HT: 6-3 WT: 215 POS: SP
Frederick Keys- (28 G, 27 GS, 145.1 ip, 4.95 ERA, 168 K, 47 BB, 16 HR, 0.70 GO/AO)
A 16th round pick in the 2005 draft who took 5th round money to sign, David Hernandez has nonetheless proven to be a bargain for the Orioles. He set a school record for strikeouts at Consumnes River Junior College and has continued his dominance in professional ball. Last season, Hernandez handily led the Carolina League in strikeouts, set a new career-high for innings pitched, and looked especially dominant in the playoffs. Yet, his 4.95 ERA in 2007 and a 4.24 ERA in 2006 (in a much more forgiving environment) has caused some disconnect between his statistics and his overall effectiveness.
Hernandez has a classic power pitcher's frame and arsenal. He gets tremendous movement on both his fastball and slider, which gives him a chance at two plus pitches. His fastball typically sits at 90-93 MPH, but he can dial it up to 95 MPH when needed. His slider has good break, but he could stand to finetune his command of both pitches within the strike zone. That said, his command certainly hasn't been a problem in A-ball.
His changeup is a below-average pitch at this point and he doesn't always repeat his arm action. Hernandez's main problem, however, has been a penchant for the big inning, which helps account for the disparity between his first rate peripheral numbers and his below average ERA.
Hernandez's manager, Tommy Thompson, echoed what has been a common concern about the right-hander's confidence in his own stuff, "He's got three pitches. He can pitch inside. He can throw a breaking ball. He can throw a fastball away and he can throw a changeup at anytime in any count. He just needs to locate his pitches better and, I think, pitch with a little more confidence at times. I don't know if he realizes how good of stuff and pitches he has. Once that comes into play, I think the concentration and confidence will take those pitches and make them even better against the hitters."
After another good season and a brilliant 18-strikeout performance in the playoffs, one would hope that David Hernandez has all the confidence he needs. With an improved changeup, he could be very close to fulfilling his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter. Even if the changeup doesn't come along, Hernandez should be a dynamic weapon out of the bullpen, though it would be a shame to waste his proven durability in that role. Hernandez will move up to double-A Bowie's rotation in 2008 and should be ready for a full-time spot in the majors at some point in 2009.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com