July 21, 2024

Under-the-radar deals and signings have helped the Cardinals’ bullpen become one of baseball’s best.

When it comes to the Cardinals bullpen, Ryan Helsley gets a lot of attention, and for good reason. Helsley is perhaps baseball’s most effective closer, having converted 31 consecutive saves without blowing one, a franchise record. But what about the arms that come in to keep Helsley in the lead?

A winning club has more than one solid arm in the bullpen, and the Cardinals have several arms that can be relied on in high-pressure situations, and they obtained these guys without giving up anything major.

The Cardinals are now 12th in the league in team ERA (3.89), and for the majority of the season, the pitching has outperformed the offense. However, when it comes to middle relievers, the most reliable arms are often unknown. Three pitchers in particular have been called on frequently in the first half of the season to get outs in high-pressure circumstances, and they have been highly dependable for manager Oli Marmol. What makes this even more satisfying is how little the Cardinals had to give up to get these arms.

The Cardinals drafted Ryan Fernandez in the 2023 Rule 5 Draft

Rob Rains on X: "Riley O'Brien and Ryan Fernandez will be two of the  relievers competing this spring for a spot in the #STLCards bullpen - years  after each almost quit playing


Fernandez was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 23rd round in 2018 out of Tampa’s Hillsborough Community College. He pitched at three separate minor league levels last season (A, AA, and AAA), with a 4.14 ERA over 54 + innings, but the Cardinals found something intriguing in him.

Despite his high ERA, Fernandez had relatively decent control in the minors and was able to generate a lot of swing-and-miss, which the Cardinals urgently needed heading into the season. Fernandez had 60 walks and 252 strikeouts in 216 innings during five minor league seasons, giving him a strikeout-to-walk ratio of more than 4:1.

The Cardinals picked Fernandez in the Rule 5 Draft in December, which takes place every year and allows teams with an open position on their 40-man roster to participate, but the player must remain on the 40-man roster. Fernandez had a solid spring and began the season as more of a mop-up reliever, entering games that were not especially close and trying to eat innings.

Fernandez has been relied on more in high-leverage situations as the season has progressed, and with the bullpen being taxed recently, Fernandez has delivered in spades. In 31 appearances, he has a 2.21 ERA, which is lower than any single season he has had in the minor leagues, and he is still missing bats, with a 9.6 K/9.

Fernandez has developed into an arm that Marmol can rely on in the stretch run, and all the Cardinals had to do was free up a spot on the 40-man roster for him. The general staff deserves credit for acquiring Ryan Fernandez.





















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