Cesar Hernandez played three different positions for the Phillies in 2015, but any headline-making for the 25-year-old was typically related to his time at second base.
And of course, that didn't have so much to do with Hernandez as it did Ruben Amaro, Jr., who essentially endorsed Hernandez for the position as the Phillies phased Chase Utley right off the roster.
Now with a new regime in place, is Hernandez the Phillies' second baseman of the future? We checked in on Hernandez back in mid-July, when the BABIP was hot, the walk rate was high, and the steals seemed to give Hernandez an extra dimension to his game.
We won't call this season in review article completely meaningless, but a lot of the key points surrounding Hernandez were already covered a bit at the link in the paragraph above, so feel free to click there for a companion to this piece.
From the posting date of that article, Hernandez finished the season by hitting .252/.303/.326, completing his 2015 at .272/.339/.348. The way he finished his season is not a complete surprise.
As was stated in that July article, though:
If Hernandez is going to maintain top-of-the-lineup status over the next few seasons, he'll have to be a .350 OBP and 30-steal player.
Sure, go ahead and call that sort of arbitrary. It's just an opinion, after all. But it's at least a starting point. Hernandez finished the year with a .339 OBP and 19 steals. Not great, but not completely awful. It's a tad alarming that he only stole seven bases over nearly the last three months though, and the running game is going to be a key part of Hernandez's MLB future if he expects to survive as a full-timer.
That's the big question the Phillies will need answering on. Is Cesar Hernandez a starting-quality second baseman on a playoff contender? Probably not. If you have some other big bats in your lineup, you could probably hide someone like Hernandez, but it's a bit of a stretch.
No, the 2005-2009 version of Utley is not coming back. The Phillies won't see power like that at the second base position for a long time.
They will have a decision to make going forward, however. Hernandez may be the second baseman come April, sure. However, a solid contingent of us blogger-message boarder types think Odubel Herrera could get a look at the position in spring training. Scott Kingery, the Phillies' 2015 second-round pick, was a college guy and will be 22 by the end of April, so there will be a bit of extra pressure added on his shoulders to perform sooner rather than later. And, there may be other competition in the form of a free agent if the Phillies go that route, and who knows if Andres Blanco will show up again and hit like 25 homers?
Hernandez's season came to an abrupt end in mid-September when he collided with Chicago's Anthony Rizzo and suffered an injured left thumb. That isn't expected to hamper him when camp opens, though, so he should at least be ready to take on that potential competition.
Look, we all knew Hernandez was not going to have the luck he was having all season long. It was bound to run out eventually. What the Phillies likely have on their hands is a guy who is probably a decent singles hitter and at best a slightly above-average fielder. Hernandez's ISO of .077 was last among second basemen with at least 450 at-bats, so the power isn't something to look for.
The walk rate was decent enough (8.8%) though there still have to be some concerns, considering that even though those .480 BABIP stretches weren't going to hold, he still finished with a .342 BABIP overall in 2015. There could be some regression in that department, driving down Hernandez's on-base numbers in 2016.
He'll likely get some sort of challenge in spring training, but as of now it's hard to envision anyone else starting at second base for the Phillies when the season opens. In the long run, however, Hernandez will likely be looking over his shoulder to see if the Phillies have found any way to replace him.