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Red Sox Top Prospects Voting: Will Ronaldo Hernández set himself up for his future role?

There’s some competition in the high minors.

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Boston Red Sox Photo Day
Ronaldo Hernández
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

We are officially back on a position player run as we reach the bottom portion of our annual community top prospects voting list. After a huge run of pitchers that took up most of the middle portion of this list, we have our third consecutive position player following Miguel Bleis and Alex Binelas. And in fact, after the outfielder and the infielder, we now have a catcher to really finish the trifecta. That catcher is Ronaldo Hernández, who snuck by a close three-person race to take the number 18 spot on our list.

Although Hernández hasn’t been in the Red Sox organization for a huge amount of time, he has been in pro ball for a relatively long time, at least compared to other prospects on this list. The catcher was originally signed by the Rays, while Chaim Bloom was still in their front office, out of Colombia in the summer of 2014. He’d make a limited debut that following summer in the DSL, struggling in a small sample of 13 games. Hernández was put back in the DSL the following year as well, significantly improving his performance with an .883 OPS.

From there, Hernández was moved stateside in the Rays system, playing in the now-defunct Appalachian League, which was Advanced Rookie Ball. There, he continued to hit, finishing that season with an .889 OPS. Given the strong performances at the plate, Tampa Bay continued moving him up a level at a time, with 2018 featuring another near-.900 OPS at A-Ball before struggling a bit in 2019. There, he finished hitting just .265/.299/.397, though by wRC+ he was still better than average with that line even with the on-base skills falling a bit.

Especially considering he is a catcher, that kind of line is still manageable, especially if you look at it as a down season and now what to expect moving forward. And so despite a relatively tough season for Hernández in 2019, the Rays still added him to their 40-man roster the following offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Of course, like every other prospect he was not able to play the next season because of COVID, and so as it turned out the 2019 season was the last he’d play for the Rays organization.

Instead, he’d be rejoining Bloom in Boston after the Red Sox made what at the time seemed like quite the savvy deal, sending a pair of pitchers on waivers in Jeffrey Springs and Chris Mazza for Hernández and infield prospect Nick Sogard. Hernández was considered the bigger get in the deal at the time, and that hasn’t changed since. Last year, the Red Sox starter Hernández in Double-A Portland, where he spent most of the season hitting .280/.319/.506, earning him a late-season promotion up to Triple-A Worcester. He’d hit well there as well, though it was just a seven-game sample.

So, for the most part Hernández has always hit through his career, and he plays the most valuable position on the diamond, so why is he not ranked higher? Well, there are some clear flaws in his game to go along with the positives. On that plus side, he has big-time raw power, which he’s shown off a lot against minor-league pitching. He also has a cannon behind the plate, which will give teams pause in trying to swipe extra bases when he’s in the lineup.

But at the same time, there are concerns with his profile both offensively and defensively. At the plate, he is way overly aggressive. We see aggressive hitters succeed at times, but it’s hard for him to tap into that plus raw power on a consistent basis because he too often swings at tough pitches to square up. On top of that, while Hernández has typically made a solid amount of contact, his strikeout rate has risen when he’s moved up the ladder and it’s not clear how he’ll fare against major-league pitching. Behind the plate, he is a little stiff back there and is a well below-average framer. It feels as though he’s going to need the automatic strike zone to be automated in order to play good enough defense to be put in a major-league lineup behind the plate every day. Until that happens, he profiles more as a bat-first catcher than anything else.

He’ll be trying to change that projection in this coming year, where he’s expected to start the season at Triple-A Worcester competing for time with fellow young bat-first catcher Connor Wong. Hernández is the more highly-regarded prospect at this point, but look for those two to largely split time with a true competition for who will be the team’s de facto third catcher.

Here is our full list so far:

  1. Triston Casas, 1B
  2. Marcelo Mayer, SS
  3. Nick Yorke, 2B
  4. Jarren Duran, OF
  5. Brayan Bello, RHP
  6. Bryan Mata, RHP
  7. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS
  8. Blaze Jordan, 3B/1B
  9. Jay Groome, LHP
  10. Gilberto Jimenez, OF
  11. Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP
  12. Connor Seabold, RHP
  13. Brandon Walter, LHP
  14. Josh Winckowski, RHP
  15. Noah Song, RHP
  16. Miguel Bleis, OF
  17. Alex Binelas, 3B
  18. Ronaldo Hernández, C

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number 19 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...