Cesar Hernandez showed growth in his patience, increasing his walk rate by nearly two percent and his on-base percentage from .339 in 2015 to .371 last season. He walked at just a five percent clip in the first half of the season, but a benching in late June sent a message and he walked at nearly a 16 percent clip over the second half of the season. Hernandez has minimal power but possesses great speed. His 11 triples were tied for the most in baseball. Despite that speed and his on-base skills, he managed just 17 steals on 30 attempts. Only Jonathan Villar was caught stealing more often than Hernandez, but he stole nearly four times as many bases. An improvement in efficiency could result in 20-plus steals, but there is some playing time risk, as a potential midseason promotion of prospect J.P. Crawford would force the Phillies to decide between Hernandez and Freddy Galvis at second base. .
Phillies first-base coach Mickey Morandini said he is encouraged by the progress Hernandez has made improving his stolen base technique this spring, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports. Morandini has been working with Hernandez on getting better jumps on his stolen base attempts. The second baseman is 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts after stealing only 17 bags out of 30 attempts last season. Hernandez has been clocked by Statcast going from home to first base at speeds comparable to Dee Gordon, so he is plenty quick. It is his technique that has held him back. If he can carry his spring improvements into the regular season, stealing 30 or more bags is a real possibility.
The Phillies have Hernandez working with Mickey Morandini, the team's first base and baserunning coach, on addressing some of the mental errors that plagued him on the bases last season, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Phillies and Hernandez believe he can swipe 30 bags this season, but he'll need to improve on his success rate. He was caught stealing 13 times last season despite having excellent speed. Manager Pete Mackanin said Hernandez needs to work on his jumps, learn how to read slide steps and observe pitchers. Exceeding 30 stolen bases should be possible if Hernandez improves his approach on the bases and can keep getting on base at a high clip like he did in the second half of last season.
Hernandez reported to Phillies camp at 180 pounds after adding 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, and he wants to steal 30 to 40 bases, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. Hernandez's speed went a bit wasted last year as he was just 17-for-30 on stolen base attempts. His .294 average from last year probably was a bit high, but that 10.6 percent walk rate shows he has the tools to build on his ability to swipe bags. That's the main reason he has some allure in the late rounds of fantasy drafts, though the Phillies' middle infield could remain in flux with prospect J.P. Crawford close to major-league-ready.
Hernandez will receive $2.55 million for the 2017 season, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports. The Phillies essentially met Hernandez in the middle after the infielder asked for $2.8 million while the organization filed at $2 million in arbitration. Hernandez put together a strong 2016 season at age 26, slashing .294/.371/.393 while hitting a major league-leading 11 triples. He figures to be Philadelphia's primary second baseman in the early portion of the season, but the organization's plans with prospect J.P. Crawford could complicate matters for Hernandez.
Manager Pete Mackanin said Hernandez may lose the permanent green light he has had when on base this season, Ryan Lawrence of the Philly Voice reports. Hernandez is just 17-for-30 in stolen base attempts this season. The only player to be caught stealing more than Hernandez is Jonathan Villar of the Brewers. Mackanin said Hernandez has good speed, but gets poor jumps. The Phillies will certainly have him work on this issue during the offseason.