Scouting Mets' Prospect # 7: Gaby Hernandez

The New York Mets drafted pitcher Gabriel Hernandez with their 3rd round pick in the 2004 draft out of Belen Jesuit High School. Despite being just 18-years old, Gaby has some of the best command among the pitching prospects. It's this reason that Hernandez ranks #7 among the Top 50 Mets' Prospects.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Gaby Hernandez
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: May 21, 1986
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

We've all seen the photos from baseball's draft day, where families huddle around the phone with the radio or the Internet wired up, just waiting to see where their young prospect will be heading.

It was like that in Gaby Hernandez's Florida household as well, especially since the young righthander had drawn interest from roughly a dozen major league organizations.

One of the top high school pitchers in the state, Hernandez believed that the Mets, Giants and Yankees were the clubs most interested in securing his services. Indeed, it was the Mets who punched his ticket in the third round of last year's draft. For some prospects, that would mean a long night of partying and what-have-you, but not Hernandez.

"My family and I listened to the draft, but we didn't celebrate when I was selected," Hernandez said. "We knew that meant I really needed to start working hard."

After signing for $480,000, the big 18-year-old righthander got to work near his home with the Gulf Coast Mets and immediately played the role of sponge to the coaches there, particularly Randy Niemann.

Hernandez came to Port St. Lucie with a loopy curveball that clocked in around 70 MPH, but with some tinkering on Niemann's part, Hernandez suddenly found himself throwing a tighter-breaking deuce with more velocity. The end result was a league-low 1.09 ERA in 49.2 innings pitched, striking out 58 befuddled Gulf Coast League hitters.

"He was flat out dominating," laughed Gulf Coast teammate Mike Carp.

"It was a great learning experience for me," Hernandez said. "I was just listening to the coaches and I'm a better pitcher because of it." With his first professional season in the books, Hernandez has a long road ahead of him, but he can make it shorter. As a pitcher who grew up idolizing Roger Clemens, adopting Clemens' work habits is one of Hernandez's top priorities, as is beginning the year in Single-A Hagerstown and working his way to high-A St. Lucie in 2005.

Year

Team

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2004

Brooklyn

1-0

3.0

2

0

6

0.00

2004

GCL

3-3

49.2

25

12

58

1.09


* Stats as of 10/1/04

Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. Hernandez throws both a 2-seam fastball and a 4-seam fastball. The 2-seam fastball, while a very good pitch right now, is a pitch Hernandez is looking to improve and throw with more confidence. He's looking to learn to throw it outside and tail back in, much like Greg Maddux does. He throws his 4-seam fastball in the 90-93 MPH range, topping off at 94-95 MPH. He throws his fastball inside to righties and away from the lefties. He has excellent command of his fastball and is able to locate it very well.

Other Pitches. Hernandez has a fantastic changeup he throws in the 79-81 MPH and has a ton of confidence it. He's able to throw it to any batter in any count and it currently serves as his out pitch. Hernandez compliments his repertoire with a very good curveball, a pitch he's been able to improve dramatically in his short time with the Mets. He was throwing his curveball in the 70-71 MPH range and it had a very loopy action. He has been able to tighten the break and now throws a sharp breaking curveball in the 75-76 MPH.

Pitching. Hernandez has a solid repertoire, great command, and is a student of the game. As good as those traits are, it is his competitiveness on the mound and his attitude that makes him better than most pitchers. He is a bulldog on the mound and goes right after batters with great confidence and command of his pitches. At just 18 years old (he turns 19 in May), Hernandez has a very projectable body that could easily add more velocity to his already great fastball.

Projection. Hernandez has the highest upside among the starting pitching prospects outside of Yusmeiro Petit. Like Petit, Hernandez is all about great location and knowing how to pitch and he is just so young. A few more years of professional coaching could really take his game to another level. Right now, Hernandez projects to be a frontline starting pitcher in a Major League rotation. ETA. 2008. Hernandez still has a ways to go to become an elite pitching talent for the Mets just due to his age and lack of experience. He has the raw tools, command, and desire to improve to be a special player. The Mets will most likely challenge Hernandez in 2005 at low-A Hagerstown.

Starting Pitchers

2004 Team

Aaron Heilman

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Bob Keppel

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Neal Musser AA - Binghamton Mets
Brian Bannister AA - Binghamton Mets
Yusmeiro Petit AA - Binghamton Mets
Miguel Pinanago A - St. Lucie Mets
Kevin Deaton A - St. Lucie Mets
Matthew Lindstrom A - Capital City Bombers
Vincent Cordova A - Capital City Bombers
Greg Ramirez A - Capital City Bombers
Evan MacLane A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Scott Hyde A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Michael Devaney A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Joseph Williams A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Mike Swindell A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Gaby Hernandez R - GCL Mets


Comments

The Mets have some good pitching prospects and the system's depth is only going to get better with the additions of Alay Soler, Matt Durkin, and Philip Humber. Considering they have not pitched a professional inning in the Mets system as of yet, we'll focus on the pitchers that have. Among the Mets' pitching prospects, Yusmeiro Petit and Gaby Hernandez seem to have the highest ceilings simply because of their age and talent. However, the Mets do have a number of other good pitching prospects that still have time on their side to make their mark. The following starting pitchers are currently in our Tier One group...the top starting pitching prospects in the Mets system.

1) Aaron Heilman - Heilman struggled out of the gate in 2004 but was perhaps the hottest pitcher in the entire Mets' system the second half of the year. All Heilman needs is a chance. Give the guy 30 starts and see what he can do. But that day may never come with the Mets as he appears to be in New York's doghouse. It's a shame too. He's a better pitcher than people think.

2) Bob Keppel - Like Heilman, Keppel struggled mightily to begin the 2004 campaign but finished the year strong. Keppel's always had the repertoire and pitching ability to become a Major League starter. The question has been his strikeout rate. Still only 22 years old and seems forgotten.

3) Neal Musser - With the trade of Scott Kazmir, Musser becomes the Mets' best left-handed starting pitching prospect. A top prospect a couple of years ago, Musser was beset with injuries and had a bounce back year in 2004. Musser is still only 24 years old and should not be forgotten.

4) Brian Bannister - His stats do not accurately portray how good a pitcher he is. Bannister has four plus pitches in his repertoire and has the chance to be a front-line starter someday. Remember, Bannister has only been pitching for 4 seasons...two in college, two in the pros. So as good as he is, he is still learning which is a scary thought.

5) Yusmeiro Petit - The Mets #1 pitching prospect the minute the Mets traded Kazmir. Forget about the pundits and all their talk about lack of "stuff". Petit knows how to pitch at such a young age (19). Drawing comparisons to Greg Maddux, Petit has the ability to change speeds on his fastball and is very deceptive on the mound. Bottom line is he's been baffling hitters from the word go.

6) Miguel Pinango - Pinango was cruising through the Mets system until an injury in St. Lucie ended his season in 2004 after just three starts. Pinango's command is superb. Only Petit's command is perhaps better and even that's not a lock. Still only 21 years old (he'll be 22 by the start of next season), Pinango is still a very good pitching prospect for the Mets.

7) Kevin Deaton - Growing up as an offensive lineman, Deaton is an imposing figure on the mound. Like Pinango, Deaton's rise through the system hit a speed bump in 2004 when he was plagued by injury (tendonitis). His fastball tops off at 94 MPH with solid movement and is still only 23 years old.

8) Matthew Lindstrom - Nobody throws as hard as Lindstrom does in the Mets' organization...nobody! Lindstrom is a fascinating talent that is getting a chance to showcase his stuff in the Arizona Fall League this year. With a fastball that regularly sits in the 94-96 MPH range, he can top it off at 100 MPH at times. Used primarily as a starter up to this point, his future seems to be in the bullpen...possibly as a closer.

9) Vincent Cordova - Cordova has the talent to be a very good pitching prospect for the Mets. Drafted out of college in 2003, Cordova needs to prove he can get hitters out at the higher level. Like Pinango and Petit, Cordova's success is predicated on his control. He's a Tier One prospect for now but time is not on his side.

10) Greg Ramirez - Used as both a starter and a relieve in his short career thus far, Ramirez is like Cordova. He has the talent and the stuff to be a Tier One pitching prospect for the Mets, but like Cordova, he's going to have to prove it at the higher levels to remain in this group. It's unclear how he will be used in the future.

11) Evan MacLane - MacLane gives the Mets' pitching in their farm system they seriously lack: quality left-handed pitching among their starting pitching prospects. MacLane was dominating South Atlantic League hitters in 2004 before being sent to Brooklyn where he had the same success. MacLane should be challenged in 2005 and will most likely be part of the St. Lucie staff. Like Ramirez, Cordova, Petit, and Pinango, MacLane is all about the control. He has great command of his pitches.

12) Scott Hyde - Hyde was not scheduled to pitch in live games this past season after being drafted but still managed to showcase some good pitching in his stint with the Cyclones. Hyde has the chance to be the "sleeper" among the Mets' 2004 draft picks.

13) Michael Devaney - Among the NY-Penn League leaders in ERA, Devaney is very solid. As is the case with most of the Cyclones' rotation, he'll have to duplicate the same success at the higher levels to remain in the Tier One level of starting pitching prospects.

14) Joseph Williams - Like Devaney, it's hard to dispute the success Williams had in Brooklyn this past season. The fact that he's a lefty aids his chances to be challenged quickly in the Mets' farm system.

15) Mike Swindell - Another college arm that was drafted in 2004 that will have to quickly prove he can become a solid starting pitching prospect for the Mets.

16) Gaby Hernandez - The Mets' third round pick in 2004, right now, Hernandez appears to be second behind Petit with the highest upside among the starting pitching prospects. It's too early to tell, but Hernandez has the talent to duplicate Petit's fast track through the minors.

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