Depth, depth, and more depth. That has always been the focus of this Dodgers front office. Enrique Hernández perfectly exemplifies what the team wants out of a role player. 2018 was a career year for the utility man. This past season answered a lot of questions anybody had about Hernández.
Entering 2018 nobody really knew what to expect out of the player who had already captured the hearts of most fans. 2016 was plagued with injuries, while 2017 was an underwhelming season out of Hernández. So there were plenty of question marks entering 2018 for the creator of the rally banana.
However, after a promising performance in the 2017 playoffs capped by an emphatic three-home-run game in the NLCS clinching victory, things were looking up for the Puerto Rican sensation.
Entering spring training nobody knew what was going to happen at second base. That was further muddled with the injury to Justin Turner forcing Logan Forsythe to third base and opening up the competition for second base even more.
Hernández opened up the season with a start at second base. Not only was he at second base but he was hitting cleanup for the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day. After a day-off against the righty Cueto, Hernández saw starts in the two games. One at shortstop and one in center field. Which would be a preview of how 2018 would go for the super utility man.
Hernández saw time at every single position except catcher. He was not just put at these positions to fill a spot (exception of his pitching appearance) but rather he was played everywhere because he could do so at a near elite level at every spot on the field 3-9.
He was always able to do this. The difference this year is he was able to do this while remaining productive at the plate. The main reason is he was able to get consistent playing time. Although it was not in the same spot on any given night, there was a high chance Hernández was going to be in the lineup.
His previous career high in AB’s was 297. In 2018 Hernández saw 402 AB’s. This clearly helped Hernández get into a rhythm and was a big factor in him setting his career high in home runs. In his previous 3 seasons, he hit a combined 25 home runs. In 2018 he hit 21.
However, this was not the biggest accomplishment for Hernández in 2018. He was finally in some capacity able to get rid of that stigma of being a spot starter. Kiké has helped himself and may have found himself an opportunity to be an everyday starter.
This was mostly due to his splits. In 2017 his splits against righties and lefties were on complete opposite ends. Hernández was absolutely atrocious against right-handed pitchers, while he was dominant against left-handed pitchers. The same could be said for every single season he has been in the bigs, except for 2016 when he was bad against any handed pitcher.
His splits in 2018 are nearly identical against both handed pitchers.
Vs. Left: 200 AB’s/ .260 avg/ .335 OBP/.445 SLG/ 9 Home Runs
Vs. Right: 202 AB’s/ .252 avg/ .338 OBP/ .495 SLG/ 12 Home Runs
In fact, Hernández had a slightly better year hitting righties than he did lefties. Something that he has not been able to do throughout his career. Kiké has made his case to be an everyday starter, instead of being viewed as a utility bench player who could start against lefties.
Kiké was undoubtedly a huge part of this team because of his breakout year. However, as much as he helped the Dodgers, 2018 was more helpful to himself than it was to the Dodgers.
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Everybody knew that Hernández was an MLB talent. Now teams were shown that Hernández has the tools to lock down an everyday spot for a lot of teams in the bigs. With second base in question yet again entering the off-season, Hernández’s big season could help thrust him into that opening.
Hernández is a big asset to this team. When Seager went down with injury, it hurt, but Kiké was able to temper that blow with his ability to fill in anywhere they needed him. He was not the direct replacement for Seager, but with Taylor taking over at SS, Hernández saw steady reps at both second base and center field.
He helped bridge the gap between Seager and Machado, without keeping them relevant during those dog days of summer, the Dodgers would have had an even taller task to reach the playoffs.
His playoff performance was abysmal at best. He looked like he reverted back to old habits. However, the same could be said about a plethora of other Dodgers. Kiké was a very capable playoff performer up until 2018, boasting a career .260 AVG before his lapse this year. Hopefully, 2018 was an exception and it did not exploit something Kiké will struggle with for the remainder of his career.
Kiké was a very big help to the 2018 Dodgers. His versatility had always been there and will seemingly never leave. But, Hernández made a huge career move by proving he was able to hit any pitcher. Kiké will be a legitimate contender to be the Dodgers second baseman in the foreseeable future because of his solid season in 2018.