During the San Diego Padres’ 2016-2017 international spending spree, all eyes were on the uber-talented lefty Adrian Morejon.
Today, the Padre shares the spotlight with another Cuban, Michel Baez, who has shot up the Friar’s prospect rankings and firmly cemented himself as seventh best. His domination of the lower minors was thrilling and his ability to win all his games, post a 0.78 ERA in 23 innings at Fort Wayne, and carry a BB/K ratio of 5/40 over 28 innings was amazing.
Such performance could also fall in line with another Cuban starter the Padres have. Currently he’s under-the-radar, but 19-year-old lefty Osvaldo Hernandez has the goods to dominate tonight was proof.
In 20 innings at Tri-City, Hernandez seemed to struggle as his ERA ballooned to a horrid 4.95. There were no apparent reasons for such struggle as his K/9 was a healthy 10.35, his BB/9 was a decent 2.70, and his pitch arsenal was the same as it was when signed on March 16, 2017.
Before and after signing, Hernandez showed a solid 89-94 mph fastball, a tight-spinning curve that could be a plus offering, and a possible above-average slider with depth. However, the reason for this prospect’s high ERA in Short A-ball lies in BABIP figures. As a Dust Storm, he was very unlucky, drastically suffering from a .433 BABIP. If given more time at the level, the number would have normalized and Hernandez’ ERA would have resembled his shiny FIP of 2.57. Instead, his demotion to the Arizona League would lead to a dominant start on Sunday.
In Sunday’s game against the Mariners’ AZL team, Hernandez threw his best. Over 5.1 innings thrown, he allowed just one run and struck out nine batters. This strikeout ability is great to see from such a young ballplayer, especially one who has to adjust to living in a different country. His whiff rate may help him ascend the minor leagues as a top starter.
Combined with the zero walks he gave up today, the Cuban has shown the potential to be a forceful presence on the mound. Just look at his most impressive stat of the day, 37 strikes out of 39 total pitches. Not only does that stat provide assurance for how threatening he is to other teams’ hopes but how efficient he can carve through a lineup, how fast he can do it, and how he can eat through plenty of innings.
His outstanding command and strikeout ability on Sunday also illustrates how the Padres may have struck gold with the Cubans they signed. In fact, Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, and Osvaldo Hernandez could one day form a three-headed beast on the mound.
Now, one may object to the hype presented in this article by explaining how it emphasizes one game too much. Yet, it wasn’t just this one game that showed the massive potential of Hernandez. In fact, there are multiple details that point to a scary good pitcher. For one, the lefty was signed for $2.5 million, a figure that topped all but eight of the top ten 2016-2017 international prospects on MLB.com. He received such a high bonus as a reward for his advanced pitch set. Each pitch was seen by scouts as better than average, a rare feat for someone so young. Also, his low FIP in Tri-City indicates a player capable of tearing through opposing lineups. Lady Luck just needs to stay out of his way. Without bad luck, he can show off his elite skills and work through each minor league stop with impressive results.
In the end, Osvaldo Hernandez is a name to remember as he is a special talent like Morejon and Baez.