The Dodgers and Cuban right-handed pitcher Pablo Millan Fernandez Rojas have agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with an $8 million bonus, a source confirmed Sunday. The contract, first reported by BaseballAmerica.com, is pending a physical.
Fernandez (as he’s referred to here and here) is not subject to Major League Baseball’s international bonus pool restrictions, so the Dodgers will not be taxed on the $8 million bonus or face a penalty in the upcoming international signing period.
Here are his Serie Nacional stats:
According to a second source, Fernandez successfully defected from Cuba with his wife last October. BA reports that Fernandez has residence in Haiti, while the second source believes he may have defected to, or at least been training in, the Dominican Republic. (Geographically speaking, Haiti seems like the wiser choice for a Cuban defector.)
A third source indicated that the Dodgers’ interest in Fernandez only developed recently. Though Fernandez has some international experience as a middle reliever on the Cuban national team, his performance then might not have piqued the Dodgers’ interest. Alternatively, Fernandez might not have been viewed as a possible defector at the time and therefore wasn’t scouted in earnest.
Interestingly, BA reports that the Dodgers view Fernandez as a starter, despite the fact that he’s started just three games in Cuba since 2008. Fernandez was a closer for Holguin in 2011 and posted a 1.52 earned-run average that led Serie Nacional.
One Latin American evaluator who is not employed by Fernandez or the Dodgers estimated that the pitcher could start out in Double-A. “Once he gets seasoned,” the evaluator said, “I’d compare him to the kid (Odrisamer) Despaigne, whom the Padres signed and ended up using in his first year. He’s not going to be the best ever but won’t need a ton of time.”
He said that Fernandez’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, “about 92-94,” which is consistent with the BA report. Author Ben Badler adds this:
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.
I can confirm that, sort of. The pitcher in this scouting video posted to YouTube on March 9 identifies the right-hander as Fernandez, though I have no ability to verify the authenticity. I can verify that the video is of fairly high image quality and, hey so can you!
It’s my understanding that the Dodgers might have a formal announcement as early as tomorrow.