(Photo: Brad Mills, USA TODAY Sports)
2020 season age: 30 – Throws: Right – Bats: Switch – Contract: – $6,250,000/1 year
2019 in review: For the second straight season Hernandez played in 161 games for the Phillies, hitting .279/.333/.408 with 14 homers and nine steals. He also drove in a career high 71 runs. Philadelphia opted to non-tender Hernandez instead of pay him his third year figure in arbitration. His strikeout rate was a career low 15%, but so was his walk rate – 6.7 BB%
Beyond the stats: Hernandez is not much of a StatCast case, but he has generally posted good on base percentages in his career, though last year was a dropoff for him. That might have had something to do with his drop in Philadelphia’s order with some personnel changes. He mostly hit sixth and seventh last year and though he posted good numbers there, he posted some of his lower walk rates from the sixth spot (4.6 BB%). In 2018 as the Phillies primary leadoff hitter he ran a walk rate of 13.6 BB%. Perhaps the change to where he hit in the order affected his aggressiveness and approach overall.
Offensive impact: As noted, Hernandez has always hit for a decently high average, puts the ball in play with consistency and has gotten on base. Last year he hit right handed pitching better (102 wRC+ to 67 against left handers) but has a 97 wRC+ against LHP and 99 against right handed pitching. His nine steals were a career low, where he’d stolen above 15 four years in a row. As a switch hitter, Hernandez fits in the Indians lineup well with the ability to put the ball in play, work a walk and run a little.
Defensive impact: Hernandez was in the 84th percentile in outs above average on StatCast in 2019, up from the 17th percentile in 2018, a big improvement. At +4, it was his best mark since the stat was tracked in 2017. Fangraphs’ DRS had it a little different for Hernandez, a -3 mark. With defensive positioning and shifting however, if Hernandez has any holes in his range at second base, the Indians should be able to mitigate them.
2020 role: The second and third base options on the free agent market had some interesting choices and the Indians chose to ink Hernandez to a one year deal not blocking Nolan Jones for 2020 but also not clearing a space for him to come up this year with Herandez holding down second base and Jose Ramirez at third base. Where Hernandez hits in the Indians lineup will be interesting though. Terry Francona usually opts to breakup his switch hitters throughout the lineup and Francisco Lindor has been their primary leadoff hitter, but Hernandez has had success at the top of the lineup in the past and could push Lindor into more of an RBI role. Or he might hit behind a slew of power hitters with a more contact oriented role if they work walks and get on base. He could provide some solid OBP at the bottom half of the order.
Fantasy impact: Second base is a lighter position in fantasy right now, but with so many player claiming multi-position eligibility, there’s no such thing as positional scarcity. Hernandez is not a strong second basemen, but in theory you could get a solid batting average from him and about 10 homers and 10 steals. He’s a safe option if you miss out on other second basemen and a solid option at a middle-infield spot. He won’t have multi position eligibility so he’s not a great bench option, just someone you can grab late to fill out your roster and get some safe floor stats from.