Jose Fernandez is the subject of great interest in international baseball circles, but the whereabouts of the Cuban second baseman remain unconfirmed.
Fernandez and catcher Lazaro Herrera, who are cousins and teammates on the Matanzas Crocodiles in Serie Nacional, have not played since Oct. 10. Matanzas manager Victor Mesa, who also manages the Cuban national team, had previously said he didn’t know why they were missing.
Higinio Velez, the president of the Cuban baseball federation, announced Sunday that Fernandez and Herrera have been released from the Matanzas team due to disciplinary reasons. Velez said he could not say whether they left the country or where the players are currently. While multiple well-connected sources said they believe Fernandez and Herrera did leave Cuba, those stories were inconsistent, and Baseball America could not independently confirm Fernandez’s current location.
However, Velez did confirm that second baseman Hector Olivera left the country, which Baseball America reported last month. Olivera ranked as the No. 6 player still in Cuba before he exited the island.
As a 26-year-old with seven seasons of experience in Serie Nacional, Fernandez will be exempt from the international bonus pools if he has indeed left the country, and the interest from major league teams should be high. Fernandez, who ranked as the No. 3 prospect still in Cuba in August, is a major league-ready infielder with a short, quick swing from the left side, excellent bat control and stellar plate discipline.
During the 2013-14 season playing for Matanzas in Serie Nacional, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Fernandez hit .326/.482/.456 with 65 walks and 10 strikeouts in 314 plate appearances, ranking second in the league in OBP. This season, which started in September, Fernandez was off to a .315/.415/.426 start with only one strikeout in 65 plate appearances.