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Key 2013 Stats: AB: 121, OBP: .344, WAR: -.04, OPS .675, Age: 23
What Happened in 2013
Cesar Hernandez made his MLB debut with the Phillies on May 29, six days after his 23rd Birthday. A switch hitting second baseman, Hernandez wasn’t highly touted as a prospect. At 5’10” and 175 lbs, Cesar doesn’t have much power but he does have some speed, having swiped 32 bases against 8 times caught stealing in AAA last year before his call up. Most remarkably, Cesar was asked to play center field after the injury to Ben Revere and did a surprisingly decent job for a young second baseman.
Personally I was impressed with Cesar in 2013. After an all-star season in AAA, Hernandez showed he is a major league caliber player. Notably, he is willing to work on any aspect of his game to support his spot on the roster. He got better as the season wore on, too.
This winter he plays with Bravos de Margarita, notching 118 ABs while hitting 2 HR so far. The Bravos have him listed as a second baseman, though he does play CF on occasion. Still, the Bravos want to win now and may prefer not to play Cesar out of position to help improve his versatility for the Phillies in 2014. Regardless, the winter ABs are a help.
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What to Expect in 2014
Cesar isn’t the jack-of-all-trades utility player that Freddy Galvis is, mainly because he doesn’t play shortstop and doesn’t have experience at third base or the corner OF positions. However, Cesar does have a much better hit tool than Freddy and is more than adequate as a second baseman. Still, with Chase Utley holding on to the Phillies second base job for the next few years, Cesar is going to have to increase his versatility to contribute to the Phillies. He isn’t likely to play shortstop anytime soon, although he will get looks at third base and in left field as long as he’s blocked by Chase. What’s more, Cesar and Freddy Galvis have a lot of overlapping skills, so if Cesar intends to be a super-utility player, he’ll have to continue to work on other positions to give him the edge over Freddy.
I believe Cesar is at least a replacement caliber starting second baseman. None of his tools jump out at you but he’s clearly a baseball player. He has good hands, a decent arm, good range and instincts, has a solid approach as a hitter and doesn’t often look overmatched at the plate. Sure, he’s a slap hitter but if he continues to reach base at a .344 clip he will be a big help to the offense.
I expect Cesar to struggle at times but show improvement overall in 2014. He brings youth and energy to a team in desperate need of it. His 2013 BABIP was on the high side at .368, so a regression could be in order. He was caught stealing in all three attempts with the Phillies and will have to improve his jumps and reads to help play up his speed on the base paths. I think he’ll show more a little more extra base pop as he grows more comfortable and fills out some with age.
As the season begins, the Phillies may decide Cesar is best suited at AAA to develop his skills playing regularly. However, if Utley misses any significant time, Cesar is sure to take over second base full-time. And if Jimmy Rollins misses time, Freddy Galvis will take over at shortstop and Cesar will be the utility man off the bench. Given the age of the vets, I think it’s a good guess Cesar will be on the big club for much of the season.