DOB: 5/29/1990 – ETA: 2014
Position: 2B – Bats: Both
Picked: Signed out of Venezuela
Cesar Hernandez is entering his age-24 season, and just barely maintained his prospect eligibility after 131 major league plate appearances to end last season. He’s not a flashy prospect; the most attractive quality about him is his relatively low risk and high floor.
He has the potential to hit for a decent average, as he’s demonstrated throughout his professional career (.294 for his career), and providing average defense from a middle-infield position. He’s demonstrated strong base-running skills as well (33 SB in 2013, and at least 20+ each of the last four years). Additionally, he’s shown a better ability to take walks as he’s moved up the ladder, as shown by his improving walks per strikeout rate:
These well-above average numbers won’t directly translate to the majors, which is a different animal entirely. Again, his most prevalent strength is his high floor: he already displays average major league defense, with some above-average speed and an average/above-average hit tool.
In 2516 plate appearances over the last seven years, Hernandez has hit 11 home runs for a .387 slugging percentage. To this point, he’s displayed next to no power, and while there are plenty of successful players who lack power, Hernandez’s skill-set probably isn’t otherwise strong enough to overcome that as an everyday regular.
Only 5′ 10″, he doesn’t exactly have a lot of a projection left on his frame. Second base has become a position that demands a valuable bat with some pop, and he has no real other position to fall back on. Teams don’t carry backups who play solely at his position, so you have to wonder where he has a role if his bat remains in the same range it currently stands.
His general weakness is pretty similar to that of fellow current prospect, Severino Gonzalez. A lot of average, but unspectacular tools, with the impact tool being fringe-average at best. Hernandez is unlucky because unlike Gonzalez, he lacks the variety of potential roles and opportunities of a 12-man pitching staff.
For me, Cesar Hernandez is a bit high on this staff-wide list. He performed well in Triple-A last season, but his lack of power and defensive versatility really hamper his value to teams. As a pure second baseman (and, I guess, a tacked on center fielder), he might slap a fair number of singles and a noticeable amount of doubles, but his probable ceiling is that of a second division regular.
He also has no obvious role on the major league level with the Phillies. Freddy Galvis has a comparable bat and Aretha Franklin range in the field. John Mayberry has a significantly higher salary to prioritize his role, adds some power, and boasts a career .847 OPS against LHP. Hernandez was just thrown into the outfield last year, as well – Mayberry is probably still more polished in that regard.
All these negatives mentioned, he’s still a 24-year old, up-the-middle defender, a recent Triple-A All-Star, and a switch hitter who hit .308 between Lehigh Valley and the majors this past season. You might call that description stretching his value a bit, but don’t be surprised if the team attempts to trade him for other young talent, instead of exercising his fourth option year and pointlessly sending him to Lehigh Valley in 2014.
In 2013, there were only 17 major league second basemen with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title – so while he’s not a hot commodity per say, there should be sufficient interest from other teams if the Phillies are inclined to move him. He’s a serviceable piece, and a relatively unexciting “sure thing.”
If he spends the year with a major league team, expect someone in the .265/.325/.370 OPS range, with 15+ stolen bases, 15+ doubles, and maybe 5 home runs.