Remember Marco Hernandez? The second base prospect initially arrived in the majors and looked like he had a real future in the league. While he may not have been a future star, the then-23-year old put together some promising numbers during his debut season. However, shoulder injuries have derailed Hernandez’ career, forcing him to miss the majority of the past two seasons. Fortunately, the second baseman is fully on the path to health and should return to the diamond at some point in 2019.
Marco Hernandez Should Return to the Field in 2019
The Red Sox initially acquired Hernandez in a 2014 trade for pitcher Felix Dubront. An undrafted free agent in 2010, Hernandez was nothing more than a Single-A player for Chicago. Hernandez started the 2015 season with the Portland Sea Dogs, posting the best offensive stretch of his young career. The second baseman posted a .326/.349/.482 slash line in 68 games with Portland, quickly earning a promotion to the Pawtucket Red Sox. Once there, Hernandez posted a .271/.300/.409 slash line in 46 games at the Triple-A level.
After starting 2016 in Triple-A, Hernandez earned a major league promotion midway through the 2016 season. Playing in 40 games, Hernandez recorded a relatively impressive .294/.357/.373 slash line in 56 plate appearances. As a glove-first prospect, the fact Hernandez could give decent offensive production at the major league level was a major positive. Hernandez also showed positional versatility, splitting time at second, third, and shortstop. By just about every measure, Hernandez looked like he had every chance to stick as a major league bench piece a la Brock Holt.
Then came the injuries. Hernandez broke camp with the 2017 Red Sox, but unfortunately suffered multiple injury setbacks in the past two seasons. Hernandez played in just 21 games in 2017 before suffering a shoulder injury in early May. Hernandez underwent shoulder surgery, but was supposed to be back for the 2018 season. Unfortunately, Hernandez had a setback and a second surgery, forcing him him to miss the entirety of 2018. However, Hernandez is now back and should be fully recovered from his two surgeries.
What to Expect From Hernandez
Any and all excitement about Hernandez should be met with a fair deal of caution. Outside of the bullpen, second base is arguably the biggest position of need on the Red Sox roster. Dustin Pedroia should be back, but he’s no guarantee to stay healthy. Even if he does, Dave Dombrowski said that the Red Sox only plan to use Pedroia for 125 games. There’s a clear need at second base, and nobody wants to see Eduardo Nunez back at second.
However, Hernandez will need some time before making his way back into the majors. As it is, Hernandez only has 61 games of major league experience to his resume. It’s far too early in his career to know if he actually has the ability to last at the major league level, although early signs were encouraging. Of course, you also have to factor in that Hernandez has not played baseball in any capacity since early in the 2017 season.
As things currently stand, Hernandez has yet to be “full-go” for baseball activities, although that will happen soon. Once he gets that clearance, he’ll start hitting off a tee. Even if he is physically ready for baseball by Opening Day (not a given), Hernandez will not crack the team. Making him face major league pitching after not playing for two years is setting him up for inevitable failure. The best thing for Hernandez is to send him down to Double-A Portland and have him start the season there. If he can handle that level of pitching, then he should move up to Pawtucket. If he continues to thrive, then he can find a role on the major league roster.
All of this is way down the line and involves a lot of projection. However, if everything breaks right for Hernandez, he could make the majors by mid-June. That said, it’s just as likely Hernandez needs a full year in the minors to find his swing. For right now, it’s best to expect nothing from Hernandez is 2019 and be pleasantly surprised with anything he brings to the Red Sox.