On Tuesday the Dodgers made yet another trade involving minor leaguers as they traded Single-A first baseman Ibandel Isabel and reliever Zach Neal to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for hard-throwing reliever Ariel Hernandez.
The Dodgers front office has been quite active early on this season as they have already completed a few minor league trades. Tuesday they made another deal that netted them hard-throwing reliever, Ariel Hernandez. The Dodgers dealt away Zach Neal a sinkerball pitcher who was signed this offseason and Ibandel Isabel, a powerful first baseman who swatted 28 home runs for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes last season.
This trade on the surface appears to be an exchange of minor leaguers who have raw potential, but they need some refining if they are ever going to be regulars in the major leagues. Ibandel has a ton of raw power, but he struck out 172 times last season in a hitter-friendly league. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts if he is ever going to make it to the big leagues. Otherwise, he is most likely going to be one of those AAAA players who are too good for the minor leagues but doesn’t make it in the big leagues.
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In Ariel Hernandez, the Dodgers add another potential setup reliever who throws in the upper 90’s with ease. Last season, Hernandez threw 24 innings in the majors and posted a 5.18 ERA for the Reds. That may not sound like anything special on the surface, but it’s worth noting that Hernandez held hitters to a .165 average which is pretty elite. He held right-handed batters to a 0.91 batting average, and even left-handed hitters didn’t fare too well against him as they hit .244 against Hernandez.
The kryptonite for Ariel Hernandez has been his control. In each of the past two minor league season, he has walked exactly 39 hitters each season while throwing only 50 innings last season, and 62 innings in 2016. While Hernandez allowed six home runs with the Reds last season, he posted impressive numbers in the minors allowing one or no home runs in every season with the exception of his first minor league season in 2009.
Last season, Fangraphs had an excellent article on Ariel Hernandez that detailed just how good his breaking ball is. It moves like a curveball but has slider velocity. Hernandez’s breaking ball averaged 87.6 mph where Craig Kimbrel’s breaking ball averaged 86.6 mph. The horizontal movement on Kimbrel’s breaking ball was 5.3 inches and trailing right behind Kimbrel was Ariel Hernandez with 5.1 inches of horizontal movement on his “off-speed” pitch.
Ariel Hernandez just turned twenty-six years old at the beginning of March, so he is still an intriguing young reliever for the Dodgers. If the Dodgers can get him to harness his control, then they might have another flame-throwing reliever at the back end of their bullpen. Given how the early season has gone, the Dodgers will be burning through plenty of relievers this season so Ariel Hernandez might get his opportunity.