TCN 2015 Cards Prospect #38: Fernando Baez

Though the right-hander was a first-year starter at State College in 2014, he may need to move ahead more quickly in 2015.

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Home: Palenque, Dominican Republic

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
38 RHS 01,02,92 6-1 190 R R 2009 FA

Selected 2014 stats

SC 2 2 3.94 3.88 13 9 0 45.2 32 21 2 28 48 0.201 0.69 0.270

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (NR): Baez did not receive any votes from the community, nor did anyone make any posts referring to him as of vote #45. UncleDenny, for one, was more impressed with lefty Dewin Perez during the voting. He feels that Perez, having just completed a season at State College, is more advanced than Ian McKinney (who may be a top 20 prospect in these rankings).

It was suggested that there is not a lot of difference between State College and Peoria regarding level of play but a vast difference between Johnson City and State College. Perez and Baez may compete to start at Peoria next year.

How does Perez relate to Baez? Well, it doesn’t really, but it is worth noting that Baez was at the same level this past year, albeit playing as a 22 year-old to Perez at 19. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: Baez was not ranked by the community last winter either, but he cracked TCN’s top 40 for the second consecutive winter after his second season on U.S. ground and third season as a pitcher.

He initially appeared in four games out of the bullpen at State College to open 2014, but in late June, the organization decided to insert him into the Spikes’ rotation. It still remains to be seen as to whether Baez is a starter or reliever long term, but the plan was give him more work and refine his secondary pitches so that if he does move back to the bullpen, his offerings will have more effectiveness than before.

Baez flourished as a reliever in his first two seasons of pro ball because he could easily carve up hitters with a plus fastball that can touch the upper 90s. Baez sits in the lower 90s with his fastball as a starter, but the breaking ball will be key to whether he will excel as a late-inning power reliever in the upper levels because you cannot get batters out on an arsenal that consists of just a single pitch.

I am not sure if Baez will be a starter or reliever with Peoria next season, but whatever his role is, keep an eye on him as it will be a huge season in terms of his development.

Brian Walton (34): Well, it is pretty clear that my number 34 ranking is the reason Baez made this top 40 for the second consecutive year at 38th overall. Let me explain why I feel this way.

It was not a rash decision. Coming off a very strong 2013 in the Johnson City pen, Baez was regularly in the 30-38 range in our monthly prospect rankings during the regular season.

While it is true that Baez is 22 years of age physically, he is still in his infancy in terms of pitching experience. 2014 was just his third season on the mound and first as a starter after beginning his professional career as a catcher. That is a move this organization has handled well with several others.

In an appearance that does not appear on his official 2014 record, Baez may have saved his best for last. With stuff his manager Oliver Marmol called “very electric,” he pitched State College into the New York-Penn League finals. On September 5th against Hudson Valley, Baez registered a career-high 10 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings, allowing just an unearned run on four hits and a walk.

Unlike some other youngsters with a plus fastball, Baez does not seem to be reluctant to use his other pitches. A few weeks later in instructional league camp, I watched him throw all four of his offerings for strikes. While his fastball was just 91-93 that day, he adroitly mixed in a curve and slider in the 76-77 range and showed an 82-85 mph changeup.

Though I brushed off Baez’ age above, his overall years of experience do matter in one important area. He already has five seasons in professional ball, so the Cardinals have just a couple of more years of control over his services.

For that reason, and despite the fact he would have more long-term value as a starter, I could see a decision made to move Baez back into relief. The reason would be to push him ahead much more quickly in 2015, not unlike what the organization did with Mitch Harris last season. I still like Baez’ promise, but his clock is ticking.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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