As Boston Red Sox spring training winds to a close, keep an eye on Darwinzon Hernandez.
The 22-year-old left-handed pitcher is considered one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. He’s ranked fourth among Red Sox prospects on MLB Pipeline, while some, such as industry expert Keith Law, have Hernandez at the top of their list.
Hernandez, a Venezuela native, has a full arsenal of pitches, and as such is viewed by many as a future starter. But the Red Sox, as you might have heard, aren’t exactly loaded in the bullpen, and have a couple spots up for grabs as the regular season nears.
At the beginning of spring training, it seemed unlikely that Hernandez could break camp with the Red Sox. He’s only thrown six innings in Double-A, after all. But his performance thus far — a 0.90 ERA and 12 strikeouts over 10 innings in five appearances (two starts) — has put him in a position to claim one of Boston’s final roster spots.
“I think he’s in the running, yeah,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Sunday, via MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “He’s impressed people obviously with his stuff.
” … We know what he can do and what he needs to do to be a starter,” Cora added. “He’s been good. Working on a few things delivery-wise, stuff-wise. (Catcher) Sandy (Leon) actually brought up some points yesterday, which was good, having Sandy behind the plate and seeing what the kid has and talking to him about his stuff. I think it’s going to help him out. We don’t rule out anything right now. Like I’ve been saying all along, everybody that’s here has a shot.”
Hernandez’s chances of making the team improved Monday when the Red Sox reassigned 11 players to minor league camp. With Boston opening the season March 28 on the road against the Seattle Mariners, Hernandez has a little over a week to make his case.
Here’s the full list of Boston’s roster moves:
So, what’s the current state of the bullpen, and how could Hernandez fit in? Cora on Monday morning said Dustin Pedroia would start the season on the injured list, and the Red Sox would carry 13 pitchers to start the season. When you take out Boston’s five locked-in starting pitchers, there are somewhere between six and eight spots for relievers.
Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson are virtual locks to make the roster. That leaves Hector Velazquez, Brandon Workman, Tyler Thornburg, Bobby Poyner, Colten Brewer and Hernandez as candidates to fill the final two to four spots. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Velazquez (a team favorite), Thornburg (a potential late-inning reliever when he’s right) and Poyner (lefty specialist) make the club. That would give the Red Sox 12 pitchers on their Opening Day roster.
Would Cora give Hernandez the nod over a veteran like Workman? Has Brewer shown enough in camp to earn a spot?
Those questions remain unanswered, but if nothing else, fans should be encouraged that one of the team’s most highly regarded prospects is forcing his way into the conversation.
Of course, Hernandez isn’t the only prospect whose turned heads during spring training. He’s also far from the only youngster who could make an impact during the 2019 season. We recently discussed Hernandez and Boston’s farm system as a whole with SoxProspects.com director of scouting Ian Cundall in the latest installment of the “NESN Red Sox Podcast.”