International standout Cristian Hernandez is expected to sign with the Cubs
Imagine, if you will, you are a general manager, and one of your scouts’ returns from the field only to excitedly wave you down to tell you they think they have found the next Alex Rodriguez. Or Manny Machado. Think about the feeling that would purport. Fortunately, this hypothetical seems to be inching closer to a reality for the Chicago Cubs and 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Cristian Hernandez.
A pre-season agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association allowed for a shift in the international signing period, moving it back from its original July date to mid-January. Four days out now, and things are starting to become more transparent. Hernandez is projected to land with the Cubs at the end of the week for a bonus of around $3.5 million.
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Hernandez’s approach and defensive talent are at present beyond that of a 17-year-old, and he casts an air of confidence at his young age. Watching a few of his swings, it is believable to buy into the Rodriguez and Machado comparisons. He generates his power through a toe-tap and drives through the zone with a steady calm and consistency.
The crack of the bat connecting on the sweet spot is deafening. In a few of the stadiums in his hometown, watching highlights of Hernandez, the ball jumps off the bat with unbridled force that’s hardly common in a player his age. Defensively the glove work is more than there, and his transition time seems well above-average. Hernandez moves well side to side, and the highpoint of his hand-eye coordination will only allow him to progress.
In June of last year, Baseball America’s Josh Norris wrote a piece on international shortstops and observed the track record and how it relates to success. There is a track record for shortstops across the league in finding great success. Cubs fans need not remember the deal which sent Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees in exchange for closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman.
The Cubs won a World Series that year, so most fans would ultimately believe, on the most basic level, at least, that the deal was a success. The team traded Chapman for the Commissioner’s Trophy. Long-term, it seems like a challenging move to justify, however.
Norris goes on to commission several additional examples within the league, many of whom are top prospects, or, at least, near the top of their respective organizations. So it seems, at least on paper, the Cubs are getting a good one in Hernandez. Right now, he does have the height for a very projectable frame. The next phase is adding muscle and bulking up from his 165-pound stature.
It is frustrating at the surface level right now for Cubs fans, which is understandable. Theo Epstein did not immediately arrive in the Windy City and begin winning games. It was a part of a process, which fans came to accept and enjoy patiently. Right now, that is the organizations’ journey. It is a new and, hopefully, improved process behind President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer. It will be exciting to see Hernandez a part of it moving into the next decade.