Dodgers: Enrique Hernandez is Playing Himself Out of the Lineup
Dodgers’ free agent prize A.J. Pollock went on the shelf with yet another unlucky injury. Though A.J. is still likely over a month away from a return, Enrique Hernandez is already playing himself out of the lineup when Pollock does eventually make his way back.
First, let me start this off by saying A.J. Pollock has got to be the unluckiest player in baseball. He had multiple freak injuries during his tenure with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now, with the Dodgers, he is on the IL because of a tiny cut. That small cut suddenly became a staph infection that required surgery.
Pollock had no timetable for his return when having the surgery in early May. Though, the speculation was he would be able to resume baseball activities six weeks after surgery. Meaning Pollock would possibly be able to return to the big league club by early to mid-July.
Since his injury, the Dodgers have not missed a beat. However, Enrique Hernandez has struggled mightily. In May, Hernandez has slashed a dreadful .159/.244/.217 so far. This season he was finally able to win a starting job and not be used as a platoon guy. That seems like it will be short-lived. He is already seeing fewer at-bats and A.J. Pollock isn’t even back yet.
The reason Hernandez was able to earn that starting job was because of his very good 2018 campaign. Specifically, his production against right-handed pitching. Before 2018, Hernandez had struggled mightily against righties. He earned most of his AB’s against southpaws because he owned them (just ask Madison Bumgarner).
In 2018 his number against both lefties and righties were identical. Hernandez was able to prove that he should get the opportunity to start every day. That is exactly what happened to begin the 2019 campaign. He earned the job over Chris Taylor and others. Kike was finally a starter and not a utility platoon player.
Now here we are two months into the season and Hernandez has all but given his role away. The Puerto Rican fan-favorite has reverted back to his old bad habits. After a strong showing against righties in 2018, Hernandez has been terrible in 2019. However, he is still hitting lefties really well.
These bad splits have caused him to slowly but surely turn second base into a full-on platoon.
vs. LHP: .288/.394/.475
vs. RHP: .178/.246/.336
If Hernandez continues his poor performance, we may not even need to wait for Pollock to return before Hernandez is relegated back to a platoon role full-time.
Nonetheless, Hernandez will be relegated once Pollock is able to return. Hernandez’s poor performance, coupled with Verdugo’s impressive rookie campaign, shows that it is only inevitable that Hernandez becomes a bench once again.
Of course, he will still get his at-bats against lefties, but his role as an everyday player will be gone. Hernandez still is the best defensive second baseman on the roster. His defense is not the issue, his inability to match his 2018 performance against righties is what is going to cause this eventual demotion.
Despite this, Hernandez still holds an abundance of value for the Dodgers. He plays every single position on the field. Even more impressive, he does this at a near elite level at every single position. He will also be huge against left-handed pitching as he always has been.
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Assuming Pollock returns and there are no other injuries we should expect to see Cody, Corey, JT, and Pollock playing every day. Muncy and Verdugo will be playing most games. The catchers will continue to utilize their platoon. Joc, Taylor, and Hernandez will likely platoon left field, with Hernandez stealing some at-bats from Verdugo or Muncy with a southpaw on the mound.
Despite his early struggles this season with the Dodgers, Pollock deserves to be slotted directly back into his everyday role. Someone has to take a hit when it comes to playing time. Unfortunately for Hernandez, he is that guy.
Verdugo has played too well and has been a sparkplug for this team. He should not be the one to lose a large portion of his at-bats. Muncy has proven to be at least good enough defensively at second to make him the guy to play most games at second base. Therefore, Hernandez has to be the odd man out.
Enrique will still be a large part of this team He should be getting a healthy amount of at-bats against lefties, and will be the player to spell guys when they need rest. It is unfortunate that Hernandez has not been able to stick as the everyday second baseman, but his lack of production will force him to be moved from that spot when Pollock returns.