On Sunday the Cincinnati Reds promoted right-handed pitcher Ariel Hernandez to the major league roster. Here’s a quick take on what he offers.
Ariel Hernandez was originally signed by the San Francisco Giants as a free agent in 2008 from the Dominican Republic. He spent two years in the Dominican Summer League and three seasons in the Arizona Rookie League but never got his career together and was released in the spring of 2015. After a brief sojourn in the independent Frontier League, he was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent but posted an ugly 6.04 ERA in the 2015 Northwest League. The Reds selected him in the minor league portion of the December 2015 Rule 5 draft.
The change in organizations unlocked something for Hernandez last year: he combined for a 2.18 ERA between Low-A and High-A with a 74/39 K/BB in 62 innings, allowing a mere 29 hits. He had a 14/4 K/BB in eight innings for Double-A Pensacola in 2017 until moving up to the majors, allowing just four hits and one run.
Hernandez was rated as an un-ranked Grade C prospect on the 2017 pre-season Cincinnati Reds Top 20 prospects list. In retrospect this was too low, although it made sense at the time given his limited track record of success and long issues with command problems.
Listed at 6-4, 230, Hernandez was born March 2nd, 1992. His stuff is electric: his fastball is 95-100 MPH with movement and he has an extremely hard power curveball.
I’ll never forget the first time that I saw Ariel Hernandez pitch. It was March of 2016 in Goodyear on the backfields. I was on a different field and saw that a new pitcher had entered the game on the adjacent field, so I came over to see who it was. Hernandez was on the back of the jersey, and I had trouble recognizing both the name and the face of the player.
I walked behind the plate and the first pitch – 97 MPH. With movement. What did I just see? The pitch after that? The best curveball I’d ever seen. At 88 MPH. I turned to the scout next to me and asked who it was that I was watching pitch. “Ariel Hernandez” he said. The next pitch was another curveball and the scout dropped an audible noise over how insane the pitch was.
As Doug noted, Hernandez was available in the minor league portion of Rule 5 because his control was so terrible, it “simply made the pure stuff irrelevant.”
Mechanical adjustments to his delivery (according to the Baseball America handbook, Hernandez changed his weight shift) have sharpened Hernandez’s control just enough for the stuff to matter.
We’ll have to see how this holds up in the majors, but the K/IP and the low hit rates are not lying: Hernandez has blistering stuff.