Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 34, Julian Fernández: -0.2 rWAR
Julian Fernández started the year in Double-A Hartford after being a non-roster invite to spring training. The 25-year-old RHP made his first appearances after missing three full seasons due to undergoing Tommy John surgery and the pandemic-cancelled 2020 season.
Fernández pitched 28 2⁄3 innings for the Yard Goats, having a 3.45 ERA and 24 strikeouts. On July 26th, Fernández was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque. While pitching in relief for the Isotopes, Fernández had 14 appearances, striking out 18 batters in 14 inning and only giving up two earned runs in that time. Overall, Fernández’s minor league season was successful. Between both levels, Fernández had a 2.53 ERA in 42 2⁄3 innings, while only giving up 16 free passes. The hard-throwing reliever nearly struck out a batter per inning, having 42 total strikeouts in the minors this season.
The Rockies were impressed by his performance between Hartford and Albuquerque, giving Fernández a promoting to the big league club on September 5th. Despite the forgettable 9-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves, Fernández’s debut was impressive due to his fastball breaking 100 mph multiple times. During September and October, Fernández made six appearances for the Rockies in the final stretch of the season. Over 6 2⁄3 innings, he gave up eight earned runs — including two long balls — and walked four batters while striking out four.
Fernández has the ability to bring the heat. During an October 2nd relief appearance, he threw a 102.8 MPH fastball, which is the fastest pitch in Rockies history since Statcast started tracking pitches. In fact, Fernández has the five fastest pitches on record for the Rockies despite only having six appearances. Lighting up the radar gun is nothing new for him. While pitching for the Isotopes, Fernández hit 103 MPH in an August game.
The statistics with his time with the Rockies aren’t going to jump off the page, but this season was a great stepping stone towards future success. His performance in the minors proved that he is healthy from his UCL injury and can be an impact, hard-throwing relief option for the Rockies’ bullpen next season. Considering he missed three full seasons, the right-hander made important progress rebounding from injuries and will hopefully continue to growing in 2022.
Be prepared to see more 100+ mph fastballs at Coors Field next season!