After spending nearly $100 million (including taxes) on Yadier Alvarez, Yusniel Diaz, Yaisel Sierra and Yordan Alvarez in the previous international signing period, the Los Angeles Dodgers appear to have once again dipped their toes into the Cuban talent pool.
Multiple sources have reported that the Dodgers have agreed to terms with infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez on a Minor League contract. Per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Fernandez’s signing bonus is in the neighborhood of $200,000.
The 28-year-old infielder, who was ranked as the third-best prospect in Cuba by Baseball America in 2015, was cleared to sign with Major League teams last April.
However, being out of baseball for two years and a bout with dengue fever delayed clubs’ evaluations, which coaxed the veteran infielder to play with Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League. Through 18 games, Fernandez hit .286/.369/.286 with eight walks and five strikeouts.
The left-handed hitting Fernandez makes regular contact and draws plenty of walks, making him an on-base threat. In his last full season in Cuba, Fernandez drew 65 walks and struck out just 10 times in 83 games.
During his eight-year career in Cuba, Fernandez walked more than twice as much as he struck out. However, he homered just 37 times in 608 games and profiles to have below-average power. Then there’s his defense.
Primarily a second baseman in Cuba, Fernandez has primarily been playing third base in the Winter League. His lower half has gotten thicker as he’s matured, costing him quickness and range up the middle, where he was already a marginal defender.
Third base may be a better fit for Fernandez, though his arm strength is below-average and his bat is light for the hot corner. That could leave Fernandez as a man without a position.
He’ll likely post strong numbers in the Minors but, despite early calls from fans for his addition to the Dodgers roster, the organization probably won’t be able to settle on a role for him on the Major League club.
Unless Fernandez develops more power or improves defensively at second base, it appears he’ll top out as a bench bat. One conclusion that should be drawn from the signing is that the Dodgers are definitely not out on Brian Dozier or other second base targets.
Inking an international prospect for $200,000 will not prevent the club from investing heavily in another infielder. Expect another move to fill the hole at second soon.
You can listen to Jared on the weekly Dugout Blues Podcast