28. Vince Fernandez (155 points, 14 ballots)
What Vince Fernandez lacks in prospect pedigree (10th round pick out of UC-Riverside in 2016) and press (not ranked by national outlets), he makes up for in offensive production. The 22-year-old lefty corner outfielder has mashed at both stops so far in his professional career. He hit .310/.370/.527 line (121 wRC+) in 2016 with Grand Junction and took well to full season ball in the South Atlantic League. In 428 plate appearances with Asheville in 2017, the 6’3” Fernandez posted a .269/.352/.464 line (135 wRC+) with 40 extra base hits and 12 steals.
Those numbers were worthy of a South Atlantic League All-Star berth, but some context applies. Fernandez was only slightly younger than league average, he struck out a bit much (28.5%), and he played in a very lefty-friendly home park. At home Fernandez hit .305/.381/.532 with 25 extra base hits, while on the road he produced a more pedestrian .232/.322/.395 line. He also slumped badly in the season’s second half, hitting just .192/.302/.327 after the All-Star Break. On the plus side, Fernandez didn’t have a noticeable platoon split, hitting .268 against lefties and .270 against righties.
There’s not a lot of digital scouting ink spilled thus far on Fernandez, but Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus thought Fernandez was the best pick of the 2016 draft’s 10th round:
Fernandez looks the part at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, and he’s shown flashes of brilliance during his time at UC Riverside. He’ll never be a high-average hitter, but there’s above-average power potential in his right-handed bat, and his 55-grade speed and arm will serve him well in the corner outfield.
In a May 2017 note (at the apex of his hot streak), Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs had this to say about Fernandez:
Fernandez has above average, all-fields raw power. He also has a corner-only (and some scouts have said 1B-only) defensive profile so there’s lots of pressure on the bat, but he’s hitting .336 at Low-A Asheville and is 10-for-10 on stolen base attempts. The Cal League will likely be kind to Fernandez’s skillset if/when he’s promoted. Fernandez seems likely to at least get the opportunity to sink or swim at Double-A at some point during the next two seasons, which is pretty impressive considering that, less than a year ago, he was a 10th rounder.
Here’s some pre-draft video of Fernandez courtesy of Prospect Pipeline:
There’s no denying that Fernandez has hit well since being drafted. With that said, the lack of scouting plaudits, poor defensive profile, lower draft position, second half cold spell, and the wariness I have about left-handed hitter batting lines in Asheville led me to leave Fernandez off my top 30 among a teeming mass of similarly rated prospects. If Fernandez can show this offensive prowess at higher levels I shall be forced (and pleased) to reconsider.
Given his production, Fernandez should get a chance to do just that next year in the California League. If it all clicks, Fernandez would be on pace for a late 2020 debut in the big leagues.