RHP Adrian Hernandez
Look, we know the baseball adage that closers in A ball are a dime a dozen. But if there’s one thing that the ascendancy of a guy like Tim Mayza (who started all of six games as a minor leaguer) has shown, it’s that hard-throwing guys with an out pitch can in fact progress from the lowest rungs on the minor league ladder to a prominent spot in a big league bullpen.
It maybe still a little early to predict this, but 21 year old Hernandez, a late 2017 signing from Mexico, may make a similar jump to a big league pen. Hernandez pitched at three levels this season, fanning 108 in 62 innings. A 15+ K/9 tends to get one’s attention.
Hernandez is undersized (5’10”/168), but throws in the mid 90s, has some deception in his delivery with a wrist wrap, and has developed what might be the most effective change up in the organization, a high spin pitch with glove side run that left hitters from Low A to AA baffled this summer.
Some early season control issues aside, Hernandez gets ahead of hitters, which makes his change – which he’ll throw in just about any count – that much more effective. While still with Dunedin early in the season, he got an incredible 16 whiffs on it in three innings:
Prior to 2021, there wasn’t a lot in Hernandez’ minor league track record to suggest this kind of breakout. But Blue Jays pitching development coordinator Cory Popham (who says Hernandez “worked his butt off” during last season’s shutdown) claims that Hernandez has always had a good change, but was willing to trust it more this season:
His change has always been good. I think the big thing here is that he was ok with throwing it as his primary pitch instead of his fastball. He also came back (after the shutdown) throwing the fastball harder, which helped. His change, and how it plays with his fastball and curve is something I haven’t seen before. Using his change more often and throwing his fastball harder has made both pitches play up a lot.
Hernandez’ change on display in an August game against Hartford:
There may not be a lot of projection left with Hernandez, and he did have those command issues early in the season, but Popham says that has been an area of focus for Hernandez. “If he gets ahead of guys, he’s hard to hit,” Popham adds. Longenhagen of Fangraphs says of Hernandez, “ (he’s) a young-ish arm with an out pitch and viable arm strength, so he’s worth monitoring.”
(On the other hand, Hernandez threw four wild pitches in that inning, illustrative of his work-in-progress standing)
By the Numbers:
Batting Average Against Hernandez this season:
Low A .194 High A .125 AA .096