2009 Analysis: Anderson Hernandez

ahern-foldIt’s hard to believe that Anderson Hernandez was the Mets’ starting second baseman on Opening Day 2006. Harder to believe that his stock sunk so far that he was traded for Luis Ayala at the tail end of 2008. And yet even more difficult to believe the Mets were so desperate for a middle infielder that they traded a nondescript A-ball suspect to bring him back to Flushing.

Three years ago, A-Hern was a slick fielding, weak-hitting second baseman with enough arm and range to impress at shortstop in a pinch. In 2009, A-Hern was a slick-fielding, weak-hitting second baseman with enough arm to impress at shortstop in a pinch. The only differences with today’s Hernandez is he’s a little heavier, not quite as fast on the basepaths, can hit the ball out of the infield, and is prone to bouts of vapor lock when over-exposed (not unlike Angel Pagan).

I can remember a time when Anderson Hernandez seemed to be as good a defensive shortstop as Jose Reyes — and therefore was an ideal backup in the event Reyes was ever injured. However, either my eyes lied to me or A-Hern regressed, because he’s something of a liability at the position. His strong arm and wide range are neutralized by an inability to make the routine play and frequent mental errors. Those issues are probably due to the fact he’s been playing fairly frequently at second base for the past two years — where he appears to be more comfortable.

There’s no argument regarding AHern’s raw skills. He has quick feet and good range to his right and left; soft hands; good fundamentals in fielding the baseball; smooth pivot and nimble feet when starting or turning the DP; quick release and above-average arm strength. When he’s focused, he’s an elite fielder.

Offensively, Hernandez has improved since we last saw him in Flushing. He now can drive the ball into the gaps and to the outfield wall, and looks both more comfortable and more confident at the plate. Previously, he was an automatic out. Right now I would say he hits like Luis Castillo, with less contact and minus the walks. If you could somehow combine AHern’s glove with Castillo’s offense, you’d have an acceptable solution at second base.

As it is, Anderson Hernandez has not progressed enough in the past three years. At 27 years old, he’s entering his peak and isn’t likely to improve much beyond what we saw this past season. If this were 1975, AHern would easily find a job at second base somewhere in MLB because of his glove. But the days of Doug Flynn and Mario Mendoza are long gone, so Anderson Hernandez projects as a backup middle infielder. Considering the fact he makes the MLB minimum salary, can switch-hit, can drop a bunt, has above-average speed, and can ably field both sides of the keystone, AHern is a nice fit as a 24th or 25th man on a strong offensive team. Certainly, I’d prefer Hernandez and his $400K salary to Alex Cora — since Cora costs five times as much and brings less to the table. Plus, you have the flexibility of stashing AHern in AAA until needed — especially if you need your utility man to have some punch / serve in a pinch-hitting role.

So should Anderson Hernandez return to the Mets in 2010? I say yes — on a minor-league contract, and starting the season in Buffalo.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Harry Chiti October 31, 2009 at 11:12 am
    If anderson hernandez is on the Mets roster next April, next season will be longer than this season was.
  2. WT Economist October 31, 2009 at 12:51 pm
    Any chance of a Jose Oqendo scenario? Oquendo shifted from a no-hit, good field failure at shortstop to a decent hit utilityman, after the Mets gave up on him and he went to St. Louis. He then had a few good years as a very useful back-up.

    But they were over by age 28.

    I had hoped for something like that from A Hernandez. Too late? He’d need to improve his plate discipline the way he improved his power, to get his OBP up to 350.

  3. joejanish October 31, 2009 at 5:45 pm
    Intriguing comparison, WT.

    However, Oquendo was a weak hitter in the very beginning of his career — as a teenager and through age 21. He turned into a better hitter after maturing physically and gaining experience (he hit .297 at age 22). In his case I think he was simply overmatched facing MLB pitchers at a very young age.

    In contrast, AHern is now 26 going on 27 and more or less “is what he is”. Though, he has been a perennial .300 hitter in the winter leagues, so who knows — maybe all he needs is more confidence.

  4. Harry Chiti October 31, 2009 at 6:02 pm
    If either of you guys had seen him in Dc when he was gifted the second base job, you’d run for cover at the thought of him filling a roster spot next year. Lazy, no hit, quickly losing his range on d. There are no poitives to him.
  5. Matt Himelfarb November 1, 2009 at 11:08 am
    No love for Wilson Valdez? He more or less gives the same offense as A-Hern, is a stud defensively at both 2B and SS, and relatively young (31).

    Given Reyes’s uncertain health, the fact that Hernandez struggles at short is a major drawback. If they don’t go with Valdez, the Mets need to go outside the org. for a backup IF.

  6. joejanish November 2, 2009 at 12:13 am
    I don’t know Matt … Valdez’s offense is putrid. Though he does have a great glove and arm.

    And since when in the testing-for-PEDs era is 31 “relatively young” ? 😉

    When I do the Valdez analysis I will be advocating a minor league deal and assignment to Buffalo. He and AHern will make a nice keystone combination.