It doesn’t take much to figure how the Mariner organization is top-heavy with shortstops. Nick Franklin (yes, still playing short sometimes), Chris Taylor and Gabriel Noriega all started in the AAA All-Star Game Wednesday night (with Taylor the hitting star — 2 doubles and a single) and all originally shortstops (Taylor played there in the All-Star Game with Franklin at 2b and Noriega at 3b).
And 20-year-old Ketel Marte is already at AA.
Meanwhile, at the very bottom of the ladder is highly touted 17-year-old Venezuelan Greifer Andrade.
Of course, that’s not even mentioning Brad Miller.
But a new name is popping up now at Pulaski — 20-year-old switch-hitting Venezuelan Rafael Fernandez.
Now, granted Fernandez is on the older side for a guy just coming to play in the U.S. And his first three seasons in Venezuela were not super-distinguished … other than being really hard to strike out.
Well now that he’s in the U.S. he’s gone to a whole new level of strikeout avoidance: just 7 K in his first 82 plate appearances. That’s 8.5%.
But unlike some who are good at avoiding strike three, but aren’t all that fond of ball four (consider Marte with a 12.5% K-rate but only a scary-low 4.2% BB-rate), Fernandez can draw walks, too. He has 18 already … a 22.0% walk rate!
Does it mean much? Not a lot yet. Fernandez doesn’t hit for power, though he seems to have some speed (17 steals last year). Clearly he doesn’t have the glove that pushed Marte up to AA so quickly, but he’s on pace to finish with a lot fewer errors.
Most interesting to me, however, is that his eye is darn-near golden against RH pitching. In 63 PAs so far, he’s drawn 14 walks (vs. 4 K). So he has a .500 OBP vs. RHP.
True, he won’t draw walks at anywhere near that rate in higher levels without at least developing doubles pop, but when a guy handles the bat that well to start with, sometimes some power shows up (and sometimes not).
Fernandez is not one of the guys who was touted as a major signing (as far as I can tell), but he easily could end up outpacing more prominent guys like Martin Peguero.
A switch-hitter with a good glove who won’t hurt you at the plate is a pretty good recipe for a utility guy. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s putting up results a lot more interesting than most.