Fermin, now in his second year in the Blue Jays' organization, was expected to spend most of his time playing behind starting second baseman Daniel Arcila. However, an arm injury to Sweeney forced Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg to move Fermin into the starting lineup as a third baseman.
"Opportunity knocked," said Holmberg. "Somebody got hurt, giving him the opportunity to go over there and play third base, and he's done just a terrific job."
Through 33 games this season, Fermin is leading the team with a .312 batting average [among those with at least 100 at-bats]
while locking down the hot corner defensively.
"He's had a great year so far," said Holmberg. "We wish no bad luck on anyone, but somebody's injury or misfortune becomes somebody's fortune.
"He's taken a very good opportunity to go out there and play third base with Kellen being hurt and he's done a great job. His defense has improved. His hitting has improved. I think he's playing with a lot of confidence right now."
"I think that I'm hitting well and playing good defense," said Fermin. "I'm just trying to play hard and everything's going well right now."
Bluefield hitting coach Kenny Graham, who also worked with Fermin last season in Auburn, said he has made great improvements to his swing.
"Andy had a good year for us last year in Auburn," said Graham. "Everything that we gave to Andy or that he set up for himself as far as a plan and a routine, you can tell that it's paying off and that he did it all winter and worked on stuff.
"His hands work great through the baseball. He's got a real flat bat that stays in the zone for a long time."
After working with Graham, Fermin is now driving more balls to different parts of the field than he had previously.
"Andy has always been a great hitter and has been a gap-to-gap guy, but that was about the extent of just hitting line drives from left-center to right-center," said Graham. "Now he's really starting to drive the ball through the gaps."
Since making adjustments to his swing during Extended Spring Training, Fermin's power numbers have risen. After hitting just one home run and 12 doubles combined in the Gulf Coast League and New York-Penn League in 2010, Fermin has hit four home runs and 12 doubles this season with Bluefield.
Graham said they have been working to get Fermin's swing more in sequence, helping him generate more power from his legs.
"We worked on firing from the lower half first to let his strongest muscles in his body, his legs, deliver the bat to the ball," said Graham. "Before he just used his upper body just to hit soft line drives up the middle. Now he's really firing from the lower half first and his legs are delivering his bat to the ball which is giving him a lot more juice.
"Now he's hitting doubles to right-center field and hitting balls over the left fielder's head, driving doubles and triples to right-center, and driving the ball out of the park to his pull side."
Fermin has also been working on hitting inside pitches more effectively.
"The coaches said I've got a pretty good swing," said Fermin. "I handle the outside pitches well, but when they come inside they get me a little bit."
"He struggled finding that contact point on the inside pitch to really drive the ball out of the park to his pull side," said Graham. "We did a lot of drills just working on the pitch inside and we are doing a lot of inside tee. We've done what we call the inside hip drill, where we just throw balls right at his hip and make him turn on them and keep them in fair territory."
Fermin has performed well in his appearances at both second and third base. Cesar Martin, who works with infielders at Bluefield, said he needs to get his arm strength up, but has been otherwise solid defensively.
"He's improved a lot defensively," said Martin. "He's played with a lot of confidence and he's made a lot of good plays."
"I'm comfortable with both [second and third]," said Fermin. "When they put me in either one, I just try to do the job to help the team. I'm just working on getting the ground balls in the middle, getting in front of the ball and try to make a good play."
"Hard work has proven to be very fruitful for him," said Holmberg. "He's much improved from last year. He's been able to hit in the third spot with consistency in his average. He's not so selfish to not take a walk when [Art] Charles is up behind him. I'm very proud of Andy Fermin
, his efforts, his contributions, his progress, and the improvements he's made since last year."
An injury to everyday third baseman Kellen Sweeney opened a door for Andy Fermin to see more playing time in Bluefield than originally expected. He has taken advantage of the opportunity, improving his defensive skills and learning to drive the ball more effectively.
Andy Fermin, projected to be a backup player in Bluefield, is getting his chance now.