Cesar Hernandez is raking again after a breakout 2016 season, but Scott Kingery is making some noise down in Reading. Who’s the future for the Philadelphia Phillies?
It’s been especially satisfying to see Cesar Hernandez get off to such an incredible start this season for the Philadelphia Phillies. No one could have predicted his stellar season last year, but Hernandez is off and running in 2017. It’s one thing to dispel a fluke, but another thing to beat it into submission. So far, Hernandez is removing any doubt from those watching by not only making contact but exhibiting increased power.
Hernandez is still slight in stature, but he approached the off-season prepared to secure his status as the starting second baseman.
"Hernandez gained strength during off-season workouts in Miami. The Phillies still list him at 160 pounds, but he is closer to 180 this season. The difference is noticeable.“I can hit the ball harder than last year,” Hernandez said. “Maybe that ball I hit today is dead at the wall. So today it was a home run.”Matt Gelb, Philly.com"
And his numbers certainly prove his batted balls have a longer life as he hit his fourth home run in only the team’s 18th game. By comparison, Hernandez didn’t send his fourth bomb into the bushes until the 118th game last year. Overall, he’s slashing .321/.367/.536/.902 with those four bombs, four, doubles and a triple.
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Much should be said about the plate discipline and plate coverage Hernandez has displayed. He’s seeing plenty of pitches at the dish, which is what you want from your leadoff batter. His numbers are almost identical from 2016, where his pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) was 3.83 to this season at 3.88. Hernandez is whittling away at every opposing pitcher’s repertoire, making them pitch to his zone and waiting on, “his pitch”.
Wearing down MLB pitchers is what it’s all about. But for the catalyst to set the table, you have to give your teammates a chance to see what’s cooking. Hernandez has done exactly that and the team continues to follow with a total P/PA of 3.99, good for first in the National League. The Phillies finished second to last in 2016 with a 3.81 P/PA. Fundamentally, it’s exactly what Pete Mackanin and Batting Coach Matt Stairs could hope from a young, rebuilding team. More pitches equate to more of this.
However, it wasn’t long ago when a void seemed to exist at second base in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. With no heir-apparent to uber-legend Chase Utley, there were plenty of questions without a definitive answer. Who would be the Philadelphia Phillies every day guy to replace Chase? Hernandez has quelled the Q&A for now in Philadelphia, but second base is suddenly a position with competition down on the farm.
There’s nothing wrong with a team having a little friendly internal competition, especially if that team is in a rebuilding phase. Right in the thick of the hunt is Scott Kingery, who’s saying all the right things at the tender age of 22.
"“I think it’s a good thing to have as deep as a second base position as we have. Competition brings out the best in people. It’s showing already. Cesar is doing great. Valentin is doing great. I’m off to a good start. You can see that we’re all living up to that competition.”Scott Kingery via Matt Breen, Philly.com"
There’s much to admire about the kid drawing attention to the success of Jesumel Valentin at Lehigh. But Kingery seems to be the one more on the Phillies radar in Reading. He has impressed in AA-ball this season, smoking a slash line of .283/.397/.617/.1.014. Among his 17 hits in 16 games are five home runs, three doubles, one triple with 15 RBI.
Cesar Hernandez will turn 27 on May 23rd with Scott Kingery celebrating his 23rd birthday party tomorrow in Reading facing the Portland Sea Dogs. Neither are outfield candidates as both fit the mold for the second base position. Of the two, only Hernandez has played the field at 3B, SS and OF briefly. But the team is set on the left side of the infield and already has a solid outfield future with Odubel Herrera (25), Aaron Altherr (26), Nick Williams (23) and Roman Quinn (23).
"It’s easy to surmise that this situation could get interesting over the next year or two and will be fun to watch. It’s understood that Scott Kingery is still somewhat green and needs time to develop. If he maintains a pace close to what he’s currently laying down, he could force the hand of Philadelphia Phillies GM Matt Klentak."
After all, Cesar Hernandez is riding on a one year $2.5 mill deal and is arbitration eligible in 2018. As much as we’d all like to see him become a star here in South Philly, he could be a serious piece in a key trade. Hernandez will know for sure where he stands with the Phillies after signing his next contract. The tell-tale sign will be seen in the years, not so much the dollars and we’ll know then who holds sway at second base at One Citizens Bank Way.