photo: Oscar Hernandez (Bob DeChiara/Imagn)
A national writer broke some St. Louis Cardinals news Tuesday afternoon.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 7, 2020
While it is worth looking into Oscar Hernandez’ background, what is far more important, in my opinion, is to try to interpret what this means to the catching position for the major league club behind starter Yadier Molina.
Last year, former American League All-Star Matt Wieters surprisingly landed with the Cardinals on a one-year contract after spring camp had opened. Though the team has said they would like the 33-year old to return for 2020, Wieters is likely looking for more money and playing time elsewhere.
However, this addition does not preclude a Wieters return. Instead, it offers veteran insurance on a minor league deal, not unlike Joe Hudson last year and many more journeyman catchers before him.
Hernandez’ arrival does give the Cardinals more flexibility to return top catching prospect Andrew Knizner to Triple-A Memphis for a second full season if they decide he can benefit from playing daily more than catching pitchers warming up in St. Louis’ bullpen.
Of course, if a catching injury occurs, Hernandez offers depth.
Ok, now on to Hernandez’ background.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder is a native of Venezuela. Hernandez, 26, joined the Red Sox as a minor league free agent prior to the 2018 season, and was a non-roster invitee to big-league spring camp in both 2018 and 2019. Last year, he opened the season at Double-A, but spent the majority of the year at the Triple-A level.
Soon to enter his 11th professional campaign, Hernandez began in the Rays system (2009-14) and moved to the Diamondbacks (2015-17) after being the no. 1 overall selection in the December 2014 Rule 5 Draft.
Hernandez was the Rays’ no. 24 prospect heading into that draft and placed 22nd in the Arizona system following the 2015 season (both rankings according to Baseball America). Also in the fall of 2015, he played in the Arizona Fall League and was named to the showcase’s Fall Stars Game.
Arizona outrighted Hernandez to the minors in June 2017 and he became a minor league free agent for the first of three consecutive Novembers that year. In January 2018, he signed with Boston on a one-year minor league deal for the first of two seasons in the Red Sox system.
In May 2019, he was added to Boston’s 40-man roster to serve as a replacement for a player on paternity leave, but was outrighted again in July without appearing in a game for the Red Sox. He cleared waivers and returned to the PawSox for the remainder of the season.
His MLB career consists of 22 games (including 10 starts behind the plate) with Arizona in 2015 and 2016.
Hernandez’ career minor league caught stealing percentage is a solid 40.8 and his offensive slash line is .246/.323/.417/.740 in 549 MiLB games.
Hernandez is the first of many expected non-roster invitees to St. Louis’ major league spring training camp.
One note to file away is that he appears to have exhausted his minor league options, which will not be limiting to St. Louis unless/until he is later added to the 40-man roster, which is currently full.
To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.
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