He probably only cost you a buck in your auction or a 23rd round pick in your 12-team, two-catcher, mixed league snake draft. Not a very steep price to pay at all. But the handwriting is already on the wall and it’s only a matter of time before Ramon Hernandez becomes a wasted pick for you. Wilin Rosario is the catcher-of-the-future in Colorado and when he made the 25-man roster over this past weekend, Hernandez and his owners are learning that the future is now.
There’s really nothing wrong with Hernandez actually. As a part-time player with the Reds, he was a very passable second catcher in fantasy leagues. There hasn’t been much left in the power department, but he gets his knocks, and who wouldn’t want a backstop who atleast hit for a decent average? He gets a little more than half a season’s at-bats, is capable of banging 10 home runs and has hit better than .280 for the last two seasons. Nothing special, but you get what you pay for, right?
But despite the fact that he’s working off a brand new, two-year contract with the Rockies this season, Rosario making the team out of spring training means that there is no “long haul” for Hernandez. He hasn’t caught 100 games in three years, so you knew whoever his back-up would be, he [Hernandez] would still only be working part-time. The fact that it happens to be Rosario, could reduce the role Hernandez plays even more.
The hype on Rosario has been in play for some time now. When the Rockies signed him at the age of 17, he had already exhibited plus power and solid defensive potential. He moved through the system well, showed moderate plate discipline, posted strong isolated power numbers and above average catch and throw skills. They knew they had something big here. And when he injured his knee at the end of 2010, he proved to be both mature and resilient and bounced back with a strong enough 2011 season in Double-A to warrant a call-up to the majors rather than a promotion to Triple-A.
Upon his call-up, Rosario may have struck out a ton (35.1%), but who wouldn’t expect that from a 22-year old in the show for the first time? But in 57 plate appearances, he also hit three home runs, three doubles and had eight RBI, posting a .259 ISO. He looked comfortable behind the plate and you knew it was just a short matter of time before he was a regular fixture out there. So much so that the Rockies cast off Chris Iannetta and brought in an aging Hernandez, yes to catch, but more to mentor.
Now here we are in spring training…
Rosario has hit .412 with four home runs, six doubles and has 12 RBI through 51 plate appearances while Hernandez has batted .222 with almost no power in just 35 spring at-bats. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but word out of Colorado is that Rosario has displayed enough here to, not only earn the back-up job, but to catch atleast two or three times a week right from the onset. And as the season progresses, if things remain as they are, that playing time should continue to increase.
So if you drafted Hernandez, hopefully you used a bench spot to grab yourself Rosario as well. It might take half the season, but if this recent trend continues, he should be the primary sooner rather than later. It might not be a total loss though. Given how reasonable his contract is, maybe Hernandez becomes a late-season trade chip and you’re able to use both….just not in Colorado.