The reliever roulette wheel continues to roll, as the Cardinals announced that they have designated LHP Adalberto Mejia for assignment. Just claimed from the Los Angeles Angels on outright assignment waivers on July 30th and activated to the 25-man roster the next day, Mejia’s tour of duty with the Cardinals lasted only 2 games.
Mejia came on in relief of Dakota Hudson with 2 outs in the bottom of the 4th in the August 3rd game against the Oakland Athletics, and allowed 4 hits, with 1 BB, 2 SO and 1 ER in 1.2 IP. With 1 day of rest, he relieved Michael Wacha last night in a similar situation with 2 outs in the bottom of the 4th. While he was the victim of the Cardinals’ Keystone Kops defense last night, he had two pitches almost completely slip out of his hand, and threw several hanging sliders and other fastballs right down the middle. In 1.1 IP, he gave up 2 ER, allowed another inherited runner to score, with no walks or strikeouts. In his total tour of duty with the Cards, he allowed 8 hits out of 17 batters faced in just 3 IP.
Since Mejia is out of options, the Cards designated him for assignment, and will now have 7 days to decide whether to place Mejia on unconditional release waivers or outright assignment waivers, as a trade of a player that had a major league contract is no longer possible after the trade deadline. Whatever they decide, they need to act quick enough to pass Mejia through waivers so the assignment can take place within the 7 days. The Cards will almost certainly place him on outright assignment waivers and attempt to outright him to AAA Memphis for pitching depth there, as Mejia does not have enough service time to declare free agency in lieu of an outright assignment to the minors.
With the 40-man roster at 39 after the DFA of Mike Mayers 2 days ago, the Cards purchased the contract (this is the official name of the transaction to add someone to the 40-man roster in a non-trade who is not already on it) of RHP Junior Fernandez from AAA Memphis. Folks have been clamoring for Fernandez to get a shot. Signed as a 17-year old undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2014, the Cards did not protect him from the December 2018 Rule 5 draft.
The 22-year old righthander got off to a slow start in the organization, and started this season with A+ Palm Beach, the 5th season he has spent time at that level in his career. Initially a starter, he has pitched in relief exclusively since the 2018 season. What’s interesting about his season is that he didn’t exactly earn the promotion to AA Springfield on May 1st. In 9 games for Palm Beach, he had walked over 6 men per 9 innings, walking 8 in 11.2 IP for a 15.7% BB rate. Nonetheless, he got a shot when Springfield released Mike O’Reilly, and boy did he take advantage of it. Promoted to Springfield on May 1st, all he did was lead the Springfield staff with a 36.5% K percentage in 18 games and 29 IP, and dropped his walk rate to 3.4 men per 9.
On June 25, Alex Reyes went on the Memphis 7-day IL, and both Daniel Ponce de Leon and Dominic Leone were recalled to the big club as a result of Jordan Hicks blowing his elbow out. Memphis needed extra help, and Fernandez was rewarded with a promotion. In 15 games there, his strikeout percentage has dropped, but the 27.4% is still good. His walk rate has increased to 11.9%, and that’s certainly higher than you would like. His BABIP allowed is .229, and you can expect that to regress, as it’s 70 points lower than he usually allows. But you have to like the fact that in 42 G and 61.1 IP total this season, he has not allowed a single HR all year. His control is something to keep an eye on, as he has struggled with that throughout his career, including earlier this season.
With Fernandez’s resurgence this year, there was a more than minimal risk that a team would take a flier on him in the Rule 5 draft this upcoming December, so the Cards purchasing his contract now just accelerated a move that was a likely eventuality. In addition, 2 out of the 3 healthy Memphis pitchers, Genesis Cabrera and Daniel Ponce de Leon, both started games on August 3rd and August 4, respectively. Dominic Leone actually has better strikeout and walk rates than Fernandez does, but FIP and xFIP like Fernandez better. Both pitchers pitched last night for Memphis. It’s certainly an exciting story to watch a player ascend from Class A-Advanced all the way to the majors within 1 season.
In a final bit of news, the club announced that Mike Mayers has cleared outright assignment waivers and has been outrighted to AAA Memphis. Mayers did not have the service time to elect free agency in lieu of an outright assignment to the minors, and I think you can expect a similar announcement on Mejia in the coming days. With the purchase of Fernandez, the Cards’ 40-man roster is still at 39 players with one spot open.
BULLPEN AVAILABLE TONIGHT
Brebbia (R), Fernandez (R), Gallegos (R), Gant (R), Helsley (R), C. Martinez (R), Miller (L), Webb (L)