No. 14: Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez
Ronaldo Hernandez was surprisingly traded to the Red Sox last offseason. It was surprising for two reasons. First of all, he was sent over by AL East rivals – the Tampa Bay Rays. Second, Hernandez was one of their better prospects. And he (as well as Nick Sogard how is very solid himself and had a great year) was traded to the Red Sox for Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs.
Mazza and Springs were both designated for assignment by Boston. So Tampa Bay might not even have had to trade for them. Mazza is 31 and posted a 4.80 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 30 innings for the Red Sox in 2020. He had a 4.61 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in just 27 1/3 innings for the Rays this year. Springs is 28 and had a 7.08 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in 20 1/3 innings for the Red Sox in 2020 and a much better 3.43 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 44 2/3 innings for Tampa this year.
So one not-very-good pitcher and one potentially very solid one. Boston got their top catching prospect out of the deal.
2021 started off slow for Hernandez, and maybe that had Rays fans feeling good about the trade. He turned it around in a wild way however, and ended up having one of his best seasons ever.
The right-handed hitter slashed .284/.326/.501 in 99 games between Double-A and Triple-A. In seven games in Triple-A he managed a .333/.400/.444 slash line.
Hernandez smacked one triple and 16 home runs, to go with a career-high 29 doubles. He doesn’t strike out too much, but he also does not walk (just 12 times in 387 plate appearances in 2021).
The bat is absolutely legit. Hernandez has potential to hit around .270-plus, and could rack up the extra-base hits too. Similar situation to Cottam. 30-ish doubles and 20-ish home runs. Another catcher that could have fun with the Green Monster. He won’t hurt you with rally-killing strikeouts too often, but he needs to work on his patience.
The speed isn’t really there. Hernandez isn’t aggressively slow, but he’s a big catcher (6’1″, 230 lbs). You really shouldn’t expect him to be flying around the bases. Nothing miserable for his position but it won’t ever be a part of his game.
Fielding wise, Hernandez could be special. The 23-year-old is a solid game-caller already. However, he doesn’t help the pitchers in a few other ways. That is to say, Hernandez needs to improve when it comes to blocking and framing pitches. But he was getting better as the year moved on. There’s definitely potential for him to improve and for this to be a big part of his game.
The big thing here is that Hernandez has an absolute cannon of an arm. His caught stealing numbers weren’t phenomenal this year, but they have been in the past. I know this sounds weird, but I don’t really care about caught stealing numbers in the minors when they aren’t good. If they are good, that’s amazing – look at them. But if they’re bad, I just don’t care. There are too many factors in the minors to care about bad caught stealing numbers.
I am 100% sure if you went back and watched every potential steal against Hernandez this year you would see some pitchers being too slow to the plate, not noticing the runner, throwing a miserable pitch, or the tag man not making a good play on at least a handful of them.
Hernandez has a tank of an arm. Go watch him and you’ll know it immediately. In the Majors, he’s getting a good percentage and people will be hesitant to run on him pretty quickly.
Overall, Hernandez has a lot of great tools. He can be a great hitter with an elite arm. If he can continue to improve on his defense, there won’t be much to complain about when it comes to his game for the Red Sox.