As you have likely learned by now, Michael Young was placed on the bereavement list earlier today. While the exact reason for his leave isn’t yet known (and may not ever be because it probably isn’t any of our business) we do know Young will be gone from anywhere between three and seven days. We wish all the best to Michael in sorting through whatever may be wrong at home.
Taking his place on the 25-man roster is 23-year-old second baseman, Cesar Hernandez. I’ve seen plenty of Hernandez over the past few years and while his first stint in the big leagues is likely to be a short one, I don’t expect it to be his last. Here’s a full scouting report the young, switch hitting, Venezuelan infielder.
Hernandez is listed at what I perceive to be an accurate 5’10” and 160lbs. Thankfully, plenty of that weight resides in Hernandez’s forearms, ass and thighs and despite his diminutive stature I don’t anticipate the bat being knocked out of his hands or envision him being catapulted into left field by a takeout slide. Big ups to Dee Gordon for teaching me that weight/muscle distribution is important. The frame offers no more projection.
An easy 60 hitter, Hernandez utilizes terrific hand-eye coordination, strong wrists and sublime barrel control to spray balls all over the field. His swing is contact oriented from both sides of the plate, though his right-handed swing has a little more loft. When you factor in that both his body and swing are devoid of many of the characteristics that generate power, the raw pop grades out as a 30 on the 20-80 scale. That’s not to say Hernandez won’t hit for power. It’s not hard to envision him notching 35 extra base hits every year when you consider how naturally he sends balls into outfield gaps. It’s an absolute joy to watch him hit. This season I’ve seen him turn on what was a perfect 96mph Allen Webster fastball (and Webster’s fastball moves like crazy) on the inside corner at the knees and rip it through the hole on the right side of the infield for a single. I’ve also seen him square up Francisco Liriano (who looks fantastic so far this year) from the right side and park a ball on the lawn in Coca-Cola Park’s outfield. He went 2-4 with 2 walks and a homer on that day.
The one issue Hernandez has had with the bat is trouble hitting decent, vertically oriented breaking balls. Many a fringe average 12-6 breaker has snuck underneath Cesar’s flailing bat and into the dirt just behind home plate before careening off an opposing catcher’s thighs. He’s just not good a identifying them or adjusting to them in flight to make contact. If he can learn to lay off them, not even hit them, just stay the hell away from them, then he’s plugged up one of the two holes in his offensive game and I’d feel a whole lot better about his chances of being a productive daily player. The other knock on Cesar is that he lacks power and pitchers will likely attack him with impunity at the Major League level, pounding him with strike after strike, forcing him to put lots of balls in play and therefore limit his ability to get on base a little bit. But he can’t fix that issue because of his size and strength limitation.
Defensively, everyone I talk to wishes Hernandez could play shortstop. If he could he’d profile as a justabout surefire everyday big leaguer. But he can’t. He comes up a little short on range and a little short on arm strength (50 for me). Together, those minor deficiencies compound one another to the point where SS isn’t a viable option. He is, however, a fine defensive second baseman. A slightly above average runner, he’ll also provide value with his legs on the bases.
Overall, Hernandez projects as a second division regular at second base for me, maybe a little better in his peak years. The power profile you look for at the position just isn’t there. He walks a bit of a value tightrope. If you’re going to play second base in the big leagues, you have to hit. If Hernandez’s shortcomings prove to be fatal (I don’t expect them to be, but it is possible) then there’s nothing else for him on which to fall back. Backup second basemen do not exist in the age of the twelve man bullpen, there really isn’t enough bat there for him to profile at third base or in an outfield corner and he isn’t enough of a burner to play center field. It’s second base or nothing. I like him quite a bit but, barring a trade, don’t expect him to be up long enough or play an amount sufficient for that to come across to the fan base in 2013.