Red Sox: Kiké Hernandez’s center field experience provides options

Jun 30, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Kike Hernandez (14) at the end of the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 30, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Kike Hernandez (14) at the end of the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /
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Newly signed Red Sox Kiké Hernandez has experience in center field

One of the newest Boston Red  Sox members, Kiké Hernandez, has played a game at every single position besides catcher since his major league debut in 2014. Last week during his presser with the Boston media, Hernandez made it clear that his goal was to play second base as often as possible. The 28-year-old went on to say that he was aware of his value as a player able to cover multiple positions and would willingly play wherever he was asked.

With the outfield slated to consist of Andrew Benintendi, Alex Verdugo, and Hunter Renfroe from left to right, Hernandez became the most experienced center fielder on the Red Sox upon signing.

Last week, Jackie Bradley Jr. was reported to be seeking a contract of at least four years which might be a few years too many for Boston to entertain the idea of retaining him with young outfielder Jarren Duran waiting in the wings. The front office would be wise to sit tight on a long-term deal and see how each respective outfielder can perform in the vacant position.

The experience that Hernandez has accrued over the years could foreshadow his seeing more time patrolling center field than some might expect. None of the current outfielders projected to be starting on opening day are as defensively gifted as Bradley Jr. which does not necessarily mean trouble is ahead, but there are sure to be fewer wall-scaling catches at Fenway this season.

Long story short, the three everyday outfielders on the roster are unlikely to emulate the defensive value that the former Gold Glove winner brought to the table, as very few can live up to the prowess that has made Bradley Jr. a reputable defender on the field for so long.

In signing Hernandez, Boston now has been able to address two needs in finding an everyday second baseman along with much-needed wiggle room in the outfield. The biggest takeaway from his press conference was his desire to play second base as much as possible, yet upon making the signing official, the Red Sox transactions page lists him as a center fielder.

Earlier in the offseason, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom noted that he felt comfortable giving all three of Benintendi, Verdugo, and Renfroe time in center field. This could still be the game plan with a sort of revolving door method in playing time at the position, yet Renfroe (an everyday outfielder) has only logged 15 innings there compared to Hernandez’s 1,109. With a more experienced center fielder in the fold, a case can be made for Renfroe to see less time in the position, but only time will tell how manager Alex Cora plans to play his cards.

Barring any last-minute moves, such as Boston’s continued interest in fellow utility infielder Marwin Gonzalez, the Red Sox appear to be comfortable moving forward without Bradley Jr. and handing the majority of playing time in center field to Verdugo, a position the current right fielder actually favors over his current spot in right. Penciling Hernandez in as the opening day second baseman and Verdugo as the center fielder gives each player time to adjust accordingly while having a back-up plan with that extra versatility.

Next. Another suitor for Bradley Jr. off the board. dark

With pitchers and catchers due to report in short order and fairly close to the CBT threshold, the consensus appears to be that the team is unlikely to do much more than continue adding depth through small transactions. With all three of the current outfielders on the roster including Hernandez having seen time at the position, Boston should likely be able to stay afloat with the current array of outfielders on the roster and eventually segue the next batch of young outfielders including Duran into the mix.