The Future is Unwritten: Jan Hernandez
Until the Ben Wetzler Tattletale garbage surfaced, everything about the Phillies 2013 draft was pie. Delicious, creamy, tooled-up pie with a buttery, athletic crust. Jan Hernandez became a key ingredient in that pie when he was drafted in the third round and signed for $550,000. He became the first ever player from the Carlos Beltran Academy to be selected and is one of the more talented players we’ve seen come out of Puerto Rico over the last half decade. Only four total Puerto Rican players were selected with a top 100 draft pick from 2007 through 2011. Talent on the island appeared to have dried up until the loaded 2012 draft produced four top 100 talents on its own, including #1 overall pick Carlos Correa. Let’s hope that the last two years are signs that a once rich baseball locale is emerging from the dark ages caused by the draft’s blatant anti-trust violations and experiencing a talent renaissance. But back to Hernandez…
The 6’1”, 195lb shortstop a is below average runner who is very likely to move to third base as he fills out and continues to slow down. He could be an above average defender at the hot corner, with a plus arm, soft hands, and the actions and athleticism to get there. One thing Hernandez will have to work on defensively is his footwork, which, as he approaches balls, can get choppy and slow him down. Hernandez strides towards routine ground balls the same way Fred Flinstone twinkle toes toward his bowling lane. High foot-to-ground contact ratios are great when you have to change direction on a dime, but when you’re slowed down a great deal because you’re pitter pattering up to a routine grounder, you’re going to be forced to rush everything else in order to throw out runners. I’d like to see Hernandez attack balls more aggressively. This is, of course, something that’s learned and adjusted as the speed of the game picks up as players move up through the minors. He should be fine.
Offensively, Hernandez’s swing is as raw and immature as they get, with constant variances in his load, bat path, stride and balance through the swing. It’s not abnormal to see such imperfections from a teenage hitter and cleaning those things up will be part of the developmental process. Despite these present issues, Hernandez possesses unteachable offensive skills. He is loose and athletic in the box and has exceptionally quick hands and bat speed. I have his bat graded out as a present 35 with the potential for it to grow to average, maybe a shade above it, because of how electric his hands are.
I’ll admit that projecting Hernandez’ power has been difficult for me. He doesn’t have traditional “filling out” to do like your typical skinny teenager often does. Instead, Hernandez simply needs to get in a professional weight room and work on adding good weight and muscle to his lower half. Scouts are having similar difficulties coming to any sort of consensus on the power, as I’ve gotten feedback that ranges from future grades of 40 to 55. In short, that’s a HR output range of anywhere from 11 to 25 or so. I tend to fall into the middle of that range, projecting the power to max out at a 45 (15 to 20 dinger range).
With a player this young the risk here is enormous. The body might not firm up, the swing may never be polished and the power may not be enough to profile everyday at third base when all is said and done. If everything breaks right then the Phillies are looking at a solid average everyday player, with a chance for more if the defense outperforms current projections.