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2018 Red Sox top prospect voting: Darwinzon Hernandez may be ready to break through

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The young lefty comes in at number 13 on our list

Photo Credit: Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com
(That jersey tho)

After a few rounds of voting in which he was right in the thick of things until the very end, Darwinzon Hernandez finally gets his moment in the sun in our community prospect rankings. The lefty was involved in another close vote this time around, but after so many losses he finally got a win. Hernandez is our number 13 prospect.

In what has become one of the Red Sox scouting department’s biggest international wins in recent years, Darwinzon Hernandez was an incredibly under-the-radar signing back in the summer of 2013 when he joined the team for a modest $25,000 signing bonus out of Venezuela. After signing, he would make his debut the following summer in the Dominican Summer League, mostly pitching out of relief. He made 14 appearances in that pro debut with 13 coming out of the bullpen, and he posted a 2.89 ERA over 28 innings, though his 15 strikeouts and 18 walks were worrisome to say the least. Despite the lackluster peripherals, Hernandez went into the DSL rotation in 2015, tossing 65 13 innings in 16 appearances, 13 of which were starts. He was really impressive in his second run through this league, posting a 1.10 ERA with peripherals to match, striking out 66 batters and walking 30. The control was still an issue, but he at least was getting whiffs and keeping the walks at an acceptable level. He made his stateside debut in Lowell in 2016, making all 14 of his appearances as a member of the rotation and posting a 4.10 ERA over 48 13 innings with 58 strikeouts and 36 walks.

After three years as a professional, Hernandez still wasn’t really on the radar too much heading into 2017, though he was certainly more noteworthy than when he signed. He’d come into last season making his full-season debut, spending the entire season in Greenville. He showed huge flashes of promise that year in his age-20 season even if his overall numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page. Over 23 starts and 103 13 innings, Hernandez pitched to a 4.01 ERA, but he showed off big stuff with 116 strikeouts to go with 49 walks. He did have a couple of stints on the minor-league disabled list, but neither injury was anything serious and more than likely just an opportunity to get the youngster some rest as he adjusted to a larger workload. Hernandez was rewarded for his efforts this year for a late-season promotion to Salem for their playoff run, and while he wasn’t great there it was a nice achievement for him to get there at all in 2017.

The scouting report is fascinating for Hernandez and gives him perhaps the highest ceiling of any Red Sox prospect outside of the top brass. The stuff is there for him to be a legitimate weapon, and it’s centered around the fastball. The southpaw can sit in the low-to-mid-90s with legitimate movement, and at times he can get up to around 95 mph with the heater. In addition to the big fastball, he throws a curveball with real potential and a changeup that’s a work in progress. Most intriguing about Hernandez, though, is that he reportedly showed off a slider in his final outing of the season, something he had barely thrown at any other point in 2017. Some scouts are throwing a 55-60 grade (above-average, in other words) on the pitch based solely on that pitch, and if it’s really going to be a weapon for him moving forward I’m confident in saying we have Hernandez ranked too low on this list. Of course, for as great as the stuff is, he has to find a way to throw more strikes if he’s really going to reach his ceiling.

Hernandez is going to be among the handful of prospects I’m most interested in following in 2018, a season in which he should spend most of his time in Salem. Entering his age-21 season, this is a big year for Hernandez to show what he’s really made of. If he shows enough flashes of what we think he’s capable of, he could be added to the 40-man roster over the winter as a Rule 5 eligible prospect. Look out for reports about his slider and control, and don’t be surprised if he jumps into next year’s top five if everything goes perfectly.

Here’s our list so far:

  1. Jason Groome
  2. Michael Chavis
  3. Tanner Houck
  4. Bryan Mata
  5. Jalen Beeks
  6. Alex Scherff
  7. Sam Travis
  8. Mike Shawaryn
  9. Brian Johnson
  10. Josh Ockimey
  11. Cole Brannen
  12. Bobby Dalbec
  13. Darwinzon Hernandez

Now, we move on to the fourteenth spot on our list. As always, head down into the comments and “rec” the comment corresponding the player for whom you’d like to vote. Make sure you’re a member of the blog before you do so of course. Additionally, if there is a player you’d like to vote for who is not listed, leave a comment of your own saying “Vote for Player X here”. That comment will count as his first vote. For more information on this system, scroll to the bottom of this post. Until next time...