The annual tradition has returned. Leading up to Opening Day, Fish Stripes will be previewing the 2020 Marlins season, one player at a time. Find every article of the series here.
Where Did He Come From? Eliéser Hernández was acquired by the Marlins from the Houston Astros in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft.
5.03 ERA | 5.58 FIP | 5.13 xFIP | 1.24 WHIP | 0.1 fWAR | 82.1 IP
If take a quick look at Eliéser Hernández’s 2019 numbers, there won’t be anything that really jumps out at you. But putting it in full context, you’ll realize that the Venezuelan right-hander made significant improvements from his rookie year.
Hernández out-pitched his 2018 version by a mile. He threw more innings (65.2 vs. 82.1), struck out more hitters (6.17 K/9 vs. 9.29 K/9), gave up fewer walks (3.70 BB/9 vs. 2.84 BB/9), had a better WHIP (1.45 vs. 1.24), a better opponent batting average (.267 vs. .239), a better swinging strike rate (8.3% vs. 11.6%), and even a better xERA (4.82 vs. 3.67).
The only concern about the righty is his vulnerability to the long ball. His HR/9 was a dangerous 2.19, which bloated his earned run average despite doing a solid job limiting baserunners. In Eliéser’s last 44 innings, they went yard ELEVEN times, including a four-bomb outing against the Dodgers on August 14.
Even though Hernández doesn’t have an overwhelming fastball, he appears near the top of the average exit velocity leaderboard, according to Baseball Savant. He ranked 16th among all qualified pitchers in the majors with an 85.9 MPH EV, above Mike Clevinger, Jack Flaherty, and Noah Syndergaard, to name a few.
At the end of the day, Hernández had a slightly better season than the one showed by his traditional statistics.
During Marlins Spring Training, Eliéser was in the mix—along with Jordan Yamamoto—for the club’s fifth rotation spot. He threw 11 innings of nine hits and six earned runs along with four walks and eight strikeouts in the Grapefruit League before everything was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hernández may want to consider using his fastball with less frequency. Since he got to the bigs, rivals have hit 20 dingers off that pitch (12 in 2019) and 17 doubles. His lifetime opponent slugging percentage on at-bats ending with the heater is .532. His success will hinge on using his changeup and nasty slider to generate swinging strikes.
Manager Don Mattingly reportedly sees Hernández as a starter, and that’s the way it should be—this guy belongs in that role. It’s just a question of how many major league reps he can get in 2020 over an abbreviated 60-game schedule.