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Phillies Nuggets: Cesar Hernandez is hitting his way into All-Star picture



Cesar Hernandez is in the midst of a strong month of May. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

Voting for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game opened Tuesday morning. Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez, a surprise contender for election, perhaps¬†appropriately launched a two-run home run in Tuesday evening’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The longest-tenured Phillie is hitting his way into being a serious All-Star Game candidate.

Hernandez, who turned 29 last week, is slashing .349/.402/.566 with three home runs, 14 RBIs and a .968 OPS in May. Either Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Cody Bellinger or Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is likely to win National League player of the month for May, but Hernandez has unquestionably been one of the best offensive producers in the sport this month.

On the season, Hernandez is now slashing .303/.361/.482 with six home runs, 25 RBIs, an .843 OPS and a 1.3 fWAR. His numbers aren’t sexy, but he’s been one of the most productive offensive pieces in a lineup that is littered with players with All-Star Game experience. And he’s doing all this on a team that’s in first place in the National League East.

By a large margin, Hernandez leads all National League second basemen in batting average. While he’s hitting north of .300, no other second baseman on the ballot has a batting average higher than .276. His .361 on-base percentage also leads all National League second basemen, with San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik’s .335 on-base percentage the next best mark. Hernandez is third among National League second basemen in both offensive WAR and fWAR, trailing Ketel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Mike Moustakas of the Milwaukee Brewers in both categories.

Where Hernandez’s case may fall short is in terms of back-of-the-baseball-card statistics. While he has commanding leads in both batting average and on-base percentage, he’s tied for fourth in RBIs and probably won’t keep pace with Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong and Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies – both of whom are within one RBI of Hernandez. Hernandez is also tied with Wong for sixth among National League second basemen in home runs. Given that his career-high in home runs is 15, that’s an area where he’s not going to compete with other All-Star candidates at.

Hernandez will also be hurt by the fact that Moustakas – a natural third baseman – is on the ballot as a second baseman. Moustakas has started five more games (29) at third base than second base in 2019, but has primarily played third base since Travis Shaw went on the injured list with wrist injury earlier this month. Given that the Brewers promoted highly-touted prospect Keston Hiura, a second baseman, in Shaw’s absence, there’s a good chance that Moustakas will have played more games at third base than second base before the All-Star Game. But he’s classified as a second baseman for All-Star Game voting purposes, and while Hernandez trounces him in terms of batting average and on-base percentage, more voters will likely take into account home run and RBI totals – right or wrong – which will give a noticeable edge to Moustakas. Moustakas is also a two-time All-Star that played in two World Series with the Kansas City Royals, so he has much better name recognition than Hernandez, which matters in fan voting.

It’s also a fair criticism that for as strong as Hernandez has been offensively, he’s struggled defensively in 2019. Hernandez has five errors and a -0.4 defensive WAR in 2019, thanks to an uncharacteristically poor start in the field in 2019. Given that Hernandez has graded out as an average-to-above-average fielder for much of his career, it’s fair to think that by the All-Star Game a slow defensive start could just be seen as a blip on the radar. It’s also fair to wonder how many fans voting on the All-Star Game have played particular attention to the defense of All-Star candidates. That area, though, does not add to his case.

But while Hernandez doesn’t have a perfect All-Star Game resume, there isn’t a household name candidate that’s having an overwhelmingly strong season in the National League. Albies is hitting .267 for a Braves team that trails the Phillies in the National League East, Kike Hernandez is hitting just .220 for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Robinson Cano has graded out as one of the worst second basemen in baseball in his first season with the New York Mets.

All-Star or not, Hernandez being in this position for the Phillies is pretty improbable given that the organization has been willing to consider trade offers for him for at least two offseasons. Perhaps, though, you’re seeing why reports indicated that general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies seemed to place a higher value on Hernandez than the rest of the league.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Steve Bosell

    May 29, 2019 at 8:53 am

    It seems like only yesterday that a writer on PN was ripping Hernandez and his “hollow stats”. If I remember correctly, he even advocated non tendering him over the winter.

    • Matt Veasey

      May 29, 2019 at 3:02 pm

      That would be yours truly. Have never been a fan, and frankly still not convinced that this is anything more than a hot stretch, ala Dom Brown for about six weeks around this same time in the 2013 season. Brown made the NL All-Star team that year, and there were many who thought he was starting a long, productive career. I never bought that, and I’m not buying this.

      Now, that said – VERY glad to see him producing like this. It helps the team win, which we all want, and keeps his value for any potential future trade high. I posted just yesterday on Twitter, prior to his big home run vs the Cardinals, that at this point considering the Phillies current needs, it would be better to keep him and leave Kingery as the super-utility player.

      That’s for now. Long-term, meaning starting in the coming off-season, they have to deal Cesar and get something of value, and install Kingery as the 2B to start the 2020 season. But hey…I could be wrong.

      • Chris

        May 29, 2019 at 6:11 pm

        I understand the argument that we need to let Kingery play, and at his natural position (second base) at that, and for that reason we need to move Hernandez aside. But that’s completely different that somehow concluding that a .303 average is way beyond Hernandez’ capabilities, and something akin to a Dom Brown-like mirage. That’s ridiculous. He hit .294 in two consecutive full seasons. He hit 15 HR last year, and is on track for about the same this year. He is basically performing, offensively, at just a click above his career averages. And he just turned 29 last week, i.e., his statistical prime, so his performance this year is exactly what we should be expecting to see.

      • denzen

        June 2, 2019 at 12:45 pm

        I really don’t see the comparison between Hernandez, and Dom Brown. 2013 was Dom’s first full season; he got hot, and someone had to go to the All Star Game from the Phils that year. This is the 7th year for Hernandez, lifetime avg. 278. This year he seems to be incorporating launch angle into his ability to level off and hit the ball to all fields. At this point I guess the mental lapses are his weakness, but probably not going away. I get it. But Dom Brown, all it took was half of one full season for his weaknesses to be exposed, and soon he was out of the majors.

  2. Jason

    May 29, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    He’s a far better player than Dom Brown could ever pray to have been. He’s consistently proven this year after year. The blips on the radar are more like his early season defensive woes and his second half struggles playing with a fractured foot.

  3. sarah

    May 30, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Cesar is my favorite Phillie. I adore his quiet hard-working attitude.

  4. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Paddack, Trout, Trade Candidates, Bell, Wheeler - MLB Trade Rumors

  5. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Paddack, Trout, Trade Candidates, Bell, Wheeler | The baseball bats fanatic

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