After defecting, Fernandez eligible for Draft

Cuban right-hander, 27, has six pro seasons with Villa Clara under belt

After defecting, Fernandez eligible for Draft

There's a veteran reliever with six years of professional experience in Cuba joining the list of high school and college prospects hoping to get drafted in June.

On Monday, Major League Baseball declared Cuban right-hander Yoandy Fernandez eligible for next month's First-Year Player Draft. Fernandez, 27, defected from Cuba to Mexico last November. He entered the United States from Mexico in January and claimed political asylum under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The pitcher can apply for permanent residency in the United States after he has been in the country for at least one year.

Fernandez, who played six seasons for Villa Clara in Cuba's Serie Nacional, throws a fastball in the 89- to 92-mph range, a slider, a curveball and he is developing a sinker. He's being trained by pitching coach Orlando Chinea, who also worked with a Marlins ace Jose Fernandez when the pitcher was a teenager, in Tampa, Fla.

Overall, Yoandy Fernandez went 3-3 with a 4.22 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 62 walks in 157 2/3 innings in Cuba. He made 95 of his 96 appearances out of the bullpen.

The most common and lucrative practice for Cuban players who have defected from the island is to establish residency in a country outside of Cuba and United States and then petition Major League Baseball for free agency. A Cuban player is eligible to sign with a club, either as a free agent or under the international signing guidelines, once he declared eligible.

Other Cuban players have followed a similar path to a professional contract.

Jose Fernandez, Washington shortstop Yunel Escobar and White Sox Minor League pitcher Onelki Garcia are among the most recognized players from Cuba to be selected in the First-Year Player Draft. The Braves selected Escobar in the second round in 2005, and the Dodgers picked Garcia in the third round in 2012. Jose Fernandez, who went to high school in Florida, was the 14th overall pick in 2011.

Where or if Yoandy Fernandez will be selected is to be determined. Clubs are also trying to decide whether he will be a starter or a reliever. He has been pitching for teams in Florida and has several tryouts scheduled before the end of the month.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.