Following a shaky 2017, Darwinzon Hernandez has reasserted himself as one of the Red Sox top prospects.
While covering a minor league baseball game last summer one member of the media and myself were discussing the Red Sox minor league system.
Now, I knew who Hernandez was and the tools he possessed. However, I never viewed him as a highly touted prospect up to that point. He was an under-the-radar prospect when he was first signed in 2013 and din’t have much hype surrounding him. However, from that day forward I’ve been following the Venezuelan lefty ever so closely.
Although his numbers weren’t anything to make your eyes pop out of your head, Hernandez possesses the “it” factor needed to be successful. Once I looked past his numbers and more into his film and his style, the more I liked what I saw.
From his arm slot to his delivery that brings deception, Hernandez has a solid delivery. With it he brings along a strong frame that helps put some extra life on his fastball. He is a high-risk player given his age and control issues. However, he’s still young enough to get a grasp on his secondary pitches. Thus, he may also be a high-reward player down the road. This is what is most intriguing about Hernandez.
The 21-year-old’s fastball has topped out at 97 MPH while sitting between 92-94 on average. Thanks to his 3/4 arm slot, his fastball tends to jump on left-handed hitters and give them fits. This shows in his career splits as lefties have hit .217 against him while right-handed hitters have hit .230.
On this strikeout you can notice the late life his fastball has. Add in the location of the pitch and you can see the deception it can bring.
He also features a curveball with a 1-to-7 break on it. Hernandez throws it anywhere from 75-78 MPH on average and is reported to have a good feel for it. However, there are times where it gets away from him. But again, better control can come over time given he is still just 21.
Both his changeup and slider are works in progress. More so his slider than his change. Hernandez throws his change 82-86 MPH and it is his clear third pitch. With his slider, Hernandez just started experimenting with it and used it sparingly in 2017. If he can nail the slider over time those are four quality pitches in his toolkit.
Coming into 2018, Hernandez was trying to shake off an up and down 2017. His numbers weren’t terrible, a 4.01 ERA to go along with his 4-5 record in 23 starts. He also recorded 49 walks to his 116 strikeouts. However, consistency was his biggest issue.
The start of this season went the way Hernandez hoped for. In his first two starts he was 1-0 while allowing just one earned run on four hits over 10.1 innings. However, there was a two month slide from April 18 until June 15 where Hernandez’s inconsistency came back. In fact, his ERA jumped up 5.40 on June 15 when he allowed five earned runs on eight hits over five innings.
However, that would be the day Hernandez would turn his season around.
Over his last five starts, Hernandez has only allowed five earned runs with NONE over his last three starts.
Also, over his last 38 innings, Hernandez has struck out 51 batters while walking just 23. That’s a quick turnaround from his 36 strikeouts over his first 34.1 innings of work this season.
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Since his ERA reaching a season high of 5.40 on June 15, Hernandez has lowered it to 4.04. Thanks to his recent turnaround, Hernandez has put his name back among the best in the Sox farm system. With arms like Bryan Mata, Jay Groome and Tanner Houck in the system, it’s easy to overlook Hernandez. Especially with his less than impressive numbers in 2017 and for parts of 2018.
However, his last five starts should have heads turning. Sure, you can look at his past five starts and call it a lucky stretch. You could even say he’s just playing well as of late. However, in his entire career, Hernandez has never had a stretch like this. Besides turning his season around this could be the stretch that turns his career around.
With that, these five starts has put his name back among the Michael Chavis‘s and Groome’s of the Red Sox farm system.
You can call me quick to say Hernandez is back among the elites of the farm system after just five great starts. But what you must realize is that all of his tools are coming together and showing in his numbers. He has been combating the bad with the good, something that he hasn’t done in years prior. What’s most impressive about this stretch is the fact it is coming after an awful two moth stretch. Talk about a response to adversity.
Looking back, the member of the media that mentioned Herndandez’s name last summer as a prospect to look out for may have been onto something. He saw what myself and everyone else have been seeing over his last five starts. Thanks to his recent surge, Hernandez is back among the top of the players in the Sox farm system.