Dodgers 2018 Player Review: Kiké Hernandez

Dodgers 2018 Player Review: Kiké Hernandez

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Every year since 2015, Kiké Hernandez has seen more plate appearances — and every season his production has improved. In 2018, Hernandez played in 145 games and posted the highest WAR of his career (3.3) — a full two wins higher than any other season of his career.

Part of the reason for the boost was his career-high 21 home runs, 67 runs and 52 RBI — all while playing every position on the diamond other than catcher.

An even deeper dive, however, shows the real reason for his increase in value: Hernandez essentially ceased to be a strictly platoon player. Heading into 2018, Hernandez hit .191 and .159 against righties with just three total home runs.

This season? He hit .252 with 12 home runs while logging even more at-bats. Of course, Hernandez kept handling lefties as well (albeit at a slightly worse rate than in previous years) — batting .260/.335/.445 with nine home runs.

Given all that you’d assume Hernandez figures to be a massive part of the team’s plans for 2019. However, given the Dodgers’ glut of outfielders, it’s hard to say anything with real clarity.

2018 Highlight

Seems like there are a couple options here for Hernandez — the fun route (he pitched!) or the serious route. So, well, let’s do both.

First, pitching. It didn’t go so well, but it was fun. Hernandez got one out while allowing two walks and a three-run-home run. The worst part? That was in a tie game and Hernandez took the loss in a walk-off defeat.

Now for the real highlight: Aug. 31 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Hernandez comes into the game in the seventh as a pinch-hitter with Dodgers trailing 2-1 and Zack Greinke on the hill.

In his only at-bat of the game, Hernandez launched a game-tying home run to keep the Dodgers alive in what was a must-win game. With just 28 games remaining, the Dodgers were one game back of the Diamondbacks for the National League West lead at the time.

In the next inning Justin Turner would hit a go-ahead home run to give the Dodgers the win and a tie for the divisional lead.

2019 Outlook

As mentioned above, this category is nearly impossible to comment on for players listed primarily as outfielders. Next season (if the roster were to remain the same), the Dodgers would still have the following outfielders: Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger, Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, Alex Verdugo, Joc Pederson and Andrew Toles in addition to Hernandez.

Obviously, Hernandez’s positional versatility gives him the ability to play all over the infield as well, but even there the playing time situations aren’t exactly wide-open.

With one exception.

Is it possible the Dodgers don’t sign a second baseman and ask Hernandez to play as the primary guy there alongside Chris Taylor? If the Dodgers can’t exchange some of their extra outfielders for bullpen help or another starter, it seems like this might be the most logical short-term solution.