Top Prospect #11: Yoel Hernandez

The Phillies were faced with a dilemna about what to do with all of the quality young starting pitchers that they were assembling in the minor league system. When they looked around and made some tough choices, Yoel Hernandez was one of the prospects bumped from the rotation to the bullpen. The move hasn't been easy, but Hernandez is adjusting.

Yoel Hernandez is another young pitcher that the Phillies have transitioned from a starter to a reliever. While the adjustment meant some growing pains for Hernandez, he has now completed the transition and seems to have adapted well to his new position with the organization. The move seemed a little strange in that Hernandez was giving solid innings as a starter and there were no injury concerns. Still, perhaps because of the growing amount of young starting pitching prospects, the Phillies decided to make the move and Hernandez adapted.

The Phillies have done well with their scouting work in Venezuela and it was there that they found Hernandez. As an 18 year old, Hernandez showed the Phillies enough that they offered him a contract and he joined the organization. The Phillies kept him in Venezuela for a season to adjust to life as a professional pitcher before they brought him to the U.S. for his first taste of baseball in the states. He excelled early on and moved through the list of pitching prospects that the Phillies had assembled, climbing to 11th on the Baseball America list of the Top Phillies prospects in 2001.

2000 Gulf Coast 4 1 1.35 0 10 9 2 60.0 39 10 9 2 46
2001 Lakewood 6 9 3.47 0 25 25 1 160.2 153 94 62 7 111
2002 Clearwater 7 16 3.54 0 28 28 3 170.1 176 76 67 6 116
2003 Reading 6 3 4.26 2 43 1 0 74.0 100 43 35 31 46
2003 Scranton 0 0 6.00 0 2 0 0 3.0 5 2 2 0 3
2004 Reading 1 2 2.01 6 20 0 0 31.0 24 12 7 15 33
2004 Scranton 0 0 6.46 0 14 2 0 31.0 38 26 22 7 18
Career 24 31 3.46 8 142 65 3 530.0 535 263 204 166 373

Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent 11/5/98.

Repertoire: Hernandez throws the basic compliment of pitches and has good velocity and even better movement on them. He keeps the ball down in the zone and doesn't rely only on striking out hitters, relying instead on his fielders to do their jobs behind him.

Pitching: Yoel Hernandez lives and dies with location. He's got a good, hard slider and knows how to use it to keep hitters off-stride. His control was better as a starter, likely because he was a more relaxed type of pitcher. As a reliever, he is often brought into a game in a tight spot and doesn't rely on his full compliment of pitches. As he gets more adjusted to the role, that will change. All signs make you wonder why he was moved out of the starting rotation, since he had so much success as a starter.

Projection: Even though two short AAA auditions haven't gone well, Hernandez is ready for the top minor league level. He has done all he can do at Reading and now has to adjust to the higher level. In 16 AAA games (two starts), Hernandez is 0-0, 6.35, but that doesn't mean that he can't pitch at that level. The Phillies will give him all the time he needs and considering that he's only 24 - he turns 25 in April - there is time. Long-term, the Phillies seem determined to leave him in the bullpen and if he continues to do well in that role, he will move toward the back end of the 'pen as a potential set-up guy.

ETA: It figures that Hernandez is going to need a full AAA season and maybe a little more. He'll likely get more of a look in 2006 and could make it to the majors after just one AAA season, but it's not likely. Figure that at some point during the 2007 season, Hernandez will be ready for a trip to Philadelphia.

Comparison: Hernandez and Ryan Madson throw similar pitches and both had early success as starters. Hernandez has the ability to put up the kind of major league numbers that Madson did in his rookie season.

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