ORLANDO — The Giants didn’t leave Florida completely empty-handed. They added a relief prospect Thursday morning, and they believe they might have found a gem.
With the second pick in the annual Rule 5 Draft, the Giants chose right-hander Julian Fernandez, a 22-year-old who spent last season in A-ball for the Colorado Rockies. By rule, the Giants must pay $100,000 for the acquisition and if Fernandez doesn’t spend the entire season on the big league roster, he must be offered back to the Rockies for $50,000.
Rule 5 picks rarely stick — the Padres had three last season and none are really viewed as future contributors — but general manager Bobby Evans said Fernandez will have a real shot at competing for an opening day job. The Giants believe he has the stuff to potentially be in the back end of their bullpen throughout the season.
A talent evaluator familiar with Fernandez said he topped out at 103 mph and his fastball averaged 100 mph last season. In the past, Fernandez has had trouble throwing strikes, but Giants scouts saw a big jump in his command in 2017 and believe it will only get better given how young he is. Fernandez is slender — listed at just 160 pounds — but is said to get good extension on his pitches, allowing all of his stuff to play up a bit. He struck out 57 batters in 58 innings last season in A-ball and walked 18. The previous year, he issued 20 walks in 23 innings. He has a 3.65 ERA in 128 career relief appearances in the minors.
“It’s a plus-plus fastball,” Evans said. “The breaking stuff is not as consistent, but he has upside.”
The Giants also lost a player in the Rule 5 Draft, which allows teams to scoop up guys who were not added to 40-man rosters in time. The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Albert Suarez, who has pitched in San Francisco each of the last two seasons. The Giants took Suarez off their roster last month because he was out of options and would not have made the team in spring training.