Red Sox utility throw-down: Marco Hernandez vs. Tzu-Wei Lin

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 9: Tzu-Wei Lin /

The Boston Red Sox search for a fix at second base may be a choice between Tzu-Wei Lin and Marco Hernandez. How do they stack up?

The baseball team books get a work over this time of the year as baseball operations make roster changes. The general focus is on names, but I have always enjoyed the maneuvering regarding the very bottom of the 40-man roster and 25-man roster. One player recently was removed from the 60-day disabled list and activated – Marco Hernandez. Hernandez has been discussed as being in the mix for second base as mentioned by BSI’s Paul Doran.

Hernandez first caught my attention when he was toiling at Portland in the Double-A Eastern League and that continued until Hernandez surfaced in Boston. I just have an attraction for players like Hernandez who sit on the major League cusp and may or may not be a contributing factor. Sometimes they do become Brock Holt.

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I happen to be rather fickle with my baseball love and have my own developing and admittedly excessive admiration for Tzu-Wei Lin. Is this baseball adultery? I recently wrote about Lin with unmitigated enthusiasm and hope for a roster spot. Both Lin and Hernandez have a similar background besides being versatile and left-handed hitting. Not much was and may still not be expected of either.

The Red Sox will most certainly need some additional utility players especially with the extended absence of Dustin Pedroia. Naturally, I will assume that the last slot for the position players will be a choice between my two new best buds – Hernandez and Lin. How do they match up? Offense, defense and need.


The sample for Hernandez is greater than that for Lin, but still, not one that would make a firm career prediction on.  Hernandez has appeared in 61 MLB games and has a career average of .284. In 2016 Hernandez hit .309 for Pawtucket and then .294 for the Red Sox.

Lin appeared in only 25 games for Boston and hit .268.  At Portland Lin had hit .302, but when Lin was shipped to Pawtucket his average plummeted to just .227.  Neither player has a history of power and Lin has hit only 13 career home runs in six professional seasons. Hernandez has 38 in seven professional seasons, so don’t expect a home run bat off the bench.

Hernandez is a free swinger a classic term applied to players with low walk totals. The major league sample is small, but Lin did post a 13.6 BB/9 to just 5.2 BB/9 for Hernandez. This also is like their minor league statistics as is their K/9%.

The small sample must be looked at with both their Triple-A performance and MLB performance. Lin’s .227 at Pawtucket is certainly not as encouraging as Marco’s .309.  Both have stats that are somewhat mirrored at the MLB level with Hernandez having a slight edge with OPS.

EDGE: Hernandez


How long would the Red Sox have gone with Hernandez at third base? A season-ending shoulder surgery did not complicate the decision-making process and examining the fielding metrics one does not get the vision of a slick gloveman with Hernandez at any infield position.

At second base and third base Hernandez has a career -28.7 UZR/150. Defensive runs saved (DRS) at both positions are negative, but as a shortstop, Hernandez has a 5.2 UZR/150 in only 50 innings. With the Cubs and Red Sox, Hernandez’s minor league error totals give an insight into his UZR numbers as being valid. The eyeball test for this observer left Hernandez’s third base performance as a notch above Pablo Sandoval.

Lin was just the opposite for the Red Sox with a small but impressive UZR at all three infield positions. Lin chipped in with a 30.7 UZR/150 at second, 10.7 at third and 17.6 at short.  Another plus for Lin is his 27 minor league games in center field in 2017. The Red Sox actually list Lin as a center fielder on their depth chart.

I had the chance to watch Lin in a Sky Dome series last season and was impressed with his agility and instincts on defense. Lin can cover the ground and showed a strong and accurate arm. Yes – I was impressed – as I was with some gritty at-bats and ability to lay down a baseball basic – the bunt.



There is an escape clause in this instance, but it is two names with the first being Eduardo Nunez and the second is Holt. Both – especially Nunez – have a far greater resume of baseball experience. That, however, can fall through the cracks if Nunez goes elsewhere and Holt is unprepared for the season.

That means the money factor as Boston may not wish to pay a possible eight figures a year for Nunez over four years.  Holt will be in arbitration and could conceivably collect up to $3 Million. Boston may just choose to cheap out.

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So, who provides more value?  Lin or Hernandez? If you worship at the altar of WAR it is 0.4 fWAR for Lin and -0.2 fWAR for Hernandez. However, the glovework of Lin is just far superior to Hernandez. And that offense? Too close to call at the MLB level.

The other factor is versatility and Lin has a very clear edge. In the late-inning world of getting Rafael Devers off the field for defensive reasons, you may have a greater risk with Hernandez. If the season starts with either at second base you go defense and that is clearly Lin.

The Red Sox have encouraged players to have multiple opportunities at positions. This is good for the team and certainly for the players. Lin can easily transition to center field and Hernandez cannot. Some are the innate ability, but there is also a heavy dose of speed and Lin simply has more.

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If it comes down to spring training to one final position player and the choice is Hernandez or Lin the answer for me is clear.