Red Sox catching protege – Ronaldo Hernandez
There were two serious options for this spot in my opinion. Ronaldo Hernandez and Kole Cottam. Cottam has fantastic offensive talent and his defense was so improved last season that it makes you wonder just how good he can be.
However, Hernandez is getting the nod here for a few reasons. First of all, he’s slightly younger. It’s not the biggest difference, but he’s about six months younger and will play the entire 2022 season at 24, while Cottam will turn 25 right at the start of the year. That’s not much but it’s a slight needle mover.
Then there’s the fact that Hernandez is closer to the Majors. He finished 2021 in Triple-A, while Cottam finished in Double-A. Finally, both are great offensively. However, Hernandez is more polished defensively at the moment and has a stupid strong arm. And with how much I just talked about defense making me take Varitek, it felt appropriate to mention here. Cottam has a chance to be the protégé, but right now Hernandez is a little closer to the Majors so he gets the nod.
The right-handed hitter slashed .284/.326/.501 with 29 doubles, one triple, and 16 home runs in 99 games (363 at-bats) between Double-A and Triple-A. He drove in 58 runs and scored 45 more.
A big issue with Hernandez is his discipline. He drew just 12 walks last season. In fact, he’s only had two seasons (out of six) with at least 20 walks. One of them was exactly 20, the other was a much better 31. Still though, even 31 isn’t exciting anyone. So that’s something to keep an eye on. He’ll need to learn to be more patient if he wants to succeed in the Majors.
Hernandez has all the tools to be great though. He’s a phenomenal defensive catcher who can block the plate and frame pitches well. His arm is elite as well (the caught stealing percentage isn’t great but you should never look at that in the minors, too much is going on). Offensively, he has the ability to hit for a solid average and rack up the extra-base hits.
This is a tough one to grade. Varitek’s offensive numbers aren’t insane but he was so important defensively. So it will be hard to surpass him at the position, but Hernandez has the talent to do so.