by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Catcher is often a difficult position to project, since given the rigors of the position teams often shift players off the spot if they show an ability to hit. That’s why when you find a player who can handle the position defensively while also showing upside in his bat, it’s easy to say the sky is the limit. While the Rays’ Ronaldo Hernandez didn’t garner much attention prior to the season, take a look at what Baseball America recently said about him:
One of the most exciting two-way catchers in the low minors, Hernandez turned in another outstanding week in the Midwest League. His performance pushed him to 10th in the league batting race at .311, but that tells only part of the story. Hernandez’s power, plate discipline, receiving and strong arm are equally notable.
Playing at Low-A, in what is his first year in a full season league, the 20-year old Hernandez is currently hitting .303 with 6 HR, 40 RBI and 26 R over his first 165 AB (through June 5, as he added another home run yesterday). Even more impressive has been his approach at the plate (through Monday):
- Strikeout Rate – 16.5%
- Walk Rate – 7.7%
It’s a great start, though he’s still got to prove he can maintain it as he progresses to more advanced competition. He’s tapping into his raw power (he’s added 13 doubles), but his ability to keep the strikeouts in check will have to be watched closely. As MLB.com described him prior to the season:
Hernandez combines strength, bat speed and a smooth right-handed swing to generate hard contact with ease, though his barrel path can get long at times. Those qualities also help him generate above-average raw power that he should tap into more consistently in the coming years.
If he can continue to make regular contact, with his power and ability to hit, he has the potential to quickly emerge as a Top 5 catching prospect. That becomes even more likely thanks to his ability to stick behind the plate, as MLB.com said “His athleticism and agility aid him as a blocker and a receiver, while his cannon arm and solid catch-and-throw skills enabled him to nab 57 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017.”
Obviously he’s long and has a long ways to go, but he’s definitely a prospect you want to keep a very close eye on moving forward.
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball America, Fangraphs
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here. Also don’t miss all of our 2018 Preseason Positional Prospect Lists: