As president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer seeks to reload a Cubs farm system that’s been depleted over the last half-decade, through both trades and graduation of young talent to the big league roster, the kick-off to this year’s international signing period has undoubtedly been circled on his calendar for some time.
The top prize for Hoyer in his first offseason at the helm? International infield prospect Cristian Hernandez, a 17-year-old Dominican talent who’s already drawn comparisons to one of the game’s all-time greats, Alex Rodriguez.
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Here’s what Baseball America‘s prospect guru Ben Badler had to say about Hernandez in his preview analysis:
"“… Hernandez is a lean, athletic 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, with excellent swing mechanics and bat speed. His barrel stays on plane through the hitting zone for a long time, he has performed well in games and projects to have plus or better raw power as he fills out. Hernandez draws plenty of attention for his combination of hitting ability and power, but he’s also improved his speed to become a plus runner.”"
The deal, worth $3 million, marks the Cubs’ biggest international splash since 2013, when they landed both Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez. But given his age, it’ll likely be some time before we see Hernandez at Wrigley Field.
He fits perfectly into the team’s projected timeline, though. Chicago is clearly willing to, in the short-term, take a step backward in order to re-prioritize long-term stability. Hernandez could someday pair with the likes of Ed Howard or even what would then be an elder statesman Javier Baez up the middle for the North Siders.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Cubs enjoyed what was then perceived as an overabundance of middle infield options, back when Baez, Starlin Castro and Addison Russell were all entering the prime of their careers. But now, Castro and Russell are out of the organization and Baez is entering his final year of team control.
MLB.com ranked Hernandez as the sixth-best prospect in this year’s international class. As the Cubs begin their next youth movement, this guy has the potential to be the next face of the franchise – in the same way many Cubs fans wished Jimenez or Torres might have been.