Thursday, July 24, 2008

Prospect Report: David Hernandez

For the second prospect report I want to highlight a pitcher who has been something of a Jeremy Guthrie for Double-A Bowie. David Hernandez, a 23-year old right hander, has dominated the Eastern League this season with a 2.65 ERA but holds a mere 5-3 record in 20 starts. Hence the Jeremy Guthrie comparison. Over his past seven starts he is 1-2, allowing 7 runs in 41 total innings (1.54 ERA), striking out 42 while walking 23. David has surpassed what were already elevated expectations by the Orioles organization and is making his push as a premier prospect in the O's system.

So, who is David Hernandez? David Hernandez was drafted in the 16th round of the 2005 Amateur Draft by the Baltimore Orioles out of Consumnes River Community College (CA). David stands at a height of 6'3", and came out of junior college as an athletic player with potential for growth. So far he has grown somewhat better than anticipated this year, as he has improved in nearly every facet from last year at Advanced-A Frederick to this season at Double-A. David has seen his ERA lower from 4.95 to 2.65, Opp. AVG from .249 to .210, and has managed to increase his endurance in what is a significant step up in the quality of hitters. His finest career moment came in the Carolina League playoffs last year in which he struck out 18 batters in a single game.

Strengths: Hernandez's strength is in his two plus pitches, his fastball and slider. His fastball typically runs 90-93 mph, occasionally touching 95 mph. That fastball has excellent movement leading to high strikeout totals and the ability to miss bats while staying in the strike zone. Early in his minor league career David developed a slider which has arguably become his best pitch with excellent break. Hernandez's steady improvement throughout his minor league career is another significant plus, as he has consistently stepped up his game to superior competition.

Weaknesses: Hernandez's weaknesses are much of what you would expect from a young power pitcher, in that he is occasionally wild (K:BB ratio of 120:52) and is often the victim of the big inning. That strikeout-to-walk ratio is one of the few statistical categories in which he has not been able to improve from last season in which he held a 168:47 ratio. One of the factors that significantly contribute to these walk totals is the lack of development of his third pitch, his changeup. In order to be a successful starter in the Major Leagues David will need to establish that third pitch.

Projection: How and where David Hernandez projects hinges on his ability to establish his changeup as a legitimate pitch he can throw for strikes. If he fails to develop that pitch he can still have a successful career but he most likely would find his niche in the bullpen rather than the rotation. With his progression expect him to finish this season strong at Bowie, and start 2009 in Norfolk's rotation after an extended stay in Spring Training with the big league club, breaking the major league roster sometime between April and June.

(Photo Credit: Will Bentzel/

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