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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No. 25, Ronaldo Hernandez

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CLAUDIA FORTICH

The next player on our list is one that wasn’t anywhere near the top of the catching position prospects as we ranked them in 2017 but has since rocketed up everyone’s lists.

No.25, C Ronaldo Jose Hernandez, 20 yrs old

Born: Nov 11, 1997 in Arjona, Colombia

Height/Weight: 6’1” 185 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R

Signed: by the Rays for $225,000 in August 2014

Twitter handle: NA

Twitter profile statement: NA

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 4th best Appalachian League prospect for 2017
  • Ranked among the top 20 DSL prospects for 2016

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 12th
  • Low: 43rd

Ronaldo Hernandez: Abilities

  • Developing but well viewed receiving skills
  • Strong and accurate arm
  • Bat shows above-average potential and good raw power

Grades for ‘18 (Pipeline): Hit: 55 | Pwr: 45 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Fld: 55 | Overall: 45

  • Abilities notes: It’s truly impressive how quickly Hernandez has been able to get rave reviews, and it’s the complete package with few deficiencies that make his floor so high. That, in turn, allows us to concentrate on his ceiling, which may be higher than any catcher the Rays have ever had within their system.

Joined the Rays by way of....

The most impressive international class the Rays have ever put together, joining the following four prospects who are highly thought of and ranked:

An impressive group to say the least and Ronaldo may join Jesus in reaching the upper levels of all rankings once he has his second year in the U.S. behind him.

Latest Transaction: assigned to Princeton Rays from DSL Rays1 June 1st, 2017

Note - The fact that Hernandez was challenged with an assignment to Princeton is noteworthy. It will be interesting to see where he is assigned in 2018, as both Hudson Valley and Bowling Green are viable options at this point.

Facts, Honors, and Awards

  • Got his name from his dad who admires former Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo Nazario.
  • He wound up deciding to concentrate on baseball when at eight years old “his grandmother asked him to decide on one of the two sports and preferred baseball. Since then he began his preparation to follow in the footsteps of his countryman Ernesto Frieri” who he admires a lot.
  • Played for Colombia in tournaments that went as far as China before turning 16, the youngest on the squad, at which point he was a third baseman - though scouts noted his potential as a catcher.
  • Signed by Rays scout Angel Contreras who noted the following,

“I have been following him since he was 13 years old. He fit the baseball of the Dominican Republic very well and is one of the best hitters in the league there.”

  • Missed most of “2015 DSL season after taking a foul tip to the groin that required surgery”
  • The outlet that loves Hernandez most - so far - is Baseball Prospectus, as they’ve ranked him 5th among Rays prospects after just one season on U.S. Soil.
  • Didn’t make Fangraphs Top 31 Rays prospects in 2017 but Eric did note the following about him among the other prospects,

“A converted Colombian infielder who missed most of 2015 due to injury, Hernandez has interesting bat-to-ball skills and lots of defensive projection because he’s so new to catching. He hit .340 in the DSL last year at age 18.”

Stats

Ronaldo Hernandez 2017

GP 54
GP 54
PA 246
AB 223
Hits 74
Doubles 22
Triples 1
Home Runs 5
RBI 40
SB (CS) 2 (2)
AVG 0.332
OBP 0.382
SLG 0.507
OPS 0.889
BB% 6.5 %
SO% 15.9 %
ISO 0.175
BAbip 0.379
wOBA 0.397
wRC+ 135

Stats Notes: Despite being one of the youngest in the league at a tough position to learn and with little experience at that position, Ronaldo batted third in the Princeton Rays lineup most often where he hit .351/.395/.518. He also handled both LHP (.346/.400/.487) and RHP (.324/.373/.517) well, something that enhances his full time role profile.

Interesting Comparison: Willson Contreras

The same height at 6’1, Contreras also played third-base initially in the DSL before switching to catcher at the short-season level. While Hernandez had a little more experience at the position before making the leap to the U.S., there are similarities in their performances at similar ages.

In 2012, Contreras played behind the plate for the first time - albeit at the short-season level, and caught 39 games, just 4 less than Hernandez managed in 2017. Contreras made 7 errors and allowed 8 passed balls while Hernandez made 5 errors and allowed 12 passed balls. Although Hernandez has him beat on the CS rate (57% to 46%), it was Contreras’ first year behind the plate and he played a higher level, so we’ll call that a tie.

Meanwhile, Contreras had the following rates in terms of hit location, 52.3 % pull - 17.8 % centre - 30.0 % opposite field with 6.3 % HR/FB rate, and Ronaldo managed 49.2 % pull - 20.3 % centre - 30.5 % opposite field with 8.8 % HR/FB rate.

Hernandez does have an edge in some hitting areas, such as ISO (.175 to .084) and wOBA (.397 to .318), but those are areas where Contreras made gains that brought him to the same level the following season, in HiA, where he managed a .174 ISO and .341 wOBA.

Where we’d expect things to differ going forward is behind the plate, where Hernandez should have higher caught stealing rates.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

When you hear things like “a prospect that burst onto the scene”, Ronaldo Hernandez is the type of prospect they’re talking about. The profile leap he’s put together within just one season of playing time is outstanding and provides hope at a position that has frustrated the Rays brass for years. And best of all, if that were to fall through, he still profiles extremely well as a potential 3B.

But let’s focus on the catching position, because he really shined there last year. With limited experience behind the plate, Ronaldo showed the kind of quickness and poise that draws rave reviews from scouts. And a lot of it comes from having one of the most powerful and accurate throws to second base, something that allowed him to catch 57% of would-be-base-stealers.

But as Princeton Rays manager Danny Sheaffer, who was a catcher in the major leagues noted,

“He’s got a special talent, the hardest part about this position is to create someone with a good attitude that’s willing to sacrifice himself for the pitching staff. It’s a selfless position. It’s a sacrificial position. But so far, so good. He’s made the transition from infielder to catcher and he’s doing a great job,”“There was a couple of plays he made. That bunt and then the block and recover where he threw a runner out at second base,” said Sheaffer. “Those are things you can’t teach. You can work on things all you want. But he’s got some physical ability that will take him a long way in this game.”

There’s also something special about hearing knowledgeable baseball analysts, scouts, and managers speak to the “sound off the bat”. With the struggles the Rays have had in finding a catcher who provides an above-average bat, having someone like Hernandez is very encouraging.

Reviews of his hitting skills are very strong, with a noted ability to handle off speed pitches with a strong swing that projects to have a ton of power. And it showed up that way in 2017.

Among catchers with at least 100 PA in the Appalachian League in 2017, Hernandez ranked 3rd in many categories, such as average (.339), OPS (.889), ISO (.180), and wRC+ (135), as well as 2nd in SLG (.507).

Among all hitters, his OPS ranked 18th, and on the year he placed 3rd in hits, 2nd in doubles, and fifth in both average and slugging - all of which is notable as he was one of the youngest hitters in the league.

Meanwhile, just to add to an already impressive profile, he only struck out 15.9 % of the time while walking a manageable 6.5 % of the time. Adding it all up, it points to Ronaldo having a keep eye and/or good patience at the plate, both of which are items that should help him success as he moves up to A ball.

Ronaldo Hernandez: Spotlight Videos

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 50 Rays Prospects

*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list