Manager Gabe Kapler labeled Hernandez as "an ideal leadoff hitter" earlier in spring training, Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic reports. Hernandez has ranked either first or second on the Phillies in starts out of the leadoff role in the past four seasons, slashing .276/.364/.384 while stealing 46 bases across 1,816 career plate appearances out of that lineup spot. Though the 28-year-old's blend of speed and on-base skills back up Kapler's claim, Hernandez's spot in the order was rendered more of a question mark this offseason, when the Phillies added Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto, three established players who should also merit consideration for favorable lineup slotting. Hernandez's status as the incumbent looks like it may be enough to keep him atop the order to begin the season, but he may not have a long leash if he struggles in the early going now that there are some more appealing alternatives available than in years past.
Hernandez avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $7.75 million deal with Philadelphia on Friday, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports. Hernandez saw an increase in pay from a season ago, getting a $2.65 million raise despite battling a lingering foot injury for the second half of the 2018 season. The Phillies evidently feel confident that their starting second baseman will return to form after getting healthy over the offseason.
Hernandez played with a broken foot for much of the second half of the season after fouling a pitch off his foot in July, Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic reports. The injury wasn't serious enough to require surgery and has since healed, general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday. The effect of the injury can be seen in the second baseman's stats. Through July 20, he was hitting .273/.381/.386 with 14 steals, but after that date he swiped just five bags while hitting .223/.319/.326. If the Phillies trust that his second-half struggles were purely injury-related, Hernandez could return to a spot near the top of the team's lineup in 2019.
Hernandez went 1-for-4 with a two-run single in Saturday's win over the Braves. Hernandez plated Jose Bautista and Scott Kingery in the bottom of the seventh inning to open up the scoring in an eventual 3-0 win. The second baseman's combination of 14 home runs and 19 stolen bases, gathered over 160 games and 704 plate appearances, has kept him close to must-start territory in many mixed leagues -- especially in formats where his shareholders can utilize his .357 on-base percentage. The 28-year-old has one more possible game to add to his strong season and should head into 2019 fantasy drafts as a potentially profitable bargain -- unless the Phillies throw a wrench into his playing-time access with their roster construction.
Hernandez went 1-for-5 with a solo homer in Sunday's loss to the Marlins. The homer was a leadoff shot off Jose Urena, giving Hernandez homers in back-to-back games for the first time this season and extending his career-high total to 13. The second baseman has hit .343 with an .866 OPS over his last eight games.