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2016 Red Sox top prospect voting: Marco Hernandez, and the farm system's weakness

Boston has one of the best farm systems in baseball, but there's a reason it's not top dog.

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Trying to separate a farm system into tiers is a bit of a messy proposition. For the Red Sox, we can obviously talk about the top four guys in Moncada, Benintendi, Devers, and Espinoza. There are those who would separate it further, putting Moncada and Benintendi in tier one, with Devers and Espinoza in tier two, or swap Devers and Benintendi, or etc. etc. etc. But the clear division is after number four: nobody will deny that they are different from the rest.

Marco Hernandez, who comes in at #13 on our list, feels like he should define the beginning of a new tier in his own right, for better or worse. Thus far, we've been hitting mostly on players who seem like they might have some significant future with the Red Sox. Even Pat Light could play a part as a setup man should things go right, which is no small thing.

For Marco Hernandez, though, expectations are limited. Given that he was the return for Felix Doubront after his 2014 collapse, that shouldn't be a big surprise. Hernandez does not profile as the shortstop of the future for the Red Sox, and not just because they already have Xander Bogaerts. He's a fine defender, but not a great one, and doesn't really have the bat that an average-ish glove would demand, even at a premium position like shortstop. He holds a 709 OPS through six minor league seasons. We've seen the best of that in his time with Portland last year, where he hit .326/.349/.482 in 292 at bats, but unless something truly surprising happens, that will likely prove to be little more than a BABIP-induced (.382) blip on the radar.

What does that leave him as, then? A utility player, which isn't anything to scoff at, exactly. Marco Hernandez is very likely to be a major league player somewhere or other, though it's unlikely to be as a starting player for a good team. Whether it be as a backup for a contender or filler for a mediocre team, though, if Hernandez can stick, that will make him more successful than a vast majority of minor leaguers ever manage.

For Boston, honestly, that might not mean so much. Hernandez is not the type of player the Red Sox plan around, and he's not the type of player who can headline a deal. More likely, if they're not actively in need of him come July, the Red Sox will be looking to get value out of him as a sweetener in a trade with a small-market team. They might even flip him for some other type of utility player who more directly fits their needs at the time, should said needs arise.

And honestly, for a team like the Red Sox, this is not where you want to be talking about Marco Hernandez, at number 13. I don't mean to suggest he's the wrong pick here. There might be players who are more likely to be important to the Red Sox down the line, but it's not hard to construct the argument that, in terms of what he can contribute and, more importantly in this case, how likely he is to do so, Marco Hernandez is the most valuable of the remaining prospects.

But this is the weakness of the farm system. It's a decidedly top-heavy bunch of prospects. The last draft brought us Andrew Benintendi up top, but so far the rest of the crop hasn't done much to draw attention. And the international talent that will often pop up around these numbers as potential fast-risers to dream on went ahead and skipped a few steps, landing at #1 and #4 instead. The former you might be able to complain about, the latter not so much.

So here lies Marco Hernandez. He's not our hope in the higher rankings, just our safe, consistent value. It's the sort of thing we should get used to, because there's probably more of that coming in short order. It's why the Red Sox are just one of the best farm systems in baseball rather than the clear-and-away best despite their top-four.

  1. Yoan Moncada
  2. Andrew Benintendi
  3. Rafael Devers
  4. Anderson Espinoza
  5. Michael Kopech
  6. Brian Johnson
  7. Sam Travis
  8. Luis Alexander Basabe
  9. Deven Marrero
  10. Michael Chavis
  11. Pat Light
  12. Nick Longhi
  13. Marco Hernandez

Well, I bet that got everyone super excited to vote for #14, right? No? Not so much? Honestly, this wouldn't be the worst year to cut things off at 15. But tradition is tradition, tradition dictates 20, and while there's not a Manuel Margot - Christian Vazquez combo coming in at #19 at #20 as in 2013, there's still talent to be had. So vote away!