Let’s Get To Know Enrique Hernandez

Everything has happened so quickly over the last few days that I feel like not everything has gotten the attention it deserves. We’ve talked a ton about Matt Kemp, obviously, and about the departure of Dee Gordon. But what about the other players who came from Miami? What about Joe Wieland? Even Howie Kendrick, much more of a known quantity, needed some introduction. I can’t even say I know a great deal about all of these guys other than the top-level details, so over the next few days, we’ll delve into the new Dodgers. It’s important that we do so, because too often I’ve seen the Miami trade noted as “Gordon and Dan Haren for Andrew Heaney and prospects,” but those other three players from Miami are all potential big league contributors. Let’s get to know them.

Today, we start with Enrique Hernandez, who goes by “Kikè,” pronounced “key-kay,” and that’s sometimes shown with or without an accent mark, so… we’ll stick with Enrique. Yes. Let’s do that.

Hernandez, the son of a Pirates scout, turned 23 in August and was a 6th-round pick out of Puerto Rico by the Astros in 2009. He made his big league debut with Houston on July 1, 2014, but got into just 24 games for them before being traded to the Marlins on July 31 in the Jarred Cosart / Colin Moran / Jake Marisnick trade. He’s coming off an age-22 season in which he hit .319/.372/.484 in 98 Triple-A games (PCL!) and .248/.321/.421 in 42 major league games, so it appears there’s some amount of bat there, though probably not enough to be an every day player.

That’s reflected in his defensive usage as well, because after spending his first few years in the pros playing mostly second base (226 starts in 2012-13) he became more of a super-sub in 2014, playing second, short, third and right in the minors, and second, third, short, left, right, and (mostly) center in the majors. (He does, however, still refer to himself as a “second baseman” on his Twitter page.)

Let’s try to collect a few scouting reports on him. Here’s Baseball Prospectus‘ review of the trade from last week:

Hernandez is on his third team in six months—Heaney would scoff at his churn rate—and has made a significant trip from org-guy to legitimate bench piece, and could be seen as a starter on some non-playoff teams. He’s willing to take a walk, but makes contact when he does swing, so while he might not hit for a high average, he’s a worthwhile contributor on offense. Defensively he offers versatility, having played center field, second base, third base and right field in a limited sample in 2014.

Part of an interview with him in June, while he was still with the Astros:

AF: You are posting your highest career average and OPS in the highest minor league level. What do you contribute to your success this season? 

EH: “After last year, what I would like to call the worst season of my career, I went into winter ball and decided to figure out what was wrong with my swing. I tried a few things, not really worried about how my season was going, I was just trying to get better and there it was. I tweaked a little something in my batting stance and it clicked. All of the sudden I was seeing the ball better, recognizing pitches a lot earlier and I started driving the ball again.

Later that month, a report from Astros blog Crawfish Boxes:

You can’t tell much about a player defensively in one game. He has good fundamentals but he’s limited. He looked fine there in that game. But, he wasn’t exactly challenged either. By seeing him in a few games total at second, he seemed to have average range for a second baseman. And if he can’t get to it, he’s going to bust it to at least try.

I’ve heard a lot about his arm as it’s not strong enough for SS. I think it’s fringy for SS. Meaning it would play if he could carry something else to provide defensive value there like plus range. He doesn’t have that. Could he hold it down to spell a starter? Sure. He wouldn’t be a liability for one game. But, he’s not a guy to count on at SS.

From September, Marlins manager Mike Redmond speaking to the Miami Sun-Sentinel:

“He’s made some great plays in the outfield. For a guy whose main position was as an infielder, he’s made an easy transition to the outfield,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “He’s definitely one of those guys that has a lot of value in the fact that he can play a ton of different positions.”

“He’s got a lot of pop for his size,” Redmond said. “It’s hard to evaluate guys in a limited amount of at-bats. I like his appraoch — he’s taken some walks, he hit a home run in Philly the other way. So that shows the type of opposite-field power that he has.”

And apparently, he’s a lot of fun:

With the Hooks nursing a 2-0 lead and about to hit in the fifth, Whataburger Field was plunged into darkness.

After a power outage of 65 minutes, event management and umpires decided to suspend the contest, setting it for resumption at 5 o’clock the next evening. During play stoppage, stadium lighting resumed at reduced power. It’s a scenario ballpark entertainment directors dread. Full house. No game. Limited power. How long?

And Enrique Hernandez and former utility infielder Andy Simunic came to the rescue. Simunic and wife Shawn own a Nashville dance studio. No doubt his moves helped capture her heart. Enrique was the new guy, fresh from High-A Lancaster of the California League, where he’d been posted just 14 days earlier.

And they wowed the crowd with a dance-off to the Bee Gees’ “Night Fever.” No one in attendance will soon forget.

“I do like to dance. I’m always dancing in the clubhouse, in the dugout,” Hernandez said. “I get it from my parents. They love dancing.”

Let’s take a look at his first big league homer, and note the commentary from the announcers, who note the same thing as Hernandez did in the interview quote above, that he changed his batting stance — eliminating a leg kick — and that it’s helped:

And, if you like, here’s part of a radio interview he did in the final week of the season in Miami:

So! After all that, what do we have? A guy who probably doesn’t have the bat to be a full-time starter or the arm to be more than a fill-in at short or third, but with outstanding versatility everywhere and enough of a bat to make it worthwhile. No one’s suggesting that he’s going to give you a 4 WAR season or anything, but that’s the kind of thing that’s potentially very valuable in the National League, especially with Don Mattingly‘s proclivity for double switches.

Hernandez is on the 40-man roster and still has options, and so most likely he’ll return to Triple-A as one of the only Dodger prospects with experience in Oklahoma City, since he played in 67 games there in 2014 when the city was still a Houston affiliate. That’s fine, though, because the roster is still a little overstuffed and uncertain. It’s easy to see him as the first one up if and when injuries strike, and there’s potential for him to be a mini-Ben Zobrist (but without, most likely, the bat that Zobrist has provided) at a low cost for the next several years. Hernandez is no centerpiece, but he’s not just a toss-in like Miguel Rojas was, either. He’s a guy you’re happy to have.

About Mike Petriello

Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.