Cesar Hernandez once looked like he would merely be a placeholder in the middle infield until the Phillies accelerated their rebuild, but back-to-back campaigns of at least 15 steals, averages north of .290 and OBPs above .370 may have changed his outlook with the organization. While those three areas are where Hernandez provides his greatest impact in the fantasy realm, he also showed some unexpected pop last season with 41 extra-base hits, making him at least an average contributor among second basemen in terms of power. Middle-infield prospects J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery are both expected to get fair shakes at everyday roles at some point in 2018, but Hernandez's reliable glove and on-base skills atop the lineup offer value. The youngsters might offer more upside, but it would be unwise to dismiss the 27-year-old's chances of retaining regular at-bats throughout the season with few other proven table setters on the roster.
Hernandez went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in Monday's Grapefruit League loss to the Red Sox. Hernandez failed to get a hit in five plate appearances Monday, lowering his spring training average to just .209 in 43 at-bats. The good news for the 27-year-old's fantasy owners, however, is that Scott Kingery got the start at third base Sunday, showing team management's desire to use the heralded prospect in roles that won't eat into Hernandez's opportunities at the dish. Kingery will likely begin the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, while Hernandez -- who has had two straight seasons with a .294 average and 15-plus stolen bases -- figures to be the Opening Day starter at second base for the Phillies.
Hernandez's job seems safe for the moment as the Phillies are working to increase top prospect Scott Kingery's positional flexibility, The Athletic reports. Hernandez has been one of the Phillies' best players over the past few seasons, but his role seems potentially under threat by Kingery, who shares his position and is nearly big-league ready. There was some thought that Hernandez might have to move to a utility role, one which he filled for the first few years of his major-league career. However, the report that it's Kingery who has been working out at different positions seems to suggest that Hernandez is not necessarily going to lose out on a lot of playing time when Kingery is eventually called up.
Hernandez agreed to a one-year, $5.1 million deal with the Phillies on Friday, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports. This is a healthy raise over the $2.55 million he received in his first year of arbitration. Top prospect Scott Kingery is nearly big-league ready, so Hernandez may be moved to a utility role, or possibly third base at some point this season, which makes him a bit riskier for fantasy than he was last year. That said, Hernandez was worth 3.3 wins last season according to FanGraphs, so if he is hitting, the Phillies should be able to find room for him.
Hernandez is not in the lineup for Saturday's game against the Braves. Hernandez is just 3-for-28 against Saturday's opposing starter, Julio Teheran, so manager Pete Mackanin decided to hold him out Saturday. With Hernandez out, J.P. Crawford will move over and cover the keystone for the Phillies.
Hernandez is out of the lineup for Monday's game against the Dodgers, Meghan Montemurro of The News Journal reports. Hernandez has started four straight games at second base, going 6-for-18 (.333) at the plate over that span, but he'll get the day off as J.P. Crawford steps into the starting lineup in his place. The 27-year-old could miss out on a few more starts as the Phillies continue to make room for Crawford around the infield, but Hernandez is still expected to see the bulk of the starts at second base down the stretch.