Monday, July 12, 2010
Random Past Phillie: Yoel Hernandez
Name: Yoel Alejandro Hernandez
Position: Relief Pitcher
Born: April 15, 1980 in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela
Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent on November 5, 1998
Phillies Debut: May 5, 2007
Final Phillies Game: August 19, 2007
Uniform Number: 44
About Yoel Hernandez: The term "prospect" is not an unfamiliar one when it comes to baseball and sports in general. We see many players at a young age and many like to project their potential. Some prospects are more highly regarded than others. Some exceed expectations, some fall short for a variety of reasons. Then there are some who always seem to be at the doorstep, but can never quite get in. The latter would seem to be the case for one Yoel Hernandez. While never given a "can't-miss" label, Hernandez performed well enough in the minors to make his way onto various lists of top ten Phillies prospects while working his way through the chain. It took the better part of a decade, but Hernandez would finally reach the big leagues in 2007. Unfortunately, he failed to make an impression good enough to keep him with the Phillies or any other MLB organization for that matter.
Hernandez was signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent following the 1998 season and made his pro debut the following year with the organization's Venezuelan Summer League club. In 2000, Hernandez appeared in ten games (nine starts) for the Phillies' Gulf Coast League farm team, going 4-1 with a 1.35 ERA. Skipping short-season class A ball, Hernandez moved up to mid-A Lakewood for the 2001 season, where he went 6-9 with a 3.47 ERA in 25 starts. He would endure some hard luck at high-A Clearwater in 2002, going 7-16 in 28 starts, though his ERA was a respectable 3.54. For the 2003 season, the Phillies decided that Hernandez would best be suited for the bullpen. Spending the majority of the '03 season at AA Reading (along with two appearances for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), Hernandez's shift to the bullpen yielded mixed results, as he went 6-3 with two saves in 45 appearances with a 4.32 ERA. He would also split the 2004 season between Reading and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he went 1-2 with a 4.21 ERA in 34 games. Hernandez would again see time with those two clubs in 2005, with a stop back in Clearwater mixed in. In 53 combined '05 apperances, Hernandez went 9-5 with a 3.62 ERA. While he had yet to get the call to the parent club, it appeared to be only a matter of time as the 2006 season got underway. In that '06 season, Hernandez went 1-0 with six saves and a 1.74 ERA in his first nine appearances for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately, the 2006 season ended for Hernandez at precisely that point, as a shoulder injury shelved him for the remainder of the campaign. For the 2007, the Phillies temporarily shifted their AAA affiliation to Ottawa, where Hernandez began the season. While Hernandez's shoulder injury cost him a potential callup in May of '06, it was a shoulder injury to Tom Gordon that got Hernandez a call to the majors in May of '07.
Hernandez made his MLB debut on May 5, 2007 against the Giants in San Francisco. He was greeted rather rudely, surrendering a three-run homer to the very first batter he faced, future Phillie Pedro Feliz. He'd settle down after that, and was unscored upon in nine of his next ten appearances. Back-to-back rough outings would get Hernandez sent back to Ottawa, however, as he allowed three runs in one-third of an inning against the Detroit Tigers on June 17 and a run in two-thirds of an inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 20. He would make his way back to the Phils in August after Mike Zagurski went down with a season-ending hamstring injury, but in his first game back, Hernandez himself went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. In 14 appearances for the Phillies in 2007, Hernandez had no record and a 5.28 ERA, striking out 13 batters in 15 and 1/3 innings. He walked just one batter, an intentional pass given to past and future Phillie Placido Polanco. Hernandez was granted free agency following the '07 season and spent 2008 pitching in Mexico. He'd return to the Phillies on a minor league deal for the 2009 season, but was released in Spring Training and returned to Mexico, where he is still pitching.
Personal recollection: As I've mentioned on here before, I always try to keep tabs on who is doing what in the Phillies' farm system each year, so I can get an idea on who might be able to make a contribution to the big club. Yoel Hernandez was a name you'd often see popping up. It took some time, but he did eventually make the majors. It wasn't a huge sample size by any means, but I actually thought Hernandez had decent enough stuff and good enough control to stick around for a while, but it didn't work out that way. I'm surprised he never signed on with another organization as a Spring Training invitee or even just as minor league filler. Of course, Hernandez is only 30 years old as of this writing, so maybe it's still possible.
That's my story on Yoel Hernandez. Feel free to share any of yours.