Hernandez had a breakout 2018 season as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League, establishing himself as one of the better catching prospects in the game. I saw the power-hitting backstop after he joined Peoria midway through the Fall League season.
Hernandez has a thick 6-foot-1 frame that’s plenty strong and durable, looking heavier than his listed weight of 185 pounds. A strong right-handed swing with plenty of natural leverage gives above-average raw power, already able to drive the ball with advanced loft power to pull and straightaway. There’s ample power projection, and the chance to run into 15-20 longballs a year is significant given his chance to stick at catcher. While his .284 average and low strikeout rates indicate an enthusing level of natural bat-to-ball ability, there are still aspects of Hernandez’ hit tool that need to be tightened up before he’s ready for big league pitching. The swing is more strong than quick, making it difficult to adjust the barrel to well-located pitches. Hernandez has an aggressive approach that swings early in counts, yanking most balls to the pullside and frequently chasing breaking stuff from righties.
Hernandez has the physical tools to develop into an average defender behind the plate, though his receiving and footwork need additional polish. His receiving can be a bit stiff and/or over-exaggerated at times as he learns to frame pitches. He sets up differently on off-speed, something that can tip the opposing dugout to soft stuff in certain counts. A former infielder that converted to catching after signing (and is still just 21-years-old), Hernandez has plenty of time to iron out small parts of his defense with continued development. He blocks well and shows a solid throwing arm, though his release could live to get a bit quicker as well.
The ceiling is an above-average regular: enough catch/throw to stay at a premium position, where the chance for power plays as plus. Hernandez is at least two years away, and while there’s always risk with catching prospects, the offensive upside behind the plate will put him in the mix for top prospect lists this winter.