The Pittsburgh Pirates took advantage of one of their free 40-man roster spots last week, and made a selection in the Rule 5 draft. With the pick, they added Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Jose Hernandez.
The 24-year-old pitched across two levels last year, putting up some good strikeout numbers (27.8% across 59.2 innings), while also struggling a bit with control (10.1%).
Despite the control, Hernandez was still an intriguing pick up for the Pirates, as he added to maybe the system’s biggest hole, left-handed pitching.
Up to that point, there wasn’t a left-handed pitcher on the 40-man roster — though the Pirates had come to an agreement with reliever Jarlin Garcia. To keep a spot open for the Rule 5, the deal wasn’t made official right away.
Hernandez will now go into camp and try to show that he is someone that can stick on a major league roster.
Armed with a fastball that can hit triple digits, Hernandez has a pretty straight forward pitch set for a reliever, also throwing a slider and changeup.
He favors throwing a fastball/slider mix against lefties, as well as fastball/changeup (still mixes in the slider occasionally) versus righties.
Hernandez does a decent job at locating his fastball, up and down as well as on either side of the plate. He hit triple-digits with the pitch, and sat 93-97 throughout most of the video that I saw.
While he uses his slider mainly against other lefties, he does mix it in when he faces righties. The break isn’t as sharp as you may like but there’s still plenty of movement involved, enough to be his go-to swing and miss pitch.
The games that he struggled with his control were usually when the slider wasn’t breaking for him the way he wanted and couldn’t catch the corner of the strike zone.
He doesn’t use the changeup that much, but it does have enough of a bite to entice some swing and miss. Hernandez actually did better against righties than he did lefties, thanks in part to the offspeed pitch.
His two secondary pitches may be average, at best, but there are still good enough to keep hitters guessing. As long as he is able to throw strikes with his fastball, Hernandez could find some success with the Pirates in 2023.
The first video in this clip is while he was in High-A, facing one of the top first base prospects in the game, Tyler Soderstrom. He blew away the hitter with some impressive fastballs, locating them where Soderstrom really didn’t have a chance.
The next batter was against Tyler Gentry, a third round pick by Kansas City who hit 21 home runs in 2022. He alternated the fastball and slider, setting each up in similar locations, before getting Gentry swinging in the dirt for strike three.
Finally, another lefty versus lefty, but this time Hernandez features his slider primarily. He keeps everything on the inner part of the plate, breaking the slider off at the hip and trying to get it to hit the corner of the strike zone, and using the fastball to keep the hitter honest.
After coming inside for a fastball that is fouled off, he finally breaks a slider off for a called strike three.
While it isn’t a guarantee that Hernandez sticks with the club the entire season, he does offer something that is intriguing for every bullpen — a lefty with high velocity that can also get righties out.
Add in the fact that Jarlin Garcia is the only lefty projected on the roster, Hernandez would give the Pirates a secondary option they can use in lower leverage situations.
Overall, Rule 5 picks are tricky, and the Pirates haven’t exactly had their fair share of success with them, but Hernandez does seem to offer more than some of the recent pitchers they have selected.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.