What’s Next For Carlos Hernández?

Nick Pollack's final Going Deep article pledge #9: Carlos Hernández.

Editor’s Note: With MLB owners forcing a prolonged lockout, I have pledged to write a Going Deep article every day until the lockout is lifted. Please consider supporting Pitcher List with a PL+ subscription to help us survive through these difficult months.

The lockout is OVER. It’s a glorious day and it means this daily Going Deep is coming to an end. However, I promised one final article once the deal is done and here we are. It’s been a fun ride, thanks to everyone who supported me and the PL+ cause along the way, I hope you learned something from all nine Going Deep articles.

But I digress. Today we have one more pitcher to discuss and his name is Carlos Hernández. The young Royal turned 25 years old today and is poised to be the most exciting name in Kansas City in 2022. He tosses heaters in the upper 90s paired with two breakers that pass the eye test, but he’ll need to overcome a few hurdles to become a stable arm for years to come.

As is tradition, let’s start with his fastballs. It only seems right to begin with #1.

 

Four-Seamer & Sinker

 

Let me clear the air. Our player pages are slightly different from Savant’s when it comes to pitch classification—it’s going to be that way for an odd reason, but whenever you see a dramatic difference (here, it’s our definitions of “four-seamers” vs. “sinkers”), you should internalize it as “Ohhh, those pitches aren’t a whole lot different.”

Here are two GIFs. One is a sinker, the other a four-seamer. Which is which?

If you guessed four-seamer, then sinker, you’d be wrong. They are both four-seamers. 

Nah, just kidding. It’s sinker #1, four-seamer #2. The fact you believed the last sentence for a moment should tell you all you need to know.

It’s kinda wild how similar they are. Hernández’s sinker has nearly the same vertical movement as his four-seamer on both our player pages & Savant.

Carlos Hernández’s Fastballs

I don’t know what to tell you. Savant isn’t suggesting these pitches are swapped and somehow he gets three ticks more whiffs on sinkers, while throwing them a full point harder. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

He does use the pitches a little differently, though. He’s tossing four-seamers upstairs plenty…and getting few whiffs. Hernández is also allowing too much contact, struggles to find the zone, and (paired with a pedestrian amount of whiffs) earns few strikes with his primary heater.

And that’s a problem. Hernández is still working on harnessing his stuff, and his heaters, while having moments of bliss from time to time, don’t do enough to justify their erratic nature à la Freddy Peralta or Tyler Glasnow. The same issue applies to his breaking balls, too.

 

The Make-Or-Breakers

 

Fortunately, there is a legit distinction between Carlos’ slider and curveball and they certainly pass the eye test.

Here’s Hernández’s curveball:

And here’s the slide piece:

I wouldn’t call these pitches elite, like watching a Kluber whiff or Kershaw hook, but they should induce plenty of whiffs in seasons to come. However, as we touched on with his fastballs, Hernández has a control (and command) problem:

Carlos Hernández’s Breaking Balls

This isn’t what you want when your fastballs aren’t getting the job done. Hernández’s curveball earned a sub 60% strike rate and failed to excel in whiffs or called strikes, while his slider was rough. A 55% strike rate is far from dependable, while a 32.2% Hard Contact rate makes the pitch a heavy gamble each time it’s thrown.

Something needs to change here. It could be as simple as consistency, it could be a heavier lean on curveballs over sliders, or it could be changing a grip of some kind. If Carlos continues like this in 2022 with his breakers acting like this, he’ll run into plenty of trouble in the rotation and fail to ascend.

 

Four Minor Positives

 

I can’t make this all negative, right? Let me emphasize that Carlos has a foundation of velocity that he can hopefully build around to get the most out of his pitches. We haven’t seen a ton of Hernánadez yet and those metrics above could be a product of small sample size and rookie jitters. I don’t completely buy that, but hey, it could happen.

You know, there were brief moments of bliss from Hernández in 2022, where he was able to earn 10 and 12 whiffs in two straight games off heaters, leading to 14 strikeouts and just 2 ER across 12.2 frames. Here’s what those strike zone plots looked like:

Carlos was able to elevate a ton of four-seamers (red) in these, though the blue/green of curveballs and sliders weren’t exactly what we wanted (albeit, better curveballs in the game on the right). If you’re looking for the true potential, that’s it. It was far from consistent across the full year (and that’s the real issue at play), but that’s what we’re chasing and hoping to see from Hernández plenty in 2022.

Two more points to note quickly. First, pitching for the Royals ain’t half bad. Sure, there isn’t a whole lot of history in pitching development there, but Kauffman is a favorable park to pitch in, while the AL Central is far from the toughest out there. Second, tossing frames for the Royals will be easy to come by as long as Carlos isn’t dramatically failing. We don’t expect Kansas City to heavily be in the playoff hunt and without a rotation filled with de facto starters, Hernández is in a position to pitch comfortably through the full year as he develops. I wonder what we’ll see from Carlos as the summer turns to fall.

 

Conclusion

 

Wait, this came much quicker than I expected. I didn’t touch on Carlos’ changeup at all as he throws it less than ten percent of the time and for good reason: It’s as remarkable as my rug. It’s a rug and it exists. I don’t anticipate the offering to turn into anything special in 2022 as Carlos has a lot else to work on instead.

Hernández is young with plenty of time to develop. If he’s to take a step forward this year, it will come on the back of either his four-seamer or breakers stealing strikes far more often, let it be in whiffs or called strikes. I’m worried that the heaters are destined to flirt with mediocrity as they are more hittable than typical 96/97 mph fastballs, which would put the pressure on his slider and curveball to take a major leap and steal the show. If he’s to get there, it’ll likely take some time, and at least the Royals are in a position to let him soak up as many innings as he can in 2022. Sit tight, a watched Royal never coronates.

 

Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

2 responses to “What’s Next For Carlos Hernández?”

  1. Perfect Game says:

    Is HC% the same as hard hit percentage or is it a slightly different measure? If different, where can I search HC%?

    • Nick Pollack says:

      Hey PG! Good to see you. Hope you’re well!

      Yes, sorry for the confusion. We universally changed HH/PA% (Hard Hit over PA%) to HC% (Hard Contact%) on our player pages. It’s a simpler name for what it is and creates less confusion with Statcast’s Hard Hit % (which uses Batted Ball Event instead of Plate Appearances as a denominator).

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