2017 Phillies Report Card: César Hernández

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I’ve had an up and down opinion of César Hernández since his debut – originally I thought he was on his way to being the kind of player he finally became, but in between I was…kind of mean to him on this here website.

I thought for most of 2016 that César Hernández was a fake. A fraud. A phony, playing the role of a big league second baseman, and at some point, his mound-dwelling counterparts would expose him like so many skinny middling one-half-of-the-middle-of-the infielders are exposed much earlier on in their pro careers. But in 2017 César Hernández proved he wasn’t an imposter, but rather a capable hitter with good enough skills elsewhere to make him an easy first-division second baseman. This all was allowed to unfold as it did, in part because of a little used roster tool – THE FOURTH OPTION *50s B-Horror-Movie sound effect*.

Early in his minor league career, the Venezuelan cohort of Freddy Galvis was slow to break out of short-season leagues. He signed in 2007, which started the years of minor league control ticking, though he didn’t play a game. His next two years were spent in Venezuela, and in 2010 he jumped stateside and played in short season Gulf Coast League. In 2011 he hit his stride, slapping the ball all over New York Penn League, but having made it through to his first Rule 5 protection, he started burning MLB options in 2012 despite never having broken onto a full-season roster. MLB and the MLBPA recognize those players as maybe needing an extra bit of development time, and allow clubs to apply for an extra option year. Good thing for The Phils, because César Hernández was not ready to stick on a big league roster in 2015.

Think what you will of the CBA clause that lets a club control a player for an extra year. In this case, it may have given Hernández just the right amount of time to prepare for the big leagues with the club that signed him and his pal Fred more than a decade ago. A couple months back, I looked at his season on the whole, and found speed and his use of it to be effective, enough defensive metric value to not drag down his WAR, and a little bit of power, just to keep opposing hurlers honest. Overall he had a fine year, coming in over 3 WAR per BRef and Fangraphs, and while it’s no surprise we’ve heard that teams are balking at a high price tag in trade, César has shown his value and improvement to the league for two years running, and there’s no reason for the club to send him away for less than he’s worth.

Grade: A- Room to get better, but not much to complain about.

And because maybe some of you miraculously didn’t see it when I was shilling this a couple weeks ago, here’s a one-verse song I wrote about César Hernández’ fairly unusual roster progression.

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  1. Romus

    January 05, 2018 09:24 AM

    ‘Odubel’s Hairerra’……looks like Elton John’s American cousin.

    • Brad Engler

      January 05, 2018 01:16 PM

      I am choosing to take this as a compliment.

    • Andrew R.

      January 05, 2018 05:21 PM

      That’s effing funny!

  2. Wawa Mike

    January 05, 2018 09:59 AM

    I’ve made a U-turn on Cesar as well. He has worked hard on improving his approach at the plate, as well as his base running skills. I hope that the Phillies are able to move him to a good team.

    • awh

      January 06, 2018 04:52 PM

      I tend to agree. Early on I was one of his biggest critics – the knuckle-headed plays really bugged me.

      Much to my surprise, and pleasantly so, Cesar has turned himself into quite a valuable asset (and, no, I am not his agent).

      If he can continue to play decent defense and get on base, he’s definitely worth holding on to until we see if Kingery is for real and whether they can get decent value for him(Cesar) if they do move him.

      If I have to, I’ll guess that one of Kingery/Hernandez gets moved at the 2018 trade deadline.

      No reason to move either of them now, especially since Franco hasn’t proven he can take the next step.

      • Romus

        January 06, 2018 07:25 PM

        ahh awh…..”No reason to move either of them now, especially since Franco hasn’t proven he can take the next step.”….I assume you are implying that Kingery would jump over to third base if Franco falters, especially since the Phillies had Kingery take some reps at third (4 games) in LHV towards the end of the season?

      • z

        January 07, 2018 12:27 AM


      • awh

        January 07, 2018 11:02 PM

        Romus, I have no idea whether Kingery can play 3B or not. What kind of reports came from the farm when they moved him there?

        My point about holding on to both Hernandez and Kingery – and for that matter the “extra” OF they have right now – is that this will be another season that they evaluate their players and see what they have. I believe they know what they have in Hernandez and Herrera. I think they know what they have in Altherr also. If you add together his 2015 and 2017 seasons (for me 2016 was an injury riddled mess – not to be completely discounted, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it could be) he has slashed .263/.339/.509 over 573 PA. The newbies – Hoskins, JPC, Alfaro, Knapp and Williams still need to prove themselves – we simply haven’t seen enough of them or their ability to adjust to the inevitable adjustments they’ll face.

        That leaves Franco. He’s had 1600+ MLB PA, and had regressed in each of the last two years. This may be the most important season of his career. If he can’t turn it around they won’t be able to get much trading him, so they’ll have to have other pieces to trade that other teams want.

        That’s where either Cesar or Kingery fit in. I doubt either one of them is an ideal 3B (or if they can even play there), so it would make more sense to trade one of them if the situation warrants it. That situation has not yet manifested itself.

        Franco is confusing. He’s actually been better (.247/.300/.426) through his age 24 season than Moustakas (.244/.296/.385) and a higher wRC+, but the disconcerting thing is that he’s gone backwards the last two seasons. Moustakas kind of went sideways his first three years. Maybe Moose is Maik’s ceiling. We’ll see.

  3. Major Malfunction

    January 07, 2018 09:33 AM

    7.4 WAR over the last 3 years at only $3.5M and not an FA until 2021. And has shown improvement each year. What’s not to like? But the narrative from fans was that they should keep Galvis and trade Hernandez even though the math says not to. Still, here’s hoping for another productive season so he can be traded easily and open the door for Kingrey.

    • Wawa Mike

      January 07, 2018 11:06 AM

      I can’t speak for others, but the reason I wanted to trade Cesar and keep Galvis was that Cesar was a better chance to get a starting pitcher. I was floored by what Klentak was able to get for Galvis (de los Santos). Kudos. Kingery still needs a couple hundred more at-bats at AAA, but if an opportunity comes up to trade Cesar for a starter, we gotta do it. I’m willing to start the season with Florimon and Valentin, if need be.

      • Steve

        January 07, 2018 02:39 PM

        Yeah, I agree with Mike. I think everyone knows that Hernandez is a better offensive player than Galvis. The general thought process for keeping Galvis and trading Hernandez was two fold.
        1) Hernandez gets a better trade return
        2) Galvis can play ss or 2b allowing him to fill in for both Crawford and or Kingery if one struggles adjusting to the Majors.

        This last part might be purely speculative, but I also feel that Galvis might be more willing to take a back-up role and might be a better mentor for the young guys at this stage than Hernandez would be.

        All that being said, if I have to pick one guy to be in my lineup for 100+games in 2018 it’s Hernandez. I am also pleasantly surprised with the return they got for Galvis, and there’s no reason to bring up Kingry before he passes the super 2 cut-off. Let him get regular AB in AAA, heck maybe even let him play some 3b, if he rakes, he will be up by the All-Star break.

        If Cesar continues to improve his game it’s only going to solidify his reputation as a good young 2b and make him a more valuable trade piece mid-season.

      • Romus

        January 07, 2018 03:06 PM

        All agree Cesar is a a plus offensive second baseman.
        The issue ……2nd baseman, no matter how good, do not solely bring back TOR pitchers in trade anymore.
        Phillies do not need anymore back-end guys…they have plenty of them, and more on the way.
        I would hope Matty K can package Cesar, when the time comes to move him, with one or two of the young RHP arms he currently has on the 40 , and who stay healthy and somewhat productive for the first three months of the season, for a quality starting pitcher. who can be considered a three or better in the rotation

      • awh

        January 07, 2018 11:05 PM

        I agree. Getting de los Santos for Galvis was a nice “get”. Definite kudos, but it may also be an indication that perhaps Galvis’ perceived value around MLB is higher than we thought.

      • Steve

        January 08, 2018 10:14 AM

        Romus, I think it’s true Cesar won’t bring back a TOR arm by himself. I think maybe he could be a big part of a package for a number 2 type though. IMO the problem is this:
        The Phillies want a young, controllable, MLB ready, talented SP.
        Teams that are willing to give such a player are usually in a rebuild, meaning they are far away from contention, meaning they want young minor league talent that fits into their next contention window.
        Cesar is not old, but he makes sense for a team ready to win now and for the next 3-4 years, not a team just starting a rebuild.
        Teams ready to win now and for the next 3 years usually don’t give up young MLB pitching.
        See the cycle here?
        There simply isn’t a market of teams with young MLB SP that want Cesar Hernandez, and that has nothing to do with how good Hernandez is.
        The Phillies are going to have to make a concession somewhere. If they want a young TOR arm, they will have to include a top prospect or two. If they want to keep the prospects, they are going to have to settle for an older SP or a mid/back rotation arm. The other option is to trade Hernandez for a MiLB arm that has high upside, similar to the Galvis deal, but the Phillies clearly want to improve the MLB rotation.

      • Romus

        January 08, 2018 03:20 PM

        Steve….you hit the nail square on the head.
        Possibly a key reason Matt Klentak has not been able to connect with any team so far on a suitable exchange.
        Further complicating matters is the fact the next FA class of 2nd basemen after the 2018 season, will be better than the current class, and Cesar’s return value may be diminished ever so much, and of course the market will also shrink for suitable suitors.

      • Steve

        January 08, 2018 08:56 PM

        Yeah, Cesar is definitely only a piece of trade at this point. The only alternative I can see is trading Hernandez to a team that needs a 2b and has salary restrictions. Perhaps we can eat a big contract and get a solid SP in return for Hernandez and a prospect.
        I know someone has mentioned it before, but eating one of Miamis remaining bad contracts might get us Straily in return for Hernandez plus non-elite prospects. This is just an example, maybe someone else can come up with another similar scenario?

  4. JustBob

    January 10, 2018 11:35 AM

    Kind of mean? This website shat all over him and fawned over Utley getting traded.

  5. Steve

    January 10, 2018 05:26 PM

    Just read a small article that suggested the Phillies package Williams, Moniak, and Alfaro for Yellich….. I think I’ll pass. Not that any of those three are untouchable, but I don’t understand giving them up in a trade that still leaves a logjam in the OF and doesn’t net us a good SP.

    • awh

      January 11, 2018 03:20 PM

      Yeah, that’s a sideways trade. It doesn’t appear to really makethe team better.

      AAMOF, I’m not sure I’d give up Williams and Alfaro for Yelich, much less include Mickey Mo.

      • JustBob

        January 11, 2018 09:41 PM

        Do it in a heartbeat even if it includes Moniak.

        An OF of Hoskins, Herrera, and Yelich is one of the best in baseball.

      • Steve

        January 11, 2018 09:58 PM

        Is Yellich really that much better than Williams or Altherr? Maybe he could be. Hes very consistent at being good, but he has not been great….. Yet. Maybe he reaches that potential, maybe not. I’m not sure that Yellich and Knapp is really offensively better than an Altherr/Williams platoon and Alfaro at C. And it still doesn’t get us a pitcher. If we’re going to trade those three chips away, let’s fill a position of need.

      • awh

        January 11, 2018 11:40 PM

        Steve, I agree, hence my comment on it being a sideways trade. Yelich-Knapp vs. Alfaro-Williams/Altherr seems a bit of a wash, or at least a decent potential to end up that way.
        And I totally agree that if they’re going to move THAT kind of talent, they should get back starting pitching, which they really need.
        Heck, for that package Pittsburgh might start to listen on Cole. There’s 15 – 16 years of control in those three vs. 2 years on Cole.
        Would that really make long-term sense for the Phillies?

      • Steve

        January 12, 2018 09:31 AM

        Yup, I think we’re on the same page. I was responding to to Bob.

    • awh

      January 11, 2018 03:24 PM

      BTW, do you have a link to that article?

      • Steve

        January 11, 2018 04:34 PM

        Nevermind, the link worked. Sometimes technology is surprisingly pleasant.

      • Steve

        January 11, 2018 04:56 PM

        Again, I’m not shedding any tears over any one of those players, but to give up all three, I want a long term SP. Fulmer, Cole, maybe Archer. Alfaro has flaws, but I do think he’s a better long term option than Knapp or Rupp.
        Moniak has “pedigree” being a number one pick, but he’s far away and I’d put it at 50/50 at best that he becomes a regular everyday player. Plus we have a surplus of MLB and high minors OF.
        Williams looks like he has legit power, but he also has a lot of swing and miss. Unless something changes in his approach I see him as a 6 hitter. .250-.265 with 25-35 hrs depending on luck. Certainly not a bad player, but not untouchable either.

    • Steve

      January 12, 2018 09:31 AM

      Yup I think we’re on the same page. I was responding to Bob’s comment that he’d do it in a heartbeat.

  6. Bob

    January 29, 2018 12:56 AM

    New content any time soon?
    Anybody there?

    • Mike Fassano

      January 30, 2018 08:10 AM

      I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but Matt has been compiling a list od the top 50 Phillies prospects on “Phillies Minor Thoughts”. Check it out.

  7. Kurt

    February 01, 2018 02:40 PM

    Why is there so little new content on this site anymore?? I see a masthead with 15 potential contributers, and no new articles since this one on January 5.

    • Romus

      February 04, 2018 09:36 AM

      Kurt…..in response to your question…approx. over half of the writers in that masthead, are now obligated to write for other publications, or employed in other capacities, and may not have the flexible contractual approval to write for other sites, to include CA.

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