2013 Phillies Report Card: Cesar Hernandez

If one were to go to fangraphs and look at the list of every player who played even an inning of center field this year and then search that list for guys who were originally cast as infielders, one would find the following names:

Junior Lake

Billy Hamilton

Dustin Ackley (kinda, he played CF at UNC until an injury moved him to 1B and started his pro career at 2B)

Cesar Hernandez

Jordany Valdespin

Chris Coghlan

Michael Martinez

Alexi Amarista

That’s it. Of those players, only Hamilton has the pure physical tools explosive enough to leave you doubtless about his ability to play center field (provided he can make proper reads off the bat). Ackley, Amarista and Hernandez each have an argument and the rest are just emergency options.  This list isn’t exactly bursting with Major League impact. There’s not an overwhelming successful contemporary case that’s sets a precedent for what the Phillies were exploring with Hernandez.

But it’s good they were exploring. Hernandez (who I wrote extensively about here) is a fine defensive secondbaseman with tremendous bat to ball skills who lacks the power to profile as a first-division regular at the position. A wrist injury suffered mid-season slowed his bat a tad and yet Hernandez still managed to hit .289/.344/.331 in 131 big league plate appearances. There’s big leaguer talent there. You can’t blame the Phillies for trying to find away to get it on the field with Chase Utley locked into his position for another few years. To this point, it has not gone well. Hernandez has looked predictably tentative in center quite often and relied on his easy plus speed to make up for some circuitous routes he takes to ball hit toward the gaps. The physical gift of GoGetIt is there but a feel for the position (one which career CFs have been grooming since probably high school) is not, at least right now. But he’s only played 44 games at the position and that feel might come. I asked Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus about just how long a look to give players transitioning to CF:

“I would give it time if they have the physical skills to begin with. I don’t think CF is as tough as some people do. It takes instincts and speed, but you can argue that the reading the angles from a corner spot is more complicated.”

Hernandez is probably playing winter ball in Venezuela (he played for Los Bravos de Margarita last year, but they don’t have their roster for this year up just yet. Opening Day is today) but whether he continues to play the outfield there remains to be seen. Those teams like to win, not develop kids for big league clubs. I think it’s reasonable to give this experiment a little more time.

At worst, Hernandez doesn’t grasp CF to a point of viability and he essentially becomes a backup second baseman, something that doesn’t exist in baseball today because of the large pitching staffs carried on most 25-man rosters. I’m sure both OF corners are reasonable options to explore to make him versatile enough to be worth carrying on a Major league bench. I maintain that this young man is a second-division regular at second base and I love to see him get a shot with another organization if the situation arises where Philly can get something in return.

My grade: B

 

Michael Paul Bill Ryan
B B A- B-

Leave a Reply

*

19 comments

  1. John Stolnis

    October 10, 2013 09:34 AM

    What the Phillies do with Cesar Hernandez this winter will be extremely interesting. Really liked what I saw out of him out of the leadoff spot. But you’re right, there’s nowhere for him to play on this team right now.

  2. Andrew Cleveland Alexander

    October 10, 2013 11:18 AM

    I just wrote a comment on Hernandez suggesting the Phillies should stash him at LHV as insurance in case Utley’s mysterious knee ailment flares up again, but then I did some googling and realized Hernandez out of options. (That happened fast–he’s only 23.)

    I’m guessing Hernandez has performed well enough that he won’t make it through waivers, a lot of teams could use a 2B like him. So I guess the question for Spring Training with him is, how much do we trust those knees?

  3. Eric Longenhagen

    October 10, 2013 11:27 AM

    They’re going to apploy for a fourth option on him. He’s eligible for one, but it’s up to MLB to grant it to the Phillies. I’m not sure when that decision will come down but from the way Joe Jordan and Scott Proefrock have talked about it recently, they’re not counting on getting it.

  4. bubba0101

    October 10, 2013 11:40 AM

    With the uncertainty of Chase Utley’s lower half in recent years, it would be really nice to have Hernandez in our back pocket. He hits much better than galvis and would be probably equally as valuable at second base and more valuable on the base paths. Even if we can get another option on him, we most likely wont be competing for a world series next year so a better 25th man wont put us over the top (like Matt Stairs did) so we should just keep him as a bench player and get him in whenever possible. Chase could use every tenth day off anyway if he wants to prolong his career.

  5. Jon Cheddar

    October 10, 2013 12:50 PM

    @eric

    Doesn’t MLB have to grant him the 4th option, seeing as how he’s eligible for it and it’s in the CBA?

  6. Eric Longenhagen

    October 10, 2013 12:54 PM

    I don’t know. I think that the Phillies would have to apply for one means it’s not a given.

  7. JM

    October 10, 2013 01:40 PM

    Eric,
    Could he grade out as a SS? Has he passed Galvis as the INF replacement du jour? I think maybe putting him in RF as a table setter along with Revere/Ellsbury? gives the Phillies lots of chances to score runs.

  8. JM

    October 10, 2013 01:42 PM

    I am assuming Utley and Brown continue their success from last season & Howard not only plays, but strikes out less than 180 times…

  9. Eric Longenhagen

    October 10, 2013 01:43 PM

    Cesar comes up just short on all aspects of his game tok play short. Arm is quite good enough, actions aren’t quite smooth enough, reactoins aren’t quite fast enough. All together it’s a “no” on short for me. If he could play a viable SS he’d be an everday player for sure.

  10. Joe

    October 10, 2013 02:01 PM

    Second division regular? a .300 minor league hitter with good range. Take a look around there is not much at 2nd base besides Cano, Pedroia and Carpenter there is not much there. Chase is old, they should have turned the page and not signed Rollins & Utley. They were great in their prime, but you have to cut the cord to get any better. They are both declining players. They could have used that money to sure up other areas. The one area that they have decent young talent is 3rd, short & second. Saving money by going young there buys you pitching and outfield help. At least they will get playing time as these players break down.

  11. BeezNutz

    October 10, 2013 02:08 PM

    Eric or Anyone

    What is a “2nd Division regular”?

  12. Eric Longenhagen

    October 10, 2013 02:21 PM

    Joe,

    Cesar has maybe 30 grade power. It’ll limit his ability to get on base and, you know…his power output. 2B isn’t as barren as you seem to think. Plenty of nice players there.

    Beez,

    A second division regular would be guys like Marco Scutaro or Daniel Murphy or maybe a Mark Ellis who are good enough to start on a bunch of teams but aren’t in the top third of the players at their position or anything like that. You could do worse than these guys they have value but they’re not elite.

    First division players are your Kinslers and Phillips and Kipnis types who maybe make some All Star teams and have some really good years and then your stars are your Canos and Utleys and Pedroia.

  13. BeezNutz

    October 10, 2013 02:46 PM

    Ah gotcha … thanks Eric!

  14. Dan K.

    October 10, 2013 03:14 PM

    @Joe,

    7 qualified hitters appeared at 2B and posted a WAR of 3 or above this year. Omar Infante did as well in only 118 games. A good number more could have with more time or had down seasons (Kinsler, Phillips, Gyorko, Walker, Kendrick, Aaron Hill, Scooter Gennett). That’s 15 2B that are likely better than Cesar right there.

    Yeah, I’d say he’s probably not in the top third. That doesn’t make him a bad player, he’s just not top third in the 99th percentile of baseball players of the world.

  15. MattWinks

    October 10, 2013 05:13 PM

    The thing is given his peripherals he is not a .300 hitter in the majors. In both AAA and AA this year he had a strikeout rate near 20 percent. His year was driven by a high BABIP of .384 in AAA and .368 in the majors, the highest among major league 2B was Matt Carpenter at .359. Lets see is still among the leaders at the position and has a .340 BABIP. His line then looks like this .272/.339/.314 and that is not going to cut it.

    He is going to need to cut the strikeout rate greatly while some how maintaining his walk rate. At best I see a guy in the back 10 at his position in the major leagues.

    As for Hernandez vs Galvis, in addition to SS Galvis can also play 3B where Cesar’s arm will not play.

  16. Larry

    October 10, 2013 08:38 PM

    After Revere got injured, we had to deal with JRoll as the lead off hitter once again. Hernandez came in and did pretty well. He had a decent average, he looks like a fast runner. He has no power, reminds me of Ben Revere somewhat, with a better arm…..Well who doesn’t have a better arm?

    I guess he exceeded expectations in a small sample size of 131 PAs. That must be the reason why 4 of the authors gave him the “B” grade. Bill actually gave him an A-.

    Personally any grade of “A” should be given to players who played like an allstar….not just half the time, but the majority of time. Only 1 player on the Phils deserved an “A”, good ole Clifton Phipher Lee. Dom Brown should only get the “B” grade for an awesome 2 months. Chase deserved a “B”, nice comeback year offensively. Defense was eh…but I’ll take it.

    Hernandez’s grades do baffle me a bit since this is a saber site.

    rWAR -.04 below replacement level
    fWAR -.04 below replacement level
    wOBA .305
    ISO .041
    wRC+ 90
    OPS .674
    dWAR -.04
    UZR/150 -25.8 Obviously UZR in a SSS

    He was 0 for 3 in sb and had 0 HRs. His defense was rated negatively on both sites. The guy gave you effort though and showed he can play several positions if needed. I’d give him the “C” grade, C+ at best. I would love to hear some kind of explanation on why he would get as high as an A-……..On a side note, he is a nice upgrade to Mini Mart…..No more Mini Mart please. He’s off the roster for now….

  17. sweatingisnormal

    October 11, 2013 03:57 AM

    He is going to be a good bench player next year with a chance of a more expended role if he continues to develop – sounds good to me. And yes high babip and all, but he did square up balls at a pretty good rate and looked the part at the plate.

    He is slated to play LF and 3b during winter ball – has good speed, he is a positive bench piece & cheaper than Fradsen. What’s there not to like? Solid B, one of the few 2013 positives.

  18. Steve

    October 13, 2013 11:54 AM

    @Eric

    The physical gift of GoGetIt is there but a feel for the position (one which career CFs have been grooming since probably high school) is not, at least right now.

    I love the fact that you excuse the poor to inexplicable Ben Revere lack of defensive prowess, poor routes, a completely lost ability when balls are hit right at him (tends to break the wrong way) when he has played outfield his entire career and you see him as a first division regular yet Cesar, who showed damn close to the same defensive ability with no experience doesn’t rate.

    Eric loves Ben, what a man crush!

  19. Eric D

    October 15, 2013 03:11 AM

    I think the A grade was because what was really expected out of Hernandez? Not much was expected and do to that fact he exceeded expectations to the tune of a few B grades and an A-

Next Article2013 Phillies Report Card: Michael Young