Remember that cartoon on Nickelodeon of the goofy kid with the football head? Yeah this is him now, except he has a rocket for an arm.
As I perused the Royals 40-man roster prior to spring training as usual, there was a name that I couldn’t help but notice: Arnaldo Hernandez. Who was this kid and why did he deserve a spot on the roster? Well I went to go look and now I’m about to spew all the gooey goodness I learned about him.
MLB pipeline currently has Hernandez listed as the #27 best prospect within the Royals minor league system. Our very own editor in-chief head Honcho, Alex Duvall, seems to be much more bullish on him listing him #13 and I wholeheartedly agree with him.
Hernandez is a starting pitcher originally signed as a teenager out of Venezuela in 2012, he dealt with some injuries before eventually making his pro baseball debut in 2014. He continued to develop in rookie ball until 2017 when he was promoted to Single A and then rather quickly to Triple A near the end of the 2017 season. To begin 2018, Hernandez again started at Single A pitching 64 innings before making a quick pit stop in Double A before arriving in Triple A to pitch 58.1 innings of 3.55 ball winning 5 of 10 games started. Taking a look at his numbers, Hernandez’s K/9 took a dip upon advancing to Triple A while his walk rate largely remained the same. Although he may have not been missing as many bats, Hernandez was still inducing outs and limiting runs as evidenced by an 0.210 batting average against. Furthermore, he was quite effective in stranding runners on base with a LOB of 73.0%. Okay sure, this might be a bit flukey so I looked at his previous years of extensive action (at least 14 games pitched) and he has posted solid strand rates on all those years too, his lowest being 59.5% in rookie ball in 2016.
Ok cool Eric, you spit me some numbers and stats but how does this all make sense?
Well, what his minor league track record numbers are telling me is that Hernandez is a guy with good control and isn’t likely to dig himself a hole with walks. Furthermore, the solid strand rate and low opponent batting average indicates that even though Hernandez wasn’t striking out as many guys at the Triple A, he was still able to be effective by inducing outs when needed. What intrigues me most though is that this past offseason, Hernandez seems to have added some zip on his fastball, now sitting around 94-97 mph. This added velocity should help to keep hitters off balance and restore some of the swing and miss ability that faded at the Triple A level.
As of right now, Arnaldo Hernandez is not likely to make the Royals active 25-man roster but that could change with a strong showing this spring. The Royals clearly liked what they saw from him near the end of 2018 to give him a 40-man spot and also send him to the Arizona Fall League for further action. He currently projects as a middle reliever potentially making his debut mid-late 2019 but he also has the potential to become a mid to back end rotation piece.
(Update: Trevor Oaks may require season ending hip surgery, increasing the possibility Hernandez makes the 25-man roster.)
Photo Credits: Minda Haas Kuhlmann (@minda33)