Cesar Hernandez making his case as the second baseman of the future
by Scott Butler 8/23/16

Hernandez Galvis

At some point after the Phillies final game against the Mets on October 2, Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail will sit down in cushy chairs somewhere in the front offices of Citizens Bank Park and discuss their plans for the upcoming season.

One player who will surely create a lengthy evaluation is Cesar Hernandez.

He, like Freddy Galvis, heard the footsteps of J.P. Crawford coming way back in Spring Training.

Crawford, the organization's best prospect, was moving along nicely in the minors and expected to make the jump to triple-A sometime early in the season with perhaps a call up to where the big boys play before the 2016 season concluded.

When that moment arrived, someone was going to lose an everyday job.The 2016 season would most likely be their last audition. With Galvis as the far superior player defensively, Hernandez needed to hit his way to an everyday role.

After going 1-for-4 on June 20, Hernandez was hitting .248. It's safe to say his 2016 audition did not begin well.

That is when Pete Mackanin decided something needed to be done.

I'll let Matt Gelb give you the story from his piece yesterday:

Two months ago, the Phillies were in Minnesota and Cesar Hernandez was banished to the bench.

Manager Pete Mackanin summoned his henchman. Larry Bowa, the 70-year-old bench coach, accompanied Hernandez to a batting cage. Get on top of the ball, Bowa told him. Hit it on the ground. Keep it out of the air.

Hernandez, as Mackanin remembered it, smiled at Bowa. The second baseman thought the fiery baseball lifer was kidding. Bowa made his point a little clearer in uncertain terms.

Here's Ryan Lawrence to continue the story:

Bowa made sure the infielder knew this wasn’t a joke.

“Hey, you think you're not playing because you're getting a rest? You're going to be on the bench with me if you don't start doing it,’” Mackanin said, recalling Bowa’s words from two months ago. “It was a little tough love Larry gave him.”

Hernandez took the message to heart – and then immediately into pregame batting practice at Target Field, too.

“So in that session of batting practice, (Hernandez) was chopping every ball into the ground; kind of like saying 'Hey, (bleep) you Larry.' One of those deals,” Mackanin said with a laugh. “But when he got back in the lineup all of a sudden he started to do it. For a week or 10 days he started getting infield singles and a couple of bunt base hits and seeing-eye ground balls; beat out some swinging bunts. All of a sudden he started thinking, 'Hey, maybe they're right.’”

The plan worked to perfection. Cesar went 4-for-4 in his very next game and he is hitting .359 with a .433 on-base percentage and .478 slugging percentage in 208 plate appearances since "the talk."

Cesar has distanced himself from Galvis at the plate. His .295 average is 60 points higher than that of Galvis, his .355 on-base percentage is 90 points higher, and his .751 OPS is 117 points higher. From a power standpoint, despite having 8 less homers, his slugging percentage is 27 points higher than Galvis.

But will that be enough to make him the everyday second baseman?

Hernandez exhibits very little power, so even though his .751 OPS is a huge improvement, it is still below the .768 mark for a league-average second baseman. Speed is Cesar's game, but on the base paths he has an abysmal stolen base rate of 59 percent.

Which brings us to another important aspect of this evaluation. Freddy Galvis has a high baseball IQ and tremendous baseball instincts, but the exact opposite can be said of Hernandez. Numerous mental mistakes on the field and on the base paths have been a consistent with Hernandez throughout his career.

That makes this more of a philosophical decision at this point. You can take the instinctive player and defensive whiz in Galvis or the decent hitting Hernandez with average defensive skills who is prone to mental mishaps.

Once Matt Klentak and company determine the winner of this battle, they have another tough decision on their hand. Will the loser even have a role on the bench next season?

Andres Blanco is a tremendous utility player and Pete Mackanin says he's the best utility guy he has ever seen. Considering they are all infielders by trade, relegating Freddy or Cesar to the bench would mean cutting Blanco's time in half. How they handle that delicate situation may alter the entire career path of everyone involved.

It will be an intriguing storyline to follow leading into the offseason.

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