Top 30 Prospects: #21 Oscar Hernandez

Throughout spring training I’ll be running down my list of the top 30 Rays prospects, with the occasional weekend interlude. Check back daily to get caught up on the system with a new capsule each day.

Oscar Hernandez | 6-0/196
2009, Venezuela

What happened in 2012? Well, he didn’t get on base more than half the time like he did in 2011 in the VSL. But for an 18-year-old catcher making his stateside debut, it wasn’t a bad year. We would’ve loved to see him lay waste to the Appalachian League, but his .231/.349/.394 line leaves plenty of room for optimism. For one: his strikeout and walk rates didn’t deviate wildly from 2011. He struck out 15.9% of PAs and walked in 11.8% in 2012, compared to 15.0% and 12.6% in the VSL. Considering the significant increase in competition, it’s encouraging that he was able to keep those rates steady. His power took a big tumble from a .331 ISO to .163, but again, his 2011 numbers came in a friendly ballpark against weak competition.

What needs to happen in 2013? A power (re-)breakout would be probably be the big thing. There’s enough evidence that he can make contact and draw some walks, but his slugging percentages sandwiching the breakout 2011 season have been .398 and .394. An extreme BABIP range, .235 and .250 on the low end and .424 on the high end, is also worth keeping an eye on. Intuitively, these are linked: a higher slugging percentage means more XBH, more XBH means he’s hitting balls harder, hitting balls harder means a higher BABIP. He has work to do on his defense, as all young catchers do, but his caught stealing numbers have been fine: 45% in Venezuela, 38% in Princeton. A teenager until July, he’s a decent bet to hang back in extended spring training before heading to Hudson Valley when the short-season leagues start.

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