Top Prospect #15: RHP Yoel Hernandez

Yoel Hernandez doesn't have the best pure stuff around and at times, you have to wonder how he can make pretty good hitters look so bad. The key is his off-speed pitches that he can throw for strikes and that keep hitters off balance. Add to that the fact that his fastball is getting better and better and that Hernandez is just 21 years old and you have a formula for success.

Yoel Hernandez is another of the success stories to come out of Venezuela. The Phillies signed him as an amateur free agent at the age of 18 and haven't regretted it at all. The Phillies gave Hernandez a season in the Venezuelan Summer League to adjust before they brought him to the U.S. right away and threw him into the fire.

Hernandez was short on formal instruction when the Phillies signed him. He was more of a thrower than he was a pitcher and they felt that he needed some fine tuning to say the least. With minimal work, the Phillies sent him into the wilds of the Gulf Coast League and he exceeded any and all expectations. While the Phillies were looking to get Hernandez some innings and hoped that he would hold his own, Hernandez had a different plan; Dazzle from day one.

In 2000, Hernandez made 9 starts and 1 relief appearance in the GCL. The results were amazing. Hernandez went 4-1, 1.35 and struck out 46 in 60 innings. What the Phillies found was that Hernandez was able to throw his off-speed pitches at any spot in the count because he was able to throw them for strikes. When he was ahead in the count, he could also put them just off the plate, making hitters chase them, while their timing was throw off. At times, it was almost funny.

As Hernandez moved through the system, he slowly developed more velocity and more movement on his fastball. That, of course, served to make the off-speed stuff even better and before long, word of Hernandez was getting around. Hernandez spent one season in Lakewood and one in Clearwater, putting together a combined 3.51 ERA in the two stops. As he worked more and more with the fastball, his control with the pitch wasn't quite as good and his walk to strikeout ratio suffered a little, but still not to any point that worried any of his coaches or the Phillies brass.

After 2002, the Phillies decided that they wanted to change their approach with Hernandez. They moved him from the starting rotation to the bullpen. The move was based on several reasons. Of course, the fact that the Phillies already have a strong stream of young pitchers was a big part of the reason. Also, they felt Hernandez had gotten enough work and simply needed to settle into a job that he could feel secure in. The Phillies also felt that since his fastball had improved, but certainly wasn't overpowering, Hernandez was likely best suited to work out of the bullpen. The change didn't produce overwhelming results, but the Phillies were happy with Hernandez' 2003 performance (6-3, 4.26) at Reading.

Hernandez will start the 2004 season in Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Actually, that's where he finished the 2003 season, pitching in just two games for the Red Barons. Since Hernandez doesn't turn 22 until April, the Phillies figure they can give him time to get comfortable. If he starts slowly at AAA or if he has a bad spring, the Phillies can always give Hernandez more time at AA if necessary. Most pitchers do suffer a little bit of a setback when they hit the AA level and while Hernandez certainly wasn't overmatched at AA, he wasn't as successful as he was at lower levels.

It's not likely that Hernandez will be in the majors in 2004 and depending on how things progress, he may not hit Philadelphia until sometime during the 2005 season or later. You do have to figure though that Hernandez will hit the majors and it won't take too long for him to get there, either. Just how soon will likely be determined this season.

Yoel Hernandez' Career Stats

 

Year/Team

W

L

ERA

SV

G

GS

IP

H/9 IP

BB/9 IP

KO/9 IP

2000 Gulf Coast League (Rookie)

4

1

1.35

0

10

9

60.0

5.9

2.5

6.9

2001 Lakewood (Low A)

6

9

3.47

0

25

25

160.2

8.6

2.3

6.2

2002 Clearwater (High A)

7

16

3.54

0

28

28

170.1

9.3

2.7

6.1

2003 Reading (AA)

6

3

4.26

2

43

1

74.0

12.2

3.8

5.6

2003 Scranton Wilkes-Barre (AAA)

0

0

6.00

0

2

0

3.0

15.0

0.0

9.0

Minor League Career Stats

23

29

3.37

2

108

63

468.0

9.1

2.8

6.2


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