Astros' Hernandez Striving For Consistency
HOUSTON—Some have it, most don't.
The pop that reveals true, hard contact when a bat stings a baseball can
instantly signal potential. Hernandez has pop. The 21-year-old second
baseman hit .320/.379/.469 in 147 at-bats this winter in the Puerto
Rican League, collecting 47 hits and 69 total bases.
As a teammate of Astros prospect Carlos Correa
and Houston big league
catcher Carlos Corporan
, Hernandez was Carolina's most consistent
line-drive hitter. Batting practice sessions saw balls fly low and
straight as soon as they left his bat, and Hernandez rose from a utility
player to Carolina's everyday second baseman and top-of-the lineup
hitter as the season unfolded.
"He's had a really good winter league," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Hernandez divided time in 2012 between high
Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi, hitting a combined
.270/.314/.399 with six home runs and 52 RBIs in 499 at-bats. A
sixth-round pick in 2009, Hernandez had a quiet start to his career and
isn't projected to be a power-hitting infielder. He possesses a clean
stroke, though, and is a solid defender. After gradually moving up
through the system, the Puerto Rico-born Hernandez appears to be on
track for a major league shot at the same time Houston's key prospects
start to crack the majors.
"I've been doing really good hitting and that's what I'm trying to work
on—being a little more consistent," Hernandez said. "Because that's what
being in the big leagues is all about: consistency."
All-star Jose Altuve
has the Astros' second-base job locked down heading
into the 2013 season and his young career appears to be years away from
peaking. But Houston's depth chart is thin after Altuve, and Hernandez
could soon move upward if his pop continues.
"He's a really good hitter and makes great contact," said Carolina
manager Edwin Rodriguez, the former Marlins manager who guided the
Indians high Class A affiliate in 2012. "You try and find a way to get
him in the lineup because he hits the ball so hard."
• While the Astros are likely to offer a couple of major league spring
training invitations, their 40-man roster is basically set heading into
the exhibition season.
• At least five pitchers are expected to compete for the final two
starting spots in the major league rotation. Lucas Harrell
, Bud Norris
and Jordan Lyles
are the only starters locked in, and Norris—who's
entering arbitration for the first time—remains a trade candidate.