Serie Nacional: Stayler Hernández, a late bloomer

One of the most overlooked Cuban players, Stayler Hernandez is a lifetime sleeper.

In his 17 years with the Havana Industriales and Metros, outfielder Stayler Hernandez is what is known in baseball terms as a late bloomer. Although he has hit .295 for his career, he has over 1,000 hits and an OBP of .394 in the Serie Nacional, but he has never had a spectacular season until 2015.

During that season he was top 5  in the circuit in hitting (.342), homers (11), runs batted in (47), triples (7), and doubles (29). This breakout season earned him a spot on the Cuban team for the Premier 12.

He starred for Cuba in the tournament hitting .389 and leading the team to a victory versus Holland by launching a late homer against the orange machine’s pitching. He also led the Cuban representation with five runs batted.

Although he hasn’t played much in international competitions for Cuba he has a penchant for the big hit, during the 2016 Caribbean World Series in Santo Domingo his pinch-hit triple ignited a Cuban rally that saw them roar back and eliminate the Dominican Republic’s Lions of Escogido in their home stadium.

During Serie Nacional 59’s playoffs, Stayler Hernandez also hit a key homer that sent the Mayabeque Hurricanes on the field and punched Industriales ticket to the next round.

Last season he finally was able to secure a professional contract and played in the Independent Can-Am League, where in 52 games he hit .319 with four long balls, 30 runs batted in and a slash line .365/.461/.825 for the Quebec Capitales. Hernández quietly has become one of the most underrated players in Cuban baseball.

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Eight questions with Cuban outfielder, and ‘late bloomer’ Stayler Hernandez.

You have always been a good hitter, but in 2015 you had the best season of your career. What finally clicked?

I prepared the same as any year, but the switch to leadoff hitter was a perfect fit for me. I saw better pitches to hit from that part of the order and getting an extra at-bat per game really helped my numbers, too.

You had a key hit in the 2016 Caribbean World Serie against a good Dominican team, how did you approach that at-bat?

I just went up there hacking and looking to make good contact with the ball. I just happened to run into a fastball and the rest is history.

You led Cuba to a victory against the Netherlands in 2015 Premier 12 with a key home run. What preparations did you make to warrant such a great tournament on your part?

I prepared as hard as I usually do, the only tweak that I made in my preparation was a hit the gym and the weights a little bit harder. I also did a little more cardio and this helped my stamina during the long season.

Was your homerun against Mayabeque in the 2019 playoffs your grandest moment in the Serie Nacional?

It was a beautiful moment in my career, but my grandest moment was in the 2010 final series when I hit a double of Misael Siverio to put us ahead and secure a league title for the Industriales.

You have played under great managers such as Rey Anglada and Victor Mesa how do they differ?

They have two different philosophies. Rey is more laid back. He let’s you play your brand of baseball as long as it doesn’t affect the outcome of the game. Victor on the other hand is more demanding and gets every ounce he can get out of you. Both are great managers but are entirely different.

You were excellent during your first season in the Can-Am league. Compare that league to the Serie Nacional?

There is a big difference in that talent level of that league and our league, especially in the pitching. In Canada, you have ex-big leaguers and more accomplished hitters, most of whom have been through an MLB team’s farm system. Plus the schedule in the Can-Am is more rigorous, you play 110 games in 100 days.

You played a little first base with Industriales last season. With the retirement of Alexander Malleta and the departure of Yordanis Samón will you play more of the position this season?

I played some first base because Lisban Correa got suspended for the season and Samón also got hurt. Given the circumstances stated above, I expect to play more first base this year.

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Would you like to see a Cuban team for the 2021 WBC that includes Cuba’s MLB players?

That’s a delicate subject. I’m not against the idea, but a lot of players who play Serie Nacional would not make that team and some of them that’s all they have the hope for. Due to the fact they can’t play in the majors, the national team and the Classic is their World Series.