3-23-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
For the most part, whenever a team selects a player in the Major League Portion of the Rule 5 Draft, the instant-and usually correct-reaction is that they are going to try to stash/hide the prospect on the 26-Man in order to gain control of them for years to come; often selecting young or inexperienced starters to add to their organizational depth at the position, in the Minors.
In Ben Cherington’s lone venture into this arena-prior to the most recent Rule 5 Draft-he and the rest of the Pirates Baseball Operations Department selected the Los Angeles Angels #13 Prospect Jose Soriano with the Number One Pick, and then traded the Mets for their Number Nine Pick, Luis Oviedo; who at the time was the Guardians #25 Prospect.
Prior to being claimed by Pittsburgh, Soriano had undergone Tommy John Surgery in 2019, and was rehabbing. Oviedo on the other hand simply accrued enough years in the Minors-partially due to the cancelled 2020 Season-in order to become eligible.
At the time of his selection Oviedo had reached High-A, and was almost 2 full years younger than the average player at his level. Still, it would be hard to justify adding him to the 40-Man when he was so far away from the Majors. Hence the Pirates taking a gamble to see if he could be hidden/not exposed/stashed, with the potential goal of him being stretched out as a starter in Altoona or Indianapolis the following year.
After a full season of utilizing him out of the bullpen, with an IL stint mixed in, Oviedo was eventually designated for assignment by Pirates prior to last season.
As far as Soriano is concerned, he pitched twice in Low-A Bradenton; ending up back on the IL with an elbow injury. Ultimately returned to Angels, he is back on the mound, and was recently protected by the Halos from this year’s Rule 5 Draft.
Clearly neither ended up panning out the way the Pirates envisioned. However, it set a precedence in the mind of Pirates Fans that the goal was to hide/stash, and then reassign for depth; with the hope they would be able to develop a diamond in the rough.
Enter Jose Hernandez.
With the Third Pick in the 2022 MLB Rule 5 Draft-back in December-the Pirates selected this specific left-handed reliever from the Dodgers Double-A bullpen.
To me, the focus of this acquisition could be narrowed down to last part of the previous sentence, in the words Double-A and bullpen.
When it comes to Ben Cherington’s philosophy concerning development, he has regularly inferred that Triple-A is more of a holding ground for players who are waiting for their chance at the Majors; which would imply that a player could be promoted straight from Double-A to Pittsburgh, if they were ready.
Plus he’s literally done it more than once.
Beyond that, Hernandez has been pigeonholed as a reliever over the past two seasons; following an undisclosed injury that completely wiped out his 2019 season.
So, for whatever it’s worth, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities for Cherington to identify an Altoona Curve reliever as a piece of the Pirates bullpen heading into 2023.
Obviously this is not a guarantee; however, a player that puts up a 3.96 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP with 47 strikeouts in 38.2 innings could easily find his way into the conversation; especially when he effortlessly tosses a fastball that sits in mid to upper-90’s, and regularly flirts with triple digits. Pair that with a well above average slider that generates chases and a decent whiff rate…how could they go wrong?
Well, if he can’t command and control them-an issue he has struggled with-things could go south really quick.
Nevertheless, I don’t see that stopping the Pirates Coaching Staff from giving him a little bit of a leash to try to wrangle his stuff in, and become a more regular part of the bullpen.
Now, I would never go as far as to say that he will become a routinely relied upon high leverage arm; yet, it is possible that he could be called upon in multiple roles, on a consistent basis.
And, because of these simple facts he might find himself in a very different spot than previous Rule 5 Draft Picks.
3 thoughts on “Through The Prospect Porthole: Jose Hernandez Could Break The Rule 5 Mold”
I’d say he’s got a really good shot at getting to Pittsburgh being a hard throwing lefty.
Those are the magic words that give most Pitchers multiple opportunities more than a righty.
Let’s hope he works out.
Agreed, I think he looks like a better bet to stick than any Bucco Rule V guy in recent memory