Name: Brian Hernandez
DOB: Novermber 4, 1983
Hernandez was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 19th-round of the 2006 MLB Draft, 573rd overall out of Vanderbilt University.
Hernandez finished his year at Vanderbilt with a .302 batting average to go along with a team-high 21 doubles, three homers and 43 RBIs. The 21 doubles tied him for fifth best in school history. A teammate of fellow prospect Matt Buschmann, he also drew 18 walks and whiffed 25 times. Defensively, he threw out eight of 27 runners attempting to steal.
He was sent out to Eugene for their early training camp but was subsequently shipped to the Arizona Rookie League to begin the year – a disappointment for the catcher.
A contact hitter that rarely strikes out and can work the count, Hernandez has a clean stroke and doubles power, despite a slight uppercut. He is at his best when he is lining the ball but didn't do that often enough his first year. He tends to lift the ball too much in his transition from the metal to wood bats, and he will roll over on pitches down in the zone – correctable traits given his penchant for hard work.
"Brian came from the draft," Padres' roving catching coordinator Carlos Hernandez said. "This kid has big tools. I think he has a big future."
Over his first 13 contests, Hernandez was hitting .314 and showed off good habits, making consistent contact and staying back on the ball.
He missed a week of action in July because of a sore back and never seemed to find his rhythm the rest of the way, hitting .224 over the final 16 games to close out the year.
With his back ailment, he was pulling off more balls than normal and causing him to pull the pitch rather than punch it up the middle of the field or the opposite way. It led to many a ground out to the left side of the infield.
Hernandez did come up big in the Arizona Rookie League Championship game, going 2-for-3 with an RBI.
A testament more to his defensive game, Hernandez was shipped to Portland and caught the backside of a double-dip, going 1-for-3 with an RBI at the plate and coming off as an experienced backstop with the pitching staff.
"Brian, a college kid, and I think he is going to be around for a while," 2006 AZL Padres manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He is a smart kid that loves to play the game. He plays hard every inning of every game. He can play in Fort Wayne and do a good job over there."
"The way he works, the way he wants to learn and the way he does the job at that age is pretty good," Carlos Hernandez added. "He is taking it serious. He knows he has to work hard to make it to make it to the big leagues. He has what we are looking for."
Defensively, Hernandez is advanced at calling games, working with many of the young pitchers and challenging them to come inside and work off their strengths rather than worrying about many weaknesses and overanalyzing, particularly at that level.
He understands the pitchers well, and can gauge their frame of mind, going out to the mound when it is clear they need a breather.
He did have some trouble blocking balls, sitting a little too tall as balls in the dirt evaded him. He was charged with four errors and five passed balls.
There are times when he sets up too far behind the plate and needs to move forward to take advantage of a pitchers break low in the zone, catching it higher by moving up a couple inches.
Both areas improved after working with roving catching instructor Carlos Hernandez. He listens well and showed a willingness to adapt.
Hernandez has a quick trigger and solid footwork behind the plate, making the exchange from glove to hand quickly – he caught 14-of-29 would be thieves, good for 36 percent, in the AZL. He has a strong, accurate arm and takes to instruction well, putting it into application on the field.
"Defensively, he knows how to call games, he throws the ball pretty well to second with good accuracy," said Carlos Hernandez. "He hasn't played much but he showed that he can hit too. I think he has everything. He just needs to explode that talent and the only way is playing more."
Hernandez went out to the Padres' Instructional League but his tour of duty ended abruptly when he twisted his left knee and had to leave a game against the Chicago Cubs farmhands. That effectively ended his stay in the desert for the year.
ETA: Hernandez proved to be a solid compliment to a young pitching staff, leading by example and showing them the proper way to execute – bringing out their best. His work defensively says he should go to full-season ball this year and he can work on a consistent approach with the stick. If all goes well this season, the future will be clearer. He has the skills to be a solid catcher on both sides of the ball in the future.