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Kike Hernandez Wants To Play Everyday – Does He Have A Case?

Los Angeles Dodgers
Mar 22, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Enrique Hernandez (14) hits a solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In the midst of the spring position battles and jockeying for roster spots, Kike Hernandez has quietly gone about his business. It was never a question of Hernandez having a spot on the opening day roster. His value and role on the Dodgers is cemented – or is it? When many fans think of Hernandez, they think of him as a useful utility that can really hit left-handed pitching. Fact is, Hernandez of the present has certainly presented the case that he could be an everyday player.

Hernandez has received as much playing time as anyone in spring training. In 49 at-bats, he’s hit .327 with four home runs, 16 RBI, nine walks, and he’s stolen a base for good measure. It’s important to note that all four homers have came against right-handed pitching.

The player himself would like to put to bed the notion that he is a ‘lefty-killer’.

“Throughout my entire minor-league career I was a reverse-splits guy (hitting righties better than lefties) and it wasn’t until the big leagues that I started hitting lefties way better than righties,” Hernandez said. “I think a lot of it had to do with the mental part of the game, knowing that I was going to come to the field playing against a lefty. Against a righty it was more of a coin toss.

“Once I started hitting lefties better, not necessarily out there but within the organization I started getting the reputation that I can hit lefties and not necessarily can hit righties, I started putting too much pressure on myself. Instead of taking it one at-bat at a time against righties, I was trying to prove something. I was trying to make one at-bat count as 10. It all escalated and became like a snowball. And here we are now – trying to prove people wrong.”

There have been noted changes in Hernandez’s approach that allows him to have success against both right and left-handed pitchers. Such has been mentioned by Dave Roberts in the article linked above. The biggest barriers right now would be the current roster construction, and a bigger body of work displayed.

Hernandez hit .159 in the 2017 regular season in 93 games against righties with one home run. In an almost-identical amount of plate appearances against lefties, he hit .270 with 10 home runs. In 2015, he hit an astounding .423 against lefties. This was probably when the decision makers decided they had someone with serious value in a platoon-split situation.

There are some items in Hernandez’s favor on the matter.

  • This is his age 26 season, so he’s in his prime.
  • He’s coming off an NLCS postseason game – a hallmark moment of his career – in which he hit three home runs to send the Dodgers to the World Series.
  • He’s a swiss-army knife when it comes to being able to play positions on the diamond.
  • His 2018 spring training suggests that he’s made adjustments necessary to take on a more everyday role.

Hernandez is one of those guys who is easy to be fond of. A true ‘glue guy’ who answers the bell when called upon and plays hard in whatever role he’s tasked with. When he says he wants to play more often, you should not only respect that in the player; but want it for him.

Analysis

You hope a smart baseball mind like Dave Roberts along with those in the front office finds the right answer on something like this. With a larger body of work of the same performance, it’s easy to see that Hernandez would be playing on most evenings for teams all around baseball. The numbers we have to assess the situation don’t lie. Hernandez has not been a good regular against right-handed pitching. The roster isn’t constructed with of players who profile to sit against right-handers. Does the answer lie within second base? And if so, who could give way for more right-handed playing time for Kike Hernandez? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments!

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Written by Clint Evans

Clint lives in Ohio, and played collegiate baseball. He loves the Dodgers due to his first memories of Chavez Ravine when he was nine years old. The voice of Vin Scully has been a staple in his life since he was a kid. No amount of baseball talk is ever enough, and he wishes the regular season was year round. He has written about baseball online since 2007.

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