Welcome to BP Boston’s Roster Recap series! We continue to break down every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of the top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. There’s no better time than the offseason to review the best (there was some best!) and worst (there was a lot of worst!) of the past year in red and navy. You can see previous editions of Roster Recap here.
Prior to the 2010 season, the Cubs signed Marco Hernandez out of the Dominican Republic. I’ve looked relatively hard, and I can’t find the exact date of his signing nor can I find the exact signing bonus for Hernandez. That alone tells you how little he was thought of at this point in his career. Hernandez was hardly considered much of a prospect in the years since signing, as he has slowly but surely made his way up the minor-league ladder over the past six years. Nevertheless, the Red Sox saw enough talent to take him back as the player to be named later in the Felix Doubront deal, bringing Hernandez to the organization in December 2014.
What Went Right in 2015
The now-23 year old showed off the most appealing part of his game last year as he proved to be a capable defensive player at both middle infield positions. Hernandez spent most of his time at shortstop and displayed the fluid movements that confirmed his ability to stick at those positions for a long time. He’ll never be Jose Iglesias or even Deven Marrero with the leather, but he’s a positive contributor on that side of the ball with his quick movements and solid hands. The arm isn’t spectacular, which makes him a better fit for the keystone, but Hernandez will likely be serving as a backup at the highest level. He certainly has the tools to play shortstop on an irregular basis.
He also lived up to what he does best with the stick. Although he’ll probably never even be an average hitter at the major-league level, Hernandez has a hit tool that can carry him in a bench role. He thrived against minor-league pitching last season, posting a .289 True Average in Double-A and a .266 mark after being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. He also posted a respectable .149 ISO between both stops despite little-to-no home run power.
Hernandez specializes in attacking early-count fastballs that he can turn into line drives, resulting in a high number of doubles and triples throughout his professional career. While his approach is far from perfect, his ability to make solid contact has been able to mask that deficiency more often than not.
What Went Wrong in 2015
Honestly, this all depends on what your expectations are for Hernandez. If you’re expecting him to be a future Gold Glove winner, he disappointed in the field. While he’s still very solid, there are real problems with his hands and his footwork, which led to 29 errors across all levels and positions last season.
If you are expecting an everyday-caliber hitter, too, you’d be disappointed by his impatient approach. He struggled against secondary pitches — a problem that will only grow as he faces better opposition. He also doesn’t really work counts, walking less than five percent of the time at both levels while watching his strikeout rate climb as he made the jump to Pawtucket. While that’s to be expected, Hernandez has the profile of a hitter who will struggle against more advanced competition. A strong hit tool can only mask so much with that kind of approach.
If those were your expectations, however, you were setting yourself up to be disappointed. He’s never been a perfect player and has always profiled as a utility guy. The only thing that really changed in Hernandez’s performance last season relative to his prior track record was his stolen base total. After stealing around 20 bases a year with the Cubs organization, he swiped just five bags last year. Of course, he didn’t really give himself many chances, which could either be a change in skill set or a different set of expectations from his new organization. Overall, the worst thing you can say about Hernandez’s 2015 was that he didn’t improve his projection over the course of the season.
Future Outlook/MLB ETA
In Hernandez’s case, his future outlook and his MLB ETA are one in the same. He was added to the 40-man roster this past winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Although that’s not always a guarantee for an imminent promotion, Hernandez isn’t the type of player you protect and stash. He’ll start the year in Pawtucket’s middle infield along side Marrero, and the two will have something of a competition to determine who is the primary backup infielder for the big club. With that being said, neither is likely to be good enough to demand a long look. So even if Marrero wins the competition, Hernandez will get his shot sooner or later.
Once he’s called up, I’d expect more of the same from Hernandez. The numbers obviously won’t translate to Boston, as he’s likely more of a .250 or .260 hitter in the majors, but the skill set will remain. He has enough versatility in the infield to maximize his playing time, and he even started to get work at third base last season. Major-league pitchers will fool him enough to keep him from excelling, but the hit tool is good enough that Hernandez will run himself into enough extra-base hits to make him a solid contributor off the bench for a long time.
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