The Philadelphia Phillies have struggled to move forward this season, and still searchfor consistency from a place they used to get it regularly: 2nd base.
Through the first two months of the year, Cesar Hernandez was a below-average player, posting a wRC+ of 80 in April and a paltry 61 in May. Plenty of people (including myself) called for Hernandez to be removed from the starting lineup in favor of utility man Andres Blanco.
However, Hernandez has turned his season around since June, and especially in July. Last month, Hernandez was worth a full win-above-replacement. Considering the 2nd baseman has been worth 1.6 fWAR on the whole this year, Hernandez has truly started to shine in the last month.
In July, Hernandez posted a .333 batting average with a .814 OPS. He showed an improved ability to take the free pass, walking 12.7% of the time. Hernandez also did this while striking out 16.4% of his plate appearances, far less than usual for him.
Hernandez’s batted-ball data in July shows a truly odd trend; he’s hit ground balls more than 70% of the time. For statistical anomalies, this one is pretty out there.
Despite the extremely high amount of ground balls, Hernandez has found a way to make it work with a BABIP of .410. Nearly 76% of his grounders have gone for medium or hard contact.
On the other hand, this ground-ball approach at the plate has prevented Hernandez to hit for any sort of power. In July, Hernandez has managed a slugging percentage of .396, lower than his OBP in the same month (.418). While collecting 32 hits in July, just four have been for extra-bases and he hasn’t hit a home run since June 14.
On defense, Hernandez has been above-average at second base, holding a UZR/150 of 6.8 in 791 innings.
Hernandez has also been a decent contributor on the base paths as well. He’s stolen seven bases while being caught stealing just once in July. On the season overall, Hernandez has a UBR (ultimate base running) of 1.2 and a speed score of 5.7, both of which are above-average.
Since Hernandez remains under team control through 2021, he will most likely be on the team for the next several years. Considering the best prospect at the keystone position in the Phillies system, Scott Kingery, has only recently reached AA Reading, Hernandez should have at least through next year to solidify himself as the starter.
Hernandez has been hard to evaluate the past two seasons, starting off slow before starting to succeed as the year goes on. Whether he will continue as a starting player in MLB and with the Phillies as the roster improves will depend on whether or not he can sustain the success he’s found in the second half of the season.