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.
This is what happens when I’m thinking about César Hernández and how I thought he was an “imposter” but maybe a quirk in roster management made a big difference in his development. pic.twitter.com/UmWbTHDz1Q
— Odubel’s Hairerra (@bxe1234) November 30, 2017