With the 2022 regular season almost over, it is that time for us to go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this season.
Today, we look at outfielder Elier Hernandez.
Yesterday we talked about what an outsized impact Steven Duggar had on the Rangers’ psyche, compared to the amount of time he spent on the active roster and the amount of playing time he had.
When Duggar was sent down, he was replaced on the active roster by Elier Hernandez. Hernandez spent more time on the roster than Duggar, played in more games, had more plate appearances, put up basically the same OPS, and had a lower wRC+. While Duggar sticks in the memory, though, Hernandez was...
Wait, what was I talking about?
Oh, Elier Hernandez.
I don’t even want to call his stint with the Rangers forgettable, because that implies that it made an imprint on your brain to begin with, and I’m not sure Elier Hernandez’s tenure as a Texas Ranger even did that.
So, fun fact...here are the top five bonuses handed out to J-2 players in the 2011-12 international signing period:
Nomar Mazara — $4.95M
Ronald Guzman — $3.45M
Elier Hernandez — $3.0M
Victor Sanchez — $2.5M
Adalberto Mondesi — $2.0M
Everyone else was less than $2 million.
Mazara and Guzman famously were part of the Rangers’ big J-2 class that ended up fizzling, and that also included Yohander Mendez, whose $1.5M signing bonus was tied with Roberto Osuna for the 8th highest bonus in that class, and Pedro Payano, whose $650K bonus was tied for 27th highest. You can see the top 30 bonuses from that class here.
In scanning the list of names, of the guys who got one of the 30 highest bonuses, the players who have had the best on-the-field careers so far would probably be Mondesi, Manuel Margot, and Roberto Osuna*. The results from the top of that class have been, it is fair to say, disappointing overall.
* Thus why I used the modifier “on the field.”
Anyway, also part of that year’s higher-dollar J-2 class was Carlos Tocci, who was signed by the Phillies to a $759K bonus, and then was later a Rule 5 pick of the Rangers, with the Rangers having been reported, when they got Tocci, to have been interested in signing Tocci when he was an IFA. Given Hernandez was a high dollar signee out of the Dominican Republic, it would be shocking if he wasn’t on the Rangers’ radar and of interest to Texas way back in the day.
Hernandez also, by virtue of being with the Royals, has spent his professional career toiling, during spring training at least, at Surprise, where Kansas City and the Rangers share facilities. That means the Rangers also were getting close up and regular looks at him every spring for the many years he toiled in the Royals’ system.
Hernandez never really did much while with the Royals, ultimately becoming a minor league free agent, and the Rangers signed him ahead of the 2021 season. He split time between Frisco and Round Rock and didn’t really hit, but the Rangers saw enough to re-sign him for the 2022 season.
Elier was better for Round Rock in 2022, but still, it was something of a surprise when the Rangers opted to bring him up in place of Steve Duggar in mid-July. Yes, he had a 910 OPS at Round Rock, but he was an organizational depth guy who was having his best season, and a 910 OPS for a bat-first COF/DH in the PCL isn’t the sort of thing that is generally going to get the pulse racing. However, the Rangers said at the time that they thought he could bring value as a righthanded hitting COF/DH option in a platoon or bench role as they continued what has seemed like a decades-long search for a functional RH bat for that role.
Hernandez started at DH on July 14 and was 2 for 3, so, you know, for a day the Rangers looked pretty smart. I also am kind of of the theory that an unknown quantity who performs well in his first game tends to make a positive first impression that tends to linger — see, e.g., Yohel Pozo, who homered in his first game last year, didn’t homer the rest of his time in the majors, but still seemed to be viewed by some as a quality bat.
Anyway, that was the high point for Hernnandez. He was 4 for 30 the rest of the way, drew only walk, and struck out a bunch. And while he was brought up with the idea that he could be of value against lefties, he actually was worse against lefthanders (.177/.167/.235) than against righthanders (.188/.235/.250). So yeah, things didn’t work out.
After getting semi-regular playing time when he first came up, including three straight starts before the All Star Break and four starts in five games (with a late inning appearance in the fifth) at the end of July, Hernandez turned into the last guy in the bench when August rolled around. He had a whopping two starts, along with a couple of late inning appearances, in the month of Augustus Caesar before being designated for assignment on August 16.
Perhaps most ignobly, he was designated for assignment so that the Rangers could add Kohei Arihara to the 40 man roster. If a team feels you aren’t more worthy of a 40 man roster spot than Kohei Arihara, well, that’s gotta hurt.
Hernandez cleared waivers, was outrighted, and spent the rest of the year at Round Rock, putting up a .298/.356/.524 season in 351 plate appearances. He will be a minor league free agent after the World Series, assuming (and I think its a safe assumption) the Rangers don’t add him back to the 40 man roster.
And then what? Hernandez turns 28 in November. He can probably hang around for another half-decade, at least, toiling in PCL or International League cities for various teams that need an outfielder to round out their AAA roster. The Rangers could bring him back for a third year at Round Rock, but if they don’t, other teams will be calling. Hernandez is also the type of player who we talk about as being a potential fit in Japan or Korea, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he joined the Orix Blue Wave or the Kia Tigers for 2023.
And a few years from now, he will be the player that is most often missed on the 2022 Texas Rangers Sporcle Quiz. People will remember Steven Duggar and get him right, or if they do forget to list him, when he comes up as one of the players they missed they’ll slap their foreheads and say, “Ugh! I should have remembered him, he was terrible and I hated him!”, while with Hernandez it will be a vague recollection he was on the team, followed by his disappearing from our collective memories once more.