TCN 2014 Cards Prospect #38: Fernando Baez

The hard-throwing former catcher logged both high strikeout and high walk rates at Johnson City.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2013 and career stats)

2013 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHR 1/2/1992 6-1 190 R R 2009 FA

Home: San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic

Selected 2013 stats

JC 1 0 0.82 2.72 26 0 6 33 15 3 0 23 47 0.53 0.140 0.234

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (NR):I believe Fernando Baez deserves his first-time ranking in the top 40 despite the community leaving him off their list. It is merited by his performance in his first season on U.S. soil and second as a pitcher.

There is a reason observers refer to Baez as the "Dominican Jason Motte". In 33 innings pitched at Johnson City, Baez struck out over 47 batters, walked 23, but only gave up 15 hits and three earned runs in total. That is a 0.82 ERA, which is even more impressive given this is his first season pitching on U.S. territory.

Baez is a converted catcher with a big arm. He sits 92-94 mph on the gun and can touch 96. A prospect expert who saw Baez told me he has some definite potential and even showed an ok curve at the time he saw him.

Just being converted to the mound two years ago means that Baez should get all the development time he needs. In most cases, age is not a concern for converted pitchers. Even with that, I could see the Cardinals pushing him to Peoria to see how he handles full-season competition. - DTFlush234

Brian Walton (34): Here we have the third consecutive Cardinals prospect ranked by me that was off the board or at least much further down the page for the TCN message board community.

I can respect their collective view, as it could be a lean to look so highly upon a rookie-level reliever, especially one with such limited pitching experience. That is especially the case with so many other deserving competitors in the organization.

Yet there is a lot to like about Baez, The Cardinal Nation's top reliever at Johnson City at 21 years of age this season. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder seemed to get stronger as the season went on. Or perhaps he was more comfortable with the Appalachian League or both.

In his 11 games in August, Baez pitched 14 2/3 innings and allowed no runs on just three hits, for a ridiculous opposing batting average of .065. The busy stretch also included him recording his team-high six saves as he earned the ninth-inning responsibilities for manager Joe Kruzel. During that time, Baez fanned 19, but still walked nine – his one clear blind spot.

Baez appears to have been somewhat fortunate during 2013 as his 2.72 FIP and .234 BABIP noted above suggest. While his strikeout rate of 12.8 per nine innings, second-best in the system, catches eyes, considerable work is still needed. His very high walk rate of 6.3 per nine was second-worst among all organization relievers.

If Baez can get his free passes under control and continue to build his arm strength and velocity, perhaps one day Jason Motte might be called the American Fernando Baez. OK, that is a ridiculous thought, but at least there is considerable raw material to develop.

Our 2014 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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