An infielder on Colombia's 18U World Cup squad in 2013 who took up catching the following year after the Rays signed him for $225,000, Hernandez put himself on the map with a strong stateside debut in ’17, hitting for average and power in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. The latter was on full display during Hernandez’s 21-homer full-season debut as a 20-year-old at Class A Bowling Green, and he continued to show big-time pop in 2019, albeit in the power- and stat-suppressing Florida State League. He wrapped up his season with a solid Arizona Fall League campaign, slashing .359/.381/.513 in 11 games.
Hernandez has a pair of plus tools in his raw power and arm strength, but he’s still learning the nuances of the game and seeking consistency on both sides of the ball. Big and strong, he makes hard contact with strength-driven bat speed and shows feel for finding the barrel thanks to good hand-eye coordination. That Hernandez’s power plays almost entirely to his pull side during games speaks to his aggressive approach and leads some scouts to question his overall hitting ability. While he doesn't strike out much, Hernandez does chase contact too often and will need to adopt a more selective approach as he works his way through the Minors.
A rocket, 70-grade arm and solid catch-and-throw skills help Hernandez control the running game, and he’s thrown out 36 and 39 percent of basestealers, respectively, in his first two full-season campaigns. He’s improved as a receiver but still has a way to go to become average, and the same goes for Hernandez’s blocking skills. Improving his body and conditioning should help with the latter, and the Rays expect some gains to occur naturally as Hernandez gains much-needed experience behind the plate. If it all clicks for him, Hernandez could develop into an average defensive catcher who hits for enough power to compensate for his lack of average and receiving issues.
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
An infielder on Colombia's 18U World Cup squad in 2013, Hernandez was moved behind the plate by the Rays the next year after signing for $225,000. He has since blossomed into the organization's top catching prospect, not to mention one of the better young backstops in the Minors, showing tools that give him impact potential on both sides of the ball. He raked in the Rookie-level Appalachian League during his 2017 stateside debut, finishing fifth on the circuit in both average (.332) and slugging (.507), then boosted his stock in his first full season by clubbing 21 home runs over 109 games at age 20 in the Class A Midwest League in '18.
Hernandez is a physically strong right-handed hitter who projects to hit for power and average at a premium position. He makes a lot of hard contact, exhibiting bat speed as well as a knack for barreling the baseball with good hand-eye coordination. He's added loft to his swing and began to tap into his plus raw power last season to finish second in home runs among Minor League catchers. That power is almost entirely to Hernandez's pull side, however, and some evaluators question his ability to hit to all fields. While he doesn't strike out much, Hernandez will need to tone down his aggressive approach and become more selective as he works his way through the Minors.
Hernandez has the type of plus arm strength and catch-and-throw skills needed to control a running game, but he'll need to make considerable gains with his receiving and blocking to stick behind the plate. Some of those improvements should happen naturally with experience, as Hernandez is still new to catching and learning the many nuances of the position. Scouts tend to agree that he could become an average defender, with enough thump at the plate to compensate for any shortcomings behind it.
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
Hernandez jumped onto the prospect radar as a 15-year-old in 2013, when he played the infield for Colombia's 18U World Cup team. The Rays signed Hernandez for $225,000 the following year and subsequently moved him behind the plate, only to see him blossom into the organization's top catching prospect in the following years. After back-to-back seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Hernandez made the jump to the U.S. in 2017 and excelled on both sides of the ball in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
Hernandez's impact potential with the bat was on full display in the Appy League, where he finished among the circuit leaders with 74 hits (third), 22 doubles (second), a .332 average (fifth) and a .507 slugging percentage (fifth). Hernandez combines strength, bat speed and a smooth right-handed swing to generate hard contact with ease, though his barrel path can get long at times. Those qualities also help him generate above-average raw power that he should tap into more consistently in the coming years.
Hernandez's progress behind the plate has been even more impressive, especially when considering how new he is to the position. His athleticism and agility aid him as a blocker and a receiver, while his cannon arm and solid catch-and-throw skills enabled him to nab 57 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017. He'll need to become more durable to handle the rigors of a full season, but all the tools and relative skills are there for him to develop into a first-division backstop.