The Phillies, once the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted, will have spent a pretty penny in the international market this season. In fact, they even made a trade last weekend to acquire some more of that precious monetary space to sign these international players.
It's a market the Phillies hope to become more active in over the next few years. It's a market that netted them Cesar Hernandez from Venezuela just a little over nine years ago. It's maybe even a little hard to believe that Hernandez has been in the organization this long now, but with the injury problems Chase Utley has dealt with this year, Hernandez is finally getting his chance to play at second base.
The Phillies had tried him in center field. They have used him at short. He's seen third, too. Second base, however, appears to be Hernandez's future. And, unless you have been living under a rock these last few days, you'd know that Ruben Amaro, Jr. would think so too.
That story has gained its own legs for what Amaro has said (and for what people think he should have said), something that Hernandez doesn't really have a whole lot of control over. Hernandez, with Utley out, has gone out and done his job. And then some.
He's done his job to the point of a nearly unbelievable .484 BABIP since June 19. That, simply put, is not going to continue, and it doesn't take a whole lot of statistical knowledge to know that. It's just not something that's going to continue.
But what will be sustainable for Hernandez? Go beyond the astronomical BABIP, take a look at the overall big picture, and where does he fit into the Phillies' future?
We've seen the emergence of power-hitting second basemen as time has gone along, and we've been fortunate enough to watch one of the best that baseball has had to offer. Ever. Hernandez is not going to be Utley, Jeff Kent or Brandon Phillips. He doesn't really have to be.
For every Utley, Kent or Phillips, there will still be a Dee Gordon or DJ LeMahieu out there. Recreating an Utley-Rollins double play combo isn't going to be easy to do.
Twelve of Hernandez's 55 hits have been extra base hits this season, and he has just one homer. Nobody will expect Hernandez to be a power bat in the middle of any order, but if the Phillies are searching for a bat at the top of the order, they might have found their man.
Among second-sackers with at least 200 PAs this season, the highest walk rate in the National League belongs to Hernandez, at 11.1%.
He has also added value on the basepaths, and has improved his baserunning instincts over time. It was not something that came easily for him, to say the least. He stole 21 bases in the minors in 2012, but was caught 15 times. He stole 33 in 2013 between AA, AAA and a short stint in the Majors, and was nabbed 8 times, a large improvement.
So far this season, Hernandez has stolen 12 bases, but has been caught only three times. This is the important element that the Phillies have been looking to see develop in Hernandez's game, and so far this season, it has. 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.
After Hernandez's 2014, it would have been easy to scoff and laugh off those types of numbers. Now, they seem attainable. Overall, Hernandez has hit .294/.379/.374 so far this season. His last few weeks have fueled those numbers, and that high BABIP will most certainly come crashing down at some point.
But a .270/.350/.365 hitting second basemen that can steal over 30 bases has great value, and would add a positive-WAR player to a Phillies roster that could really use it. And, are those types of numbers reachable for someone like Hernandez? If the last few weeks are any indication, sure.
Defensively, the advanced numbers say that Hernandez hasn't really been a boon. With the roster the Phillies have fielded this season, the defensive runs saved metric isn't being too kind. In fact, the Phillies are far and away the worst team in the league this season when it comes to defensive runs saved.
While building the bats will be a main priority for the Phillies over the next couple of seasons, returning to the stellar defense the team played in the title season of 2008 or seasons surrounding it will have to return, too. Hernandez has his work cut out for him, as the advanced numbers (and the eye test) have always loved Utley.
Hail Cesar, you might ask? Sure, go ahead. These last few weeks have been quite fun. Amaro isn't particularly off base by saying Hernandez is the best second baseman on the roster right now. He could have picked his words a bit better when speaking about the franchise's all-time second baseman, though.
Amaro is not going to live to see the Phillies' next great run of baseball, and will be packing his things at the end of this season. When that next run does roll around though, Hernandez might just be a key part of it.