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Cesar Hernandez signs with the Cleveland Indians

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Heath examines the Hot Stove with a fantasy baseball slant.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Hernández fills a gaping hole at the keystone, which allows Jose Ramirez to play the hot corner. He replaces Jason Kipnis/Mike Freeman, so he’s an obvious upgrade in real life. In the fake life, he offers speed (88th percentile) and batting average (69th percentile in xBA, career .277 BA). He’ll probably slot into the fifth or sixth spot in the batting order on most days, and odds are he’ll see a little time higher up in the order on occasion. This isn’t dissimilar from Philly, where he mostly hit sixth (216 PA) or seventh (207 PA) with some leadoff (171) sprinkled in during 2019.

He’ll turn 30 years old in May of 2020, but his swinging strike rate has improved every year since 2014: 10.9%, 9.4%, 8.0%, 7.8%, 7.1%, and 7.0%. Hernández also beefed up his swing rate by about eight percent in 2019, which put him much closer to league average. He jumped from 37.6% in 2018 to 45.5% in 2019. The MLB average was 47.0%, for reference. Part of this can probably be explained by batting order slot. In 2018, Hernández operated as the primary leadoff hitter, with 660 PA in that spot. Also in that year, his walk rate was over 13%. Clearly, that was a man who was focused on getting on base. In 2019, Hernández seemed to focus a bit more on hitting. I’ll dig in a bit more, but no matter the case I’d expect 2020 numbers to be more in line with 2019, not 2018. Francisco Lindor still occupies the leadoff spot in Cleveland, after all.

Hernández’s zone swing rate improved by about seven percent, which also put him closer to league average. His chase rate spiked from 20.3% in 2018 to 29.8% last year, but he had tons of room to grow in that regard. He still chased less than the MLB average, which was 31.6%.

In all, you can’t go crazy here. I wouldn’t expect a breakout, but Hernández makes for a solid depth pick. He’s someone with a 10/10 floor, with room for a little bit more in both categories if things break the right way. His walk rate plummeted to 6.7% last year, but his strikeout rate also dropped, from 21.9% in 2018 to a career-best 15.0% rate in 2019. Overall, there are some quality skills here and this is a solid buy for the Indians. Per NFBC data, he’s being drafted half a round after Tommy La Stella. I’d much prefer the longer track record of Hernández, though.

What say you all? A .270 BA, 10 homers, 10 steals, 75 runs, 70 RBIs...seems pretty safe to me!