Word spread this past weekend that the Dodgers were in the midst of signing another Cuban free agent. His name is Jose Miguel Fernandez, he bats left-handed, and has primarily been a second baseman but has been playing third this winter. Fernandez originally tried to escape Cuba in 2014 but failed, then actually escaped in December 2015, and received MLB free agent status in April the following year. It is a minor league deal with a bonus of $200,000; per Jesse Sanchez at MLB.com.
Why it took til this past week to sign a deal? I do not know. Per Mark Polishuk at MLB Trade Rumors:
Back in April 2015, Baseball America’s Ben Badler ranked Fernandez as the third-best player in Cuba, with Badler praising Fernandez’s approach at the plate, contact skills and plate discipline. Fernandez his .319/.403/.423 over 2580 career plate appearances in the Serie Nacional, recording 263 walks against just 113 strikeouts. Badler felt Fernandez was only an “adequate” fielder at second base and graded his power and baserunning as below average, though overall, Fernandez was thought to be a player capable of more or less stepping right into the major leagues.And here are some notes from an April 2016 report on Fernandez by Ben Badler at Baseball America:
Among the concerns with Fernandez were his thickening lower half and declining range at second base, but he has lost significant weight since leaving Cuba, another reason why scouts are interested to get an updated look at him.With a spot at second base still open Jose's pending signing adds an interesting wrinkle to the situation. As you know, the Dodgers have been closely linked to trade rumors surrounding second baseman Brian Dozier of the Twins, so you have to wonder if Los Angeles is taking a step back from those discussions. After all, they now have a couple maybes to fill the position in the high-minors (Fernandez and Willie Calhoun), and a backup catcher in Austin Barnes who can play second base (he got into seven games last season). Or, maybe this is just a way to tell the Twins that the Dodgers are ready to move on and wont be swayed by whatever crazy rumors their front office wants to spread.
Given his present hitting ability and on-base skills, Fernandez should be able to quickly step into the top of a major league lineup, though part of his immediate readiness depends on how sharp is after a significant layoff from competitive baseball.
BTW, Fernandez has been playing in the Dominican winter league, per Dustin Nosler at Dodgers Digest:
He played winter ball for Aguilas Cibaenas and hit .286/.369/.286 in 56 at-bats, walking eight times and striking out five. And, as you can deduce from his slugging percentage, he did not have an extra base hit.In celebration of Jose's recent signing with the Dodgers I have made the above fantasy Baseball card of him - using the 1988 Score Baseball card design.
Below are his career statistics in Cuba, via Baseball-Reference:
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