The Dodgers have released Cuban infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez. This move comes as a bit of a surprise after Fernandez hit .306/.366/.498 with 16 home runs for Double-A Tulsa, before getting injured late in the season and finishing the year on the DL.
Fernandez was a highly touted prospect after defecting from Cuba. He hit .319/.403/.423 over 2580 plate appearances while playing for Matanzas of the Cuban National Series. However, it took more than a year after his defection in December 2015 before he was signed. Fernandez was always viewed as a great contact hitter, but played below average defense and also lacked significant power and speed. This, along with him being 27 years old at the time of his defection, may have all played a role in him remaining unsigned for so long.
In January of 2017 the Dodgers took a shot on Fernandez after watching him briefly compete in the Dominican Winter League. They signed him to a minor league contract worth $200,000 as a low risk, potentially high reward player. The plan was for Fernandez to learn third base as well as get some work at first base and left field to add versatility to a player they likely viewed as a utility infielder. If Fernandez was struggling to adapt to these new positions it could certainly have affected the Dodgers decision, as he was below average at his natural position of second base to begin with.
Despite his defense, this move is still surprising. Fernandez showed great offensive prowess in 2017, including 16 home runs which was double his career high for a single season while play in Cuba. He also showed a great eye at the plate, only striking out 33 times over 369 plate appearances. While his power may not have translated to the Major Leagues, his patient approach and ability to consistently make contact would have. With Fernandez set to turn 30 in April it’s easy to see why the Dodgers felt he wouldn’t develop much further, but he still has value for a team that loves to have depth from top to bottom.
Fernandez is likely to land with another team as a free agent on another minor league contract. He may not be the highly touted prospect he once was, but he could still make it to the Major Leagues if placed in the right situation. Best of luck to Jose wherever he ends up!
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