Last month, the Dodgers purchased infielder Yonny Hernandez from the A’s, who had claimed him off waivers from the Diamondbacks the month before. It was an under-the-radar move for Los Angeles, who will look to the diminutive Hernandez to fill the role vacated when they chose not to exercise their option on Hanser Alberto.
When the DBacks first acquired Hernandez from the Rangers at the beginning of the 2022 season, FanGraphs prospect expert Eric Longenhagen was high on the deal from Arizona’s standpoint.
Skilled and versatile, Hernandez is a likely big league role player whose abilities can impact a game in many situations. He’s tough to strike out and has reached base at a career .390 clip because he walks a lot and has an effective slash-and-dash offensive approach. He’s also an acrobatic multi-positional infielder. He will give a big league team a good at-bat off the bench and is an upgrade on the bases, and he can competently spell or sub for any of your heavy-hitting, shift-enabled infielders (like, eventually, a healthy Rojas) later in games. Hernandez has the fourth-lowest swinging strike rate in the minor leagues since 2019.
That sounds really, really good, right? Well, it hasn’t quite played out in the big leagues yet. While he has an above-average strikeout rate — just 18.6% in 194 big-league plate appearances — he’s batted .198 with a .521 OPS for a 48 OPS+. So maybe I should paste the next sentence Longenhagen wrote about Hernandez.
I considered putting him in the 40+ tier because of this, but his bat speed and power are so clearly below average that I think it’s unlikely he turns into more than a 1 WAR sort of role-player.
Hernandez will play good defense and he’ll put the bat on the ball. The question is whether he’ll hit the ball hard enough to have any positive results, and so far in his big-league career, the answer has been a resounding “no.” In his 194 plate appearances, Hernandez has exactly one barrel (which is a calculation of exit velocity, launch angle, and expected results and is shorthand for “hit the ball well”), a 391-foot flyout to center field.
New #Dodgers infielder Yonny Hernandez plays good D, runs well, and doesn't K much. Question is whether he can hit the ball hard enough to be successful.
In 194 career PA, he has exactly one barrel, this 391-foot flyout to center. His next-farthest batted ball was 337 feet. pic.twitter.com/vpHKwZ3bkZ
— Jeff J. Snider (@snidog) January 11, 2023
Hernandez has tools to work with, for sure. He has a good feel for the strike zone and takes enough walks to have a solid on-base percentage. At 140 pounds, he’ll likely never have the strength to hit the ball hard consistently, but if the Dodgers’ hitting team can help him optimize his launch angle (remember, “launch angle” doesn’t always mean “fly balls”), he could be a serviceable utility player off the bench.
Or, as has been the case with the DBacks and the A’s already this offseason, he could be the first guy pushed off the 40-man roster if L.A. brings in another player.