Pirates Prospects has learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed 28-year-old Cuban right-handed pitcher Yoandy Fernandez to a minor league contract. Neal Huntington confirmed to Tim Williams on Monday morning that the deal was in the final stages, and we learned that the deal was finalized on Monday. Fernandez has reported to Extended Spring Training so the Pirates can further evaluate him.
Fernandez pitched in Cuba from 2007 until 2013, before defecting from Cuba to Mexico in late 2014. He entered the U.S. the following January and was declared eligible for the 2015 draft, but no one took him. The reasoning at the time was that he was looking for a two-year deal and didn’t want to be tied to a team for six full seasons like a standard contract signed by draft picks. He turned down some offers during the second day of the draft (rounds 3-10). MLB cleared him afterwards to sign with any team.
Fernandez was a relief pitcher in Cuba. In the U.S. in early 2015, he was training in Tampa and the scouting reports had him throwing 89-92 MPH, with a slider, curve and a sinker. He has also added a cutter since then. Instead of reaching a deal with an MLB team, Fernandez signed with the Normal CornBelters of the Frontier League after not being drafted, and he had an 8.25 ERA over 12 innings in seven appearances.
Since then, Fernandez has been training in Tampa and playing in a local men’s league, where the Pirates scouted him last Sunday. Last week, he struck out 14 batters during a five inning appearance for the Dade City Brewers, then had five strikeouts over two innings in front of the Pirates, with Rene Gayo as the person who recommended him to Huntington. Recent velocity numbers have him sitting 91-92 with his sinker, topping out at 93 MPH.
He’s the second Cuban player the Pirates have signed recently, after the Pirates signed 25-year-old Dany Hernandez last month. The tryout for Hernandez was in the Dominican Republic, so it seems like it’s more of a coincidence than a pattern.
**In other transaction news, the Pirates have released minor league right-handers Adrian Grullon, Francis Rodriguez, Robbie Coursel, and left-hander Nestor Oronel. All four were being used as lower level depth, with Grullon the only one who had a shot at being a prospect before Tommy John derailed his chances.