We ranked Cesar Hernandez No. 19 on our annual Value 50 for 2018. Here’s more on why we think he’s important:
The success of the Phillies may lie in more important sources of future success like Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola, but nowhere is the franchise’s most immediate success embodied than in Cesar Hernandez.
He’s been listed as a prime candidate for a breakout season entering this year, and barring injury, there is no real reason to think he won’t. He’s been consistently good on bad teams so far in his career, and now that he has a spot carved out for his own in the lineup and in the field – for now, at least – it’s safe to believe that on an improved offense like the Phillies have, he’ll be able to take leap from good to very good.
If you’re waiting for the “but,” here it comes.
Cesar’s importance and value doesn’t lie so much on what he’s going to do on the field, but the options he’s going to present the franchise this year if he does make that jump. It’s no secret the Phillies’ best offensive prospect, second baseman Scott Kingery, is nipping at the heels of Hernandez. His ceiling is higher, he’s younger, he’s cheaper and from everything we’ve seen, he’s ready for the major leagues.
In part because of service time rules when it comes to contracts, Kingery is going to start the year in Lehigh Valley where he’ll probably get some exposure at other defensive positions to join the major league team as a super utility guy in May, allowing both Hernandez and Kingery to play on the same day.
But at some point, a decision will need to be made concerning the future of the Phillies at second base. And most of it is up to Hernandez as to what the Phillies will do:
- If he’s mildly successful/average: The Phillies can deal him at the all-star break for (what else?) starting pitching help and hand second base over to Kingery.
- If he’s wildly successful: The Phillies can plant him at second base, sign him to a long-term deal and pencil him in at second and the first or second spot in the batting order for the next six years. Then they have more good options for Kingery: They can either move him to third and get rid of Maikel Franco and his broken swing, move him to the outfield and move one of the other outfielders for pitching help, or move Kingery for pitching help.
- If he’s hurt and/or has a bad first half or year: They can transition him to a utility role, shop him and see what they can get while allowing Kingery to take over second full-time. They can also stick it out with Hernandez for the year and then get what they can in the offseason.
Look at all those options that are dependent solely on how Hernandez performs this year, or even in the first three months of the year. Most of the options produce value and all of them likely result in future wins for the Phillies. How can that not be one of the most important people within the franchise?