The newest Oriole is a slick fielding Dominican shortstop named Luis Hernandez. At 5'10" and weighing in at 170 lbs., Hernandez has an ideal shortstop build. With Tony Pena, Jr., Yunel Escobar and Elvis Andrus ahead of Hernandez on their depth chart, the Braves exposed the Venezuelan infielder to waivers. The Orioles, in a continued effort to add upper level infield talent, jumped at the chance to claim Hernandez.
Hernandez is still only 22 years old and has played two seasons at the AA level, as well as part of 2006 for AAA Richmond of the International League. His career OBP is only .303, but he is especially adept at bunting and situational hitting. The switch-hitting Hernandez has also struck out in only 14% of his professional at bats. Although he may never be mistaken for an offensive force, Hernandez is a plus defender at shortstop. His range, arm and instincts all grade out above average and his glove is likely going to be his ticket to the majors.
In a system that is largely devoid of talented position players at the upper levels, Hernandez should be a welcome addition to the mix which last year included Ed Rogers, Eddy Garabito, Jason Bowers, Gera Alvarez and the recently acquired Angel Chavez. Obviously, what sets Hernandez apart from the pack is his youth. He is three years younger than Angel Chavez, who is the second youngest of the group.
In the past, Hernandez has been hyped as one of the Braves' top positional prospects. That potential still exists, but he has work to do to project as anything more than a utility man. Hernandez will never hit for much power, but he made some gains refining his plate discipline on 2005. Despite having Miguel Tejada ahead of him, organizational context is definitely in Hernandez's favor. Few teams value athleticism and the ability to play small ball like the Orioles, which may help Hernandez find a niche as a Brandon Fahey-like fan favorite in time.
Senior Writer Michael Hollman contributed to this article
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