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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Ronaldo Hernández is in a new home

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The new top catching prospect in the organization starts his Red Sox career in 2021.

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox farm system, while still firmly in the bottom half of the league by pretty much every ranking, is on the way up. However, they still have their weaknesses, and among them is the catching position. This has been something Chaim Bloom and company have worked to improve with a few trades over the last couple of years, including a recent one with the Rays. That trade landed them Ronaldo Hernández, who comes in as our number 14 prospect after grabbing 30 percent of the vote in a close showdown.

Hernández originally signed with the Rays back in the summer of 2014, getting a $225,000 signing bonus out of Colombia, per Sox Prospects. The young catcher was not quite a top prospect in his international signing class, but that is the kind of bonus that puts one on the radar in the organization as a player starts their pro career. Hernández started that career in the DSL the following year in 2015, though he only got in 13 games that summer. As such, he stayed in the Dominican the following summer as well, finally getting some substantial playing time as an 18-year-old and hitting .340/.398/.485.

Despite the solid showing at the plate in that debut, the Rays still decided not to push too far, keeping Hernández in Advanced Rookie Ball the following season rather than getting him up into full-season ball. This isn’t terribly uncommon for catching prospects, particularly those with defensive deficiencies like him. Once again, though, Hernández kept showing off his skills at the plate, hitting .332/.382/.507 in his first experience in the States.

All of this led to him getting that first taste of full-season ball in the 2018 season, which he spent at Low-A Bowling Green. It was here that Hernández was put fully on the prospect map as he excelled against Midwest League pitching as a 20-year-old, hitting .284/.339/.494. That kind of performance from a relatively young catcher facing the most advanced pitching he had seen to date was enough to get him on multiple top 100 lists. He was as high as number 56 on Baseball America’s list heading into the 2019 season.

Unfortunately, this would be the peak of his prospect standing, at least to date. Hernández was pushed up to High-A for the 2019 season, but the bat took a step back. After hitting 21 homers the previous season, the young catcher hit only nine in 2019, and put up a line of .265/.299/.397, falling off the top 100 lists he had called home coming into that season. Despite the down year, the Rays still protected Hernández from the Rule 5 Draft after the season, putting him on their 40-man heading into the 2020 season.

This was set up to be a big year for Hernández, who was expected to get time at Double-A to prove that 2019 was simply a blip on the radar and he truly was able to handle advanced pitching. Of course, COVID precluded that from happening. Hernández wasn’t totally left on his own as he was with the Rays at their Alternate Site and was on their taxi squad for some road trips, but he never actually got into a big-league game. Then, just last month, the Red Sox acquired Hernández in a trade that also netted them Nick Sogard in exchange for Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs.

In terms of scouting, Hernández has the prototypical bat-first catching profile, though there are still some concerns with the bat as well. For one thing, he is extremely pull-heavy, with Baseball America noting all of his professional home runs have been hit to the pull side. That’s not ideal, though he is a right-handed hitter so that kind of swing can certainly play at Fenway, at least.

Furthermore, he doesn’t strike out much but his pitch selection leaves a lot to be desired. Hernández swings at some bad pitches, and while his hand-eye is good enough that he makes contact on many of them, they are not the kind of pitches against which he can tap into his above-average power potential. This is the biggest key for him to get the most out of his offensive ability. If he can let a few more fringe pitches go by and really impact the fat pitches, his bat will play more than enough for a major-league catching role.

That catching part of it is the biggest issue with Hernández’s game, though. The 23-year-old (he’ll be 23 all season) did get to catch some more advanced pitching last season at the Alternate Site, but his receiving still leaves plenty to be desired. At this point, just getting to fringe-average receiving is probably the best we can hope for. As has been noted here and many other places, the implementation of robo umps would be a major help for someone like him — and Hernández does have a plus arm, for what it’s worth — but while that implementation has been discussed more and more, it doesn’t appear it’s imminent. Put it all together, Hernández likely profiles as a backup at the highest level, but there is upside to dream on for him to be more than that.

Looking ahead to the coming season, I would suspect Hernández will start the year at Double-A Portland with an eye at potentially getting him up to Triple-A before the end of the season. The offense is certainly going to be watched, particularly with that approach discussed above, but the defense will be the aspect of his game the organization will be monitoring most closely.

Here is our list so far:

  1. Triston Casas
  2. Jeter Downs
  3. Bryan Mata
  4. Jarren Duran
  5. Gilberto Jimenez
  6. Noah Song
  7. Bobby Dalbec
  8. Tanner Houck
  9. Connor Seabold
  10. Aldo Ramirez
  11. Thad Ward
  12. Jay Groome
  13. Nick Yorke
  14. Ronaldo Hernández

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number 15 prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...