Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
For one reason or another, I have had a hard time remembering that Marco Hernandez is only 24 years old. There is something about him that just seems like he is a 30-year old middling minor league player who hasn’t managed to establish himself as part of a major league roster. My failure to recall Hernandez’s profile is likely a function of him coming to the organization quietly at the 2014 trade deadline, and then getting mixed up in a (once) loaded minor league system. I suspect we all have these odd little baseball-related memory errors. Like Kendall Graveman being left-handed, which he is not. Anyway, Hernandez really is 24, and he projects to be a valuable utility player for a contending team like the Red Sox, or a reasonable everyday middle-infield option for a more mediocre team. Maybe in six years he will fit the mold that I have carved out for him in my memory, but right now, in 2017, he is a player to whom we should be paying some attention.
Hernandez can play multiple positions in the infield (fits best at second or short), can hit for some power (more doubles-type, gap-to-gap power than homers), and provides speed on the base paths. This combination of skills means that he should be strongly considered (and is likely a front-runner) for one of the spots on the Red Sox’s bench.
What Went Right in 2016
When Hernandez joined the Red Sox organization he looked like a glove-first middle infielder; he had posted below average batting lines at each of the A-ball levels of the Cubs’ system. However, since then he has posted strong offensive numbers. In 2015, a .289 TAv (in 294 PA) at Double-A Portland showed that he could hit and earned him a promotion to Pawtucket. While his line was impressive, especially when considering his numbers at the lower levels, it was buoyed by an unsustainable .382 BABIP. Well, he went out this past year and posted a .291 TAv (in 237 PA) in Triple-A. His BABIP? .381. While it is tempting to read into the apparent consistency of his BABIP, .380ish is still much higher than that which it can be reasonably expected to hold. However, due to his speed and line-drive swing Hernandez should be able to maintain a BABIP that is higher than league average (e.g., .330-.350).
His strong work at the plate in Pawtucket last year and versatility on defense earned him three stints in the major leagues and a spot on the Red Sox’s postseason roster. In his time with the big club we saw each of Hernandez’s tools on display. He hit at a reasonable level (.294/.357/.373, .246 TAv), in particular improving his plate discipline relative to what it had been in the minor leagues, he made things happen on the bases with his speed (e.g., stolen base against the Blue Jays in his debut that almost turned the game’s tide), and he played decent defense at short, second, and third.
What Went Wrong in 2016
If viewed through the lens that Hernandez’s most likely future was always a utility player, then very little went wrong for him last year. His offense continued to thrive in the minor leagues and was at or slightly below league average in his first exposure to major league pitching. He ran the bases well, stealing five bags in seven tries across Triple-A and MLB, and his defense improved from previous years. For example, in 2015, he made 27 errors across Double- and Triple-A (in 468 chances), while last year he made only four (in 210 chances). Granted, errors are not the best measure of defensive ability, but we are dealing with minor league information where even the more advanced measures are perhaps not all that advanced. With that caveat, I will note that FRAA also endorses Hernandez’s improvement on the defensive side of things in 2016.
If, on the other hand, you were hoping that Hernandez was going to develop into something more than a utility player, then I suppose a lot went wrong for him last year, as his performance did not advance him beyond that expectation. But those hopes were probably misplaced. He is capable of providing the team considerable value in a bench role and we should be content with that.
Outlook for 2017
Hernandez should be in the mix for a bench role with the Red Sox out of Spring Training. Along with Brock Holt and Chris Young, Hernandez will offer the Red Sox a lot of versatility off their bench. Holt can play a little bit of everywhere, Young can play all three outfield spots, and Hernandez can cover three of the four infield spots. That is a pretty solid group at John Farrell’s disposal. If the team decides to carry an 11-pitcher staff (unlikely), then they can add another player, preferably a right-handed hitter, to make it stronger. Hey, maybe Allen Craig’s career is not entirely dead. He and Rusney Castillo, who is playing better of late, were invited to Spring Training so they have a shot at it. Wouldn’t it be something to see one of those guys back with the team on a regular basis?
While I think Hernandez is likely to break camp with the Red Sox, there is a chance the organization will want him to get more everyday playing time at the start of the year, in which case he will head to Pawtucket to man a middle infield spot. However, if he performs like he did in 2016, he will be recalled to Boston fairly quickly and be a fixture of their bench for the foreseeable future.
Photo by Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports Images