- TEAM: Texas Rangers
- AGE: 21
- POSITION: Pitcher
- BATS: Right
- THROWS: Right
- HEIGHT: 6 feet 2
- WEIGHT: 175 pounds
- ACQUIRED: The Texas Rangers signed Hernandez as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2013
Baseball players come in all sizes, shapes and forms. They are a cross-section of society. Some pitchers and players are heavier like Bartolo Colon. Some are very, very thin like Chris Sale. Both of those pitchers have had great careers with totally different physicality.
Think more of Sale when considering the frame of Jonathan Hernandez. He is tall and very, very thin. In fact, he’s five pounds lighter than Sale. It is incredible that he can withstand the heat and humidity of hot, humid summers on the mound.
Hernandez has a much better than average fastball. From his thin frame he can hit 97 miles per hour with relative ease. His arm action is very smooth without much extraneous motion. Hernandez repeats his delivery well and uses every inch of his height to pitch downhill towards the hitter.
When I saw him at the Sirius/XM Futures Game in July in Miami, he threw his fastball exclusively. He can vary the velocity on the pitch from the low 90s to the upper-90s, and add a bit of deception to his work.
He has a bit of a weird delivery, moving his body from facing the plate to facing third base at his release point. When I saw him he pitched from the stretch.
Hernandez also throws a slider that sits in the mid-80s. Basically a two-pitch pitcher at this point, he is working on adding a changeup to his repertoire. Both of his secondary pitches continue to be in development and are behind his fastball in quality and refinement.
Hernandez has improved his fastball velocity with physical maturation and experience. He has not only added velocity, but improved his location. Keeping the ball down in the zone and achieving late movement and life on his fastball, Hernandez gets a great number of groundouts. It is difficult for hitters to put the ball in the air against Hernandez’ fastball. That’s a very good sign going forward.
Hernandez has pitched a total of 3931/3 innings in his minor-league career over parts of five seasons. He has an excellent composite ERA of 3.52 and a WHIP of 1.32. He has struck out an average of 7.4 hitters per nine innings.
I do think Hernandez is ultimately hittable, yielding more hits than innings. If, in fact, his walk rate remains high per nine innings he will be pitching with men on base far too often.
Working quickly with good pace and rhythm, Hernandez is athletic on the mound, fields his position well and he has a good move to first base. Runners might find it tough to steal bases on him.
Hernandez’ thin frame is an issue and concern. His stamina during hot days in Texas will be tests for his tall, thin body. If he can bulk up a bit it will certainly help him overcome fatigue,
To become a valid and viable starter, Hernandez will have to perfect both his changeup and his slider. Both pitches are currently marginal, at best. He may be able to rely upon one good pitch in the bullpen, but not as a starter, which is where the Rangers have used Hernandez in his brief career.
I have concerns about Hernandez’s lack of command and control on all three of his pitches. His walk rate of 3.3 in his minor league career was not helped this season by some high-walk outings at Class-A Advanced Down East in the Carolina League where he finished the season. He walked 4.3 hitters per nine innings at that level, up from 2.5 per nine at Hickory in the Class-A South Atlantic League.
Hernandez is the son of Fernando Hernandez, who pitched in two big league games with the Detroit Tigers in 1997.
Born in Memphis, where his dad was pitching in the San Diego Padres system, the younger Hernandez was raised in the Dominican Republic. He was among a host of international players signing with the Rangers in their 2013 international class.
Interestingly, the younger Hernandez was the only player from the Texas Rangers organization selected to play in the Futures Game this past July. He worked a perfect third of an inning, getting the Rockies’ Ryan McMahon to fly out to end the 8th inning.
THE FUTURE FOR HERNANDEZ
Much will depend upon the depth of his repertoire. Can he continue to develop his fastball, changeup and slider to the point he has confidence using any of those pitches at any point in the count? A combination of improved command and control and the use of a deeper repertoire may solidify a role in the rotation.
If, in fact, Hernandez does not show the ability to repeat solid pitches consistently, he may be best suited for the bullpen.
With his high velocity fastball as the anchor of his arsenal, he could navigate a lineup for at least three times through the lineup. Again, however, I am concerned about his hits and walks per inning.
After watching him pitch live and on video, I believe his best role would be out of the bullpen. He could be a very dynamic mid- to late-inning arm.
Tall and very thin, the son of former major-league pitcher Fernando Hernandez, Jonathan Hernandez is a ranked pitching prospect in the Texas Rangers organization. In fact, he was the club’s only representative in the 2017 Futures Game.
Hernandez throws a high velocity fastball along with a changeup and a slider. His fastball is clearly his best pitch. Everything works off the intensity of that pitch. Hernandez can keep the pitch down in the zone and induce grounders. Working downhill, he uses his tall and thin frame to his advantage.
In my observations, Hernandez will have to add depth and weight to his frame and get strong enough to last through the tough summer heat and humidity. That issue must be watched.
Hernandez still must perfect his command and control and refine all his pitches to become an effective major league quality pitcher. I believe he would best succeed as a late inning relief pitcher.
SCOUTING PHRASE FOR HERNANDEZ: Tall and thin pitcher with a repertoire in development
SCOUTING GRADE FOR HERNANDEZ: 45 – solid bullpen arm
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