Hernandez Facing His Future

Anderson Hernandez has long wowed scouts with his excellent defensive skills and speed on the basepaths, but his bat has yet to match up to with other tools. Inside Pitch Magazine spoke with him to find where his place is on the big-league club.

It's time to stop thinking about what Anderson Hernandez could have been and start embracing him from what he is — a player that can help the Mets now, either from off the bench or in a backup role.

In 2005 Hernandez improved his stock more than any player in the Mets system. For the first time he showed potential beyond being just an above-average baserunner with plus-speed and a plus-defender. In 273 at-bats at Binghamton, he hit .326 and showed his first signs of power, slugging .462 on seven home runs. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk, where he continued his success by batting .303 over 261 at-bats.

But that was three years ago, and he has yet to replicate that success. While the defense and speed is still there, his bat now projects to hit no higher than .280 — a scary thing for a prospect who just doesn't walk often.

It's probably not wise to expect Hernandez to be a serviceable everyday starter in the big leagues, and especially not on a big-market club like the Mets. While he does do just about everything well, there's a little element that he needs to tinker with: his entire hitting game.

He's only a career .275 hitter in the minors, but more disconcerting is his .318 OBP and .362 slugging. Having a .680 OPS is going to convince few that it's deserving of a starting sport, even if you have Juan Pierre's bunting skills and Ozzie Smith's glove — but, to be sure, he has neither.

"His game is going to have to be small ball, gap to gap, keep the ball out of the air, bunt and run," hitting coach Jack Voigt said.

Regardless, the Mets still have to feel good about having the 25-year-old Hernandez. Even if he never muscles his way into a regular day position, he brings a lot to the table as a utility guy.

He has great speed, he's a switch hitter, he can bunt and he's a sensational defender – arguably the best middle-infielder at any level of the Mets organization.

"He can play short, he can play second, he can play probably anywhere in the infield if he wanted to," Zephyrs manager Ken Oberkfell said. "The thing for him to get back to the big leagues, it's going to be his defense."

"That helps me," Hernandez said on April 9, drenching in sweat after only playing three innings of ball (he came in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter because he had the day off), showing that he's prepared to work even when coming off the bench.

"If they want me to play third, if they want me to play left field, I'll do it, but I can play any position good. If something happens, somebody gets hurt, they can call me up because they know I can play both positions."

Hernandez also displays plus-speed and has the most potential in the system as a baserunner. He just needs to improve his average technique on the basepaths. He's hovering around 70 percent in stolen bases percentage.

"At times he doesn't get a big enough lead, " Oberkfell said. "I think he needs to really work on reading the pitcher more, getting good reads, learning the pitcher's pitch count and situations where it might be a good pitch to run on, or where they might be throwing breaking balls in situations.

"But that comes with experience, and he's getting better."

Hernandez has always been more comfortable from the right side of the plate, but Oberkfell says that's starting to change.

"What I noticed last year is that he really swung the bat better from the left side," he said. "And I noticed it's kind of carried on right now in the first week of the season,. He's still swinging the bat well from the left side."

That makes Hernandez all the more appealing as a utility guy. Willie Randolph already has a fantastic pinch hitter in Marlon Anderson, who had a .906 OPS in 2007 despite hitting almost exclusively in relief, and throwing Hernandez into the mix would give him a capable pinch runner who can then stay in the game as a late defensive replacement. He can also help incumbent second baseman Luis Castillo rest his knees by spelling him every few days.

"He has value, he's a good player, and he's going to help someone out there, " Voigt said.

"Hopefully, it's with the New York Mets."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nIt's time to stop thinking about what Anderson Hernandez could have been and start embracing him from what he is — a player that can help the Mets now, either from off the bench or in a backup role.
\r\n
\r\nIn 2005 Hernandez improved his stock more than any player in the Mets system. For the first time he showed potential beyond being just an above-average baserunner with plus-speed and a plus-defender. In 273 at-bats at Binghamton, he hit .326 and showed his first signs of power, slugging .462 on seven home runs. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk, where he continued his success by batting .303 over 261 at-bats.
\r\n
\r\nBut that was three years ago, and he has yet to replicate that success. While the defense and speed is still there, his bat now projects to hit no higher than .280 — a scary thing for a prospect who just doesn't walk often.
\r\n
\r\nIt's probably not wise to expect Hernandez to be a serviceable everyday starter in the big leagues, and especially not on a big-market club like the Mets. While he does do just about everything well, there's a little element that he needs to tinker with: his entire hitting game.
\r\n
\r\nHe's only a career .275 hitter in the minors, but more disconcerting is his .318 OBP and .362 slugging. Having a .680 OPS is going to convince few that it's deserving of a starting sport, even if you have Juan Pierre's bunting skills and Ozzie Smith's glove — but, to be sure, he has neither.
\r\n
\r\n\"His game is going to have to be small ball, gap to gap, keep the ball out of the air, bunt and run,\" hitting coach Jack Voigt said.
\r\n
\r\nRegardless, the Mets still have to feel good about having the 25-year-old Hernandez. Even if he never muscles his way into a regular day position, he brings a lot to the table as a utility guy.
\r\n
\r\nHe has great speed, he's a switch hitter, he can bunt and he's a sensational defender – arguably the best middle-infielder at any level of the Mets organization.
\r\n
\r\n\"He can play short, he can play second, he can play probably anywhere in the infield if he wanted to,\" Zephyrs manager Ken Oberkfell said. \"The thing for him to get back to the big leagues, it's going to be his defense.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"That helps me,\" Hernandez said on April 9, drenching in sweat after only playing three innings of ball (he came in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter because he had the day off), showing that he's prepared to work even when coming off the bench.
\r\n
\r\n\"If they want me to play third, if they want me to play left field, I'll do it, but I can play any position good. If something happens, somebody gets hurt, they can call me up because they know I can play both positions.\"
\r\n
\r\nHernandez also displays plus-speed and has the most potential in the system as a baserunner. He just needs to improve his average technique on the basepaths. He's hovering around 70 percent in stolen bases percentage.
\r\n
\r\n\"At times he doesn't get a big enough lead, \" Oberkfell said. \"I think he needs to really work on reading the pitcher more, getting good reads, learning the pitcher's pitch count and situations where it might be a good pitch to run on, or where they might be throwing breaking balls in situations.
\r\n
\r\n\"But that comes with experience, and he's getting better.\"
\r\n
\r\nHernandez has always been more comfortable from the right side of the plate, but Oberkfell says that's starting to change.
\r\n
\r\n\"What I noticed last year is that he really swung the bat better from the left side,\" he said. \"And I noticed it's kind of carried on right now in the first week of the season,. He's still swinging the bat well from the left side.\"
\r\n
\r\nThat makes Hernandez all the more appealing as a utility guy. Willie Randolph already has a fantastic pinch hitter in Marlon Anderson, who had a .906 OPS in 2007 despite hitting almost exclusively in relief, and throwing Hernandez into the mix would give him a capable pinch runner who can then stay in the game as a late defensive replacement. He can also help incumbent second baseman Luis Castillo rest his knees by spelling him every few days.
\r\n
\r\n\"He has value, he's a good player, and he's going to help someone out there, \" Voigt said.
\r\n
\r\n\"Hopefully, it's with the New York Mets.\"
\r\n
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