developing all are in Major League camp, and 2023 supplemental first-rounder reached Double-A last year.

The Rockies already have had outfielders , and break through to varying degrees. Outfield is part of the profile of and , who saw Major League time last year. If enough show Major League potential at the level they’re beginning this season, the Rockies could use some to shore up other areas.

That’s a lot of names, but almost every player listed has some development to do before the Rockies actually have a surplus that forces decisions. A path like Fernandez’s -- blazing success at High-A followed by early struggles at Double-A -- is not uncommon.

“It’s a big jump,” Fernandez said. “I learned that it’s a very competitive league, a lot of talent. I look forward to taking what I learned in Double-A and bring it to Spring Training.

“There are a lot of young guys, and I love the competition. We’re all talented players. We’re all here to show what we can do, and we look forward to going out and proving ourselves.”

Rockies manager Bud Black has noticed Fernandez has undergone “natural maturity” physically. He’ll get a closer look.

“Last year in Double-A, there were moments of brilliance whether with the arm or with the bat,” Black said. “Statistically, it was maybe not as good as he would have hoped. He’s a year older, and big-league camp has a way of turning up the dial for guys.”