Hernandez’s role in 2019
Since taking over as the starting second baseman from Chase Utley in 2015, Hernandez had been a staple in the top of the lineup. His on-base ability made him the perfect leadoff hitter in the new age of lineup construction. Among hitters with 200 or more plate appearances from the leadoff spot in 2016 and 2017, Hernandez had the fifth-best on-base percentage (.383).
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However, that role will change this year. Manager Gabe Kapler stated that Andrew McCutchen, not Hernandez, will hit leadoff this year, thanks to his combination of on-base ability and power. Instead, Hernandez will hit sixth or seventh per Kapler.
Some speculate that Hernandez could hit ninth with the pitcher batting eighth. This would make Hernandez a “second leadoff hitter” before the big guns at the top of the lineup come back up.
Kapler toyed with this idea many times last season, most notably with Roman Quinn. He could very well do it again with Hernandez.
Hernandez remains in a precarious position with the team due to Scott Kingery‘s long-term contract. This is Hernandez’s penultimate season of team control before becoming a free agent after the 2020 season. It will be hard to justify extending or re-signing Hernandez with Kingery already guaranteed $18.75 million from 2021 to 2023.
If Kingery shows improvements this year, Hernandez could be at the center of trade rumors at the trade deadline or during the offseason. However, that is a big if considering Kingery’s 2018 season. For now, Hernandez is the starting second baseman in what is now a very deep lineup.