The Washington Nationals are frequent big-spenders on the international market in free agency and today they made another move. The Nationals have signed Cuban outfielder Yadiel Hernandez to a minor-league deal and also gave him a $200,000 signing bonus, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America.
Hernandez, 29, is exempt from the international bonus pools and was eligible to sign with any team. Jorge Ebro of the El Nuevo Herald first reported the signing by the Nationals earlier today. Hernandez was considered one of the top players in Cuba's top league, Serie Nacional, but has not played there in two years, as he began his process to move to MLB.
During his final season in Cuba, he hit .369/.509/.535 and homered seven times. He doesn't possess a ton of power and is considered more of a gap hitter, but he could run into a few home runs from time to time. His most valued trait according to scouts is his discipline around the plate. In 2014, he had an astounding .509 OBP, thanks in large part to his 77 walks to just 47 strikeouts. His eye at the plate will be important as he makes the jump from Cuba to minor league baseball and then hopefully to the Nationals.
None of Hernandez's tools really grade out as plus, but the Nationals are taking a chance on the Cuban, thinking he could turn into a serviceable outfielder if he is able to translate his game to MLB. He is more offensive-minded, but his defense is said to be at least average at best. He doesn't run all that well, so is likely to play left or right field in the Nationals system.
Since he is already 29 years old, the Nationals are taking a chance on the once-promising outfielder, even though he hasn't played in a game in well over a year. He will most likely start in Triple-A, with possibly an outside chance at earning a spot on the major-league roster next spring. He must get acclimated and though he may never be a potential plus player, he could serve as a possible fourth outfielder or serviceable depth in the system, a valuable commodity for teams in today's big leagues.null