Note: There are some quotes that are a result of Google Translator. Some liberties were taken where the translation did not make sense.
The Dodgers have had some big catching prospects over the last few years including Will Smith, Keibert Ruiz, Diego Cartaya, and Dalton Rushing. One catcher that too many people have not heard of is Yeiner Fernandez. One of the 2015 Little League World Series dominant player was signed by the Dodgers in July of 2019 out of Venezuela.
Yeiner did not begin to play professionally until 2021 due to 2020 COVID restrictions. His first professional games were in Arizona with the rookie ball team then ended with a few games with the Quakes. Overall he slashed .355/.414/.488 in 172 at-bats while playing catcher at the age of 18. For him to advance to the Quakes by the end of the year was huge.
Fernandez played the whole 2022 season with the Quakes. For the first time in his professional career, he also saw time at second base as Diego Cartaya was the main catcher for the first two months of the season. Once Cartaya was promoted Yeiner caught many more games and became a fan favorite. Fernandez ended up with a slash of .292/.383/.430 in 363 at-bats with 10 home runs.
Alex Malaret of Dodgers 2080 interviewed Yeiner near the end of the season.
Fernandez is an advanced right-handed hitter with better bat-to-ball skills, pitch recognition and control of the strike zone than most teenagers. Though his numbers haven’t been as loud in 2022, he has made some nice adjustments, displaying more patience and more aptitude for driving balls in the air. He’s not very physical but he has a quick, compact stroke that could produce 12-15 homers per season once he adds some needed muscle.
Quicker and more athletic than a typical catcher, Fernandez possesses close to average speed. His relative inexperience still shows behind the plate, though he should become an average receiver and blocker with more reps. He has fringy arm strength, and like Dodgers backup Austin Barnes, he has the profile and ability to fill in at second base. – MLB Pipeline
Fernandez is one of the more fun to watch prospects in all of pro baseball, as the vest-pocket Venezuelan catcher also sees time at second base. Fernandez is a loose, above-average rotational athlete with an athletic swing. He’s hard to beat with fastballs because of his short levers and he tones down his leg kick with two strikes, prioritizing balls in play. His twitch and speed give him enough infield range and make him quick enough out of his crouch to give you hope that he can viably play both spots despite lacking great arm strength, and Fernandez is a great ball-blocker. His skill set reads an awful lot like Austin Barnes‘ does, and Fernandez could occupy a similar role as a backup catcher and occasional infielder. – FanGraphs
Some Quotes from Yeiner
I asked Yeiner how he felt about the 2022 season.
I asked Yeiner about how he felt about the overall season.
Yes, this season taught me never to give up, to continue working differently every day. … to continue with the same spirit and the same attitude to go out and give everything day by day.
I asked Yeiner about how his off-season has been.
It has been very good and full of surprises. Now I am playing in the Venezuelan professional league with the Cardinals, something spectacular.
You can follow his Winter League progress here. I asked him about what he wanted to work on during the off-season.
I am working more on my physique, and in the defensive part I try to improve my defense a lot.
Yeiner Fernandez has nothing left to prove with the Quakes so he should begin the 2023 season with Great Lakes in High-A ball. Fernandez is sandwiched in between both Diego Cartaya and Dalton Rushing so I expect him to see more time at second base while splitting catching duties. He has some great hitting tools and having the extra versatility will only help him on his path to the majors. He enters the 2023 season at the age of 20 so he will continue to be one of the youngest players on his team.
The unique talents of Yeiner Fernandez makes him an interesting prospect. As I mentioned above he is a fan favorite and, to be honest, a media favorite. He is very kind and takes the extra time to connect with fans. Even after catching a nine-inning game, he is one of the last ones to leave the dugout but still signs autographs for fans. He will be missed with the Quakes but we will see plenty of him over the years.
Make sure to follow Yeiner Fernandez on Instagram at @yeinerfernandez02.