Boston Red Sox: Five things we learned from Spring Training 2021
Kike Hernandez will thrive as the Red Sox leadoff hitter
The signing of free-agent Kike Hernandez wasn’t met with much fanfare. The perception was that he was a utility guy who could provide some depth to the bench by filling in at a variety of positions. His lack of a permanent position and wide platoon splits that heavily favor his production against left-handed pitching suggested Hernandez would be a part-time player.
It’s clear from what we saw in spring training that the Red Sox don’t share that assessment. Not only will Hernandez be a staple of the lineup, he’ll be hitting at the top of it.
Boston used Hernandez as their primary leadoff hitter this spring and he thrived in his new role, hitting .320/.443/.580 in 50 at-bats.
Hernandez has historically crushed lefties to the tune of a .263 average and .820 OPS compared to a meager .222 AVG and .673 OPS against right-handers. The platoon splits didn’t seem to matter this spring as Hernandez was plugged into the top of the lineup regardless of which arm the opposing pitcher was throwing with. He fared well regardless of the matchup and bashed all three of his home runs against a right-handed pitcher.
Most encouraging was the walks. Hernandez ranked in the bottom-10 in the majors with a 4.1 BB% last season (minimum 140 plate appearances) and he owns a below-average 9.2 BB% for his career. The Hernandez we saw this spring was not the same hitter. He led the team with 10 walks and drew more free passes than strikeouts (8).
Getting on base is one of the primary goals of a leadoff hitter. It’s clear that Hernandez has changed his approach to adapt to his new role and it’s working.