The Dodgers have once again dipped into the Cuban Baseball well. According to Ben Badler at Baseball America, they have just inked 25-year old Cuban right-hander Pablo Millan Fernandez to a minor league contract for $8Million - pending a physical.
There had been minimal buzz on Fernandez in the international scouting community. In Cuba, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Fernandez was known more for his touch and feel than his pure stuff, with a fastball that ranged from 86-88 mph at this time last year in Cuba. However, more recently Fernandez has increased his fastball into the low-90s, unusual for a pitcher in his mid-20s, with a curveball, slider and changeup in his arsenal as well. Like many Cuban pitchers, Fernandez intentionally threw from several different arm slots, though since arriving in the Dominican Republic to train he has worked to repeat his release point.This appears to be a good depth move by the Dodgers - and a timely one at that. All of the sudden the Dodgers are riddled with injuries on their pitching staff, so having a guy like this adds some needed breathing room if you're worried about our arms. Badler mentions that he'll begin his MLB career as a starter, but his background is as a reliever. I wouldn't hold out hope that he'll magically become a back-of-the-rotation starter for us, or a potential replacement for Ryu should his woes continue for the long term. On the other hand, if the finesse he is purported to have with his pitches translates into getting Major League hitters out, then who knows? Fernandez could be a diamond in the rough.
Fernandez is expected to begin his career in the minors as a starting pitcher, most likely with one of the Dodgers’ upper minors affiliates. He had primarily been a reliever in Cuba while pitching for Holguin in Serie Nacional. During the 2013-14 season, Fernandez posted a 2.83 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 19 walks in 57 1/3 innings, with 26 of his 27 appearances coming out of the bullpen. His best season in Cuba came in 2011-12, when he threw 95 innings of relief as Holguin’s closer, with enough innings for his 1.52 ERA to lead the league, along with a 70-23 K-BB mark.
I wonder if he's in camp right now in Arizona. Anyone know?
In celebration of Fernandez's arrival to the Dodgers I made the above fantasy card for him. I combined two photos of him (from Cubahora and enCuba24h.com) and used the 1968 Topps Baseball card design.
Below is a video of Fernandez pitching, found via Roberto Baly on twitter. BTW, Ben Badler's story linked above also includes a video of Fernandez pitching.
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