In 1990, the White Sox looked to bolster their starting rotation. Coming off a 1989 season where only one pitcher on the starting staff had a winning record (Jerry Reuss, with an 8-5 record), General Manager Larry Himes had to find the right arm. In Alex Fernandez, he did just that.
Fernandez had been drafted the previous year by the then-AL Milwaukee Brewers out of high school. He did not sign and instead went back into the draft for 1990, where the Sox got him with the fourth overall pick out of Miami-Dade College. Before Fernandez officially signed, however, there was an investigation into whether the New York Yankees had tampered with Fernandez to convince him to not sign with the White Sox and again go back into the draft for 1991. American League President Bobby Brown said there was no evidence of tampering and cleared the Yankees of any wrongdoing.
After all was said and done, Alex Fernandez did sign with the White Sox, and after just eight minor league appearances, made his Major League debut on August 2nd, 1990, against, of all teams, the Milwaukee Brewers. On that day, he would throw seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out four, but did not receive a decision in the White Sox’ 4-3 victory.
Fernandez would finish 5-5 with a 3.80 ERA in his rookie season. He would go on to play for the Sox from 1990 to 1996, compiling a 79-63 record with a 3.78 ERA. Heading into the 1997 season, Fernandez would sign a deal with the Florida Marlins, and in that same season, Fernandez would go on to win a World Series with the Florida Marlins, their 1st title in the team’s history. He would finish his career with the Marlins, but would only play three seasons with the team due to shoulder problems. In fact, he would have to sit out the entire 1998 season due to injury.
How does Fernandez stack up overall compared to some of the White Sox’ pitching greats? With the White Sox, his best season was in 1993 when he compiled an 18-9 record and a 3.13 ERA at the age of 24. He would finish 21st in MVP voting that season as well. He also received Cy Young votes in 1996, his last season with the White Sox, and finished sixth in voting when he went 16-10 with a 3.45 ERA.
When you look at Fernandez’s career numbers, you’ll notice that he posted a total of 28.5 bWAR. Here are the five most similar pitchers to Fernandez’s career, based on Baseball Reference’s Similarity Scores:
5th – Dallas Keuchel
4th – Steve Stone
3rd – Jake Arrieta
2nd – Charlie Morton
1st – Tim Lincecum
Based on the numbers, Alex Fernandez comes off very underrated in the pantheon of White Sox pitchers. He is one of just seven right-handers to strike out 200 hitters in a season with the White Sox – with the latest being Dylan Cease in 2021.
Fernandez came to the team at the beginning of the time when other White Sox greats would also be beginning their careers. His comps at the end of his career are to players who, at one time or another, were top-of-the-rotation starters. Much like the #1 pitcher on his Similarity Score – Tim Lincecum – he had a career that was cut short due to unfortunate injuries. He was a workhorse who would eat up innings when healthy, which may have led to his shoulder giving out on him sooner than some had thought.
That said, Sox fans will always remember that high leg kick and the pause.
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