Welcome To The Show, David Hernandez

As a travel Thursday, there aren’t a ton of major league games on the schedule for tonight. However, there is one that should be worth watching, and it will take place in Baltimore, where the Tigers are in town to take on the Orioles. Making his major league debut, David Hernandez will be starting for the O’s.

Hernandez is one of those divisive prospects who puts up numbers that dwarf his physical abilities. His numbers, especially the strikeout rates, are ridiculous. In 2007, he posted a 10.4 K/9 in High-A ball. Last year, he put up a 10.6 K/9 in Double-A. This year, he’s up to 12.46 K/9 in Triple-A. He’s consistently been at the top of the league leaderboards in strikeouts at every rung of the ladder.

However, the reaction from scouts has been relatively mild. He was a 16th round pick in 2005, and even with his minor league dominance, Baseball America left him out of the Orioles Top 10 prospects over the winter. The concerns have mostly centered around questionable command of a four seam fastball and a lack of a third pitch. His slider is definitely an out pitch, and it’s the reason for his crazy strikeout rate, but heavy reliance on a breaking ball will get scouts talking bullpen very quickly.

In some ways, the Hernandez discussions are similar to the ones that surrounded Yusmeiro Petit as he rose through the minor leagues. He also ran up big numbers with stuff that didn’t match it, and created a divide between the statistical and scouting communities. The jury may still be out on Petit to some degree, but clearly, the scouts were more correct about his abilities than the numbers were. However, a good chunk of Petit’s dominance came in the low minors, and his strikeout rates decrease as he faced harder competition. Hernandez’s numbers have done the exact opposite.

It’s worth noting that Hernandez has significantly better velocity than Petit as well, sitting 90-93 on a regular basis. He’s not a low velocity guy who is just tricking minor leaguers with junk. He’s got a major league fastball and a knockout slider. He’s not John Stephens.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Hernandez pitch against big leaguers, and the Pitch F/x data should be pretty fun to look at as well. If you’re looking for some entertaining baseball tonight, check out the O’s-Tigers, and see what side of the Hernandez fence you come down on.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

7 Responses to “Welcome To The Show, David Hernandez”

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  1. David Foy says:

    Small sample size but its encouraging to see that his BB/9 are also down this year. I’ll be sure to flick on the tube to see him deal.

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  2. Daniel says:

    I just want to say thanks for writing this up. I’ve been busy doing interviews and such for mattwietersfacts today, and this saves me the time of writing up and intro of my own for the O’s-Tigers game. And great work in general – both Dave personally here and elsewhere, as well as FanGraphs overall in becoming the definite #1 place to go for baseball stats/info anywhere now.

    O’s still have their top 4 pitching prospects in the minors, and their still filling in the rotation with potentially legitimate major league starters. Things are looking up.

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  3. Marc Hulet says:

    I for one, am a big David Hernandez fan. I think he’s underrated… and could end up pitching as a solid No. 3 or 4 starter for quite some time.

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  4. Eric Cines says:

    He pitched solid today. He still needs to cut down on his walks, but his stuff looked good to me. A couple of those hits were little choppers coming on hit and runs, etc.

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  5. Mike G. says:

    A quick look at his line today and it looks like he was the luckiest guy in the park today. It will be interesting to watch his starts for the rest of the season.

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    • Nathan says:

      Nope, the luckiest guy in the park was Galarraga, who picked up three 5-4-3 double plays and somehow escaped with a Quality Start. I thought Hernandez’ control was pretty good in that a lot of his misses were close (my subjective opinion, of course, but in contrast to Rich Hill, whose misses were not as close on Wednesday). As an Orioles fan I’m encouraged.

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  6. jt says:

    I followed this game on mlb.com. Hernandez’s fastball ranged from 94-95 in the early innings and trailed down to 90-94 in the later innings. Seemed to throw more change-ups than sliders.

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