By now you have seen the numbers: A .402/.503/.732 slash line. 21 home runs and 66 runs batted in in 239 at bats. A 42 percent success rate at throwing at base stealers. The numbers jump off the page and read like those of a doppleganger in MLB2K.
The problem with these numbers of course, is that they were put up in the Venezuelan Summer League. A league that is devoid of the talent one finds in the US-based rookie leagues. A league that is populated by teenagers and has ballparks that play like bandboxes.
Still, Hernandez's stats last season were so much better than anyone else's in the VSL, that it is hard to imagine that there isn't some real talent present.
The other problem has been that even the prospect experts like Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein and even Scout's own Frankie Piliere know next to nothing about him. Scouting reports from Latin America can be hard to come by and the few that do exist for Hernandez have been vague at best.
Suffice to say that as soon as I arrived at the Rays' spring training complex on Tuesday, my primary mission was finding whatever field Hernandez was playing on and getting a look for myself at the now almost mythic 18-year-old.
The baseball God's were smiling upon me - and believe it or not - he was one of the first players I spotted on the first field I went to.
I have very little to offer in the way of a scouting report at this point, but will be watching him closely throughout the spring and hope to both interview him as well as shoot some video of him on the field.
I did see him do some bunting drills - and to my surprise - found out that he is a pretty good bunter. Not that he'll be doing much of that, but good to know that he has been learning the fundamentals down at the Rays Venezuelan baseball academy.
I also saw him take about 10 swings during batting practice and he drove the ball with authority to the gaps on almost every pitch. From what little I saw, it looks like his bat is legit. Of course we'll see what happens when he faces live pitching in games.
But...I can now verify that he actually exists and isn't some sort of mysterious baseball demi-god. Below are some photos of Hernandez, so that you too can see for yourselves that he is not a figment of your imagination.
More to come this spring...as Rays Digest unveils Oscar Hernandez.
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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