Jose Hernandez: Pitch Mix Fits Perfectly In Major League Bullpen

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.

Fastball

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.

Slider

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.

Changeup

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.

Final Clips

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

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Jose Hernandez: Pitch Mix Fits Perfectly In Major League Bullpen – READING

Domingo Gonzalez Moves On From Pirates After Finding Role In Bullpen

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.

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RaisetheJollyRancherGirl

It’s another Luis Ortiz arsenal. Can they get him to trust his stuff like they did with Ortiz in his short callup?

leefieux

AM. I hope that you’re right and MLB.com is wrong here (but right about Sabol). I had not seen that Sabol was traded to the Giants.

Longshots (to be kept the full season)

Jose Hernandez, LHP, Pirates (from Dodgers): A mid-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider give Hernandez a puncher’s chance in a Pittsburgh bullpen without many lefties, but it’s still a big jump for a pitcher with only 38 2/3 innings above A-ball.

Blake Sabol, C/OF, Giants (from Pirates): First drafted by the Reds and then traded to the Giants, Sabol may have seen his chances of sticking plummet with that move. After hitting .284/.363/.497 with 19 homers at Double-A and Triple-A, he could provide a nice left-handed catching option next to Joey Bart. But since San Francisco likely won’t carry many players who need to grow into the Majors, Sabol faces an uphill climb.

Last edited 1 month ago by leefieux
loehr22

I think Hernandez sticks and we will be pleasantly surprised with him. I think the Pirates are setting the table for 2024. I wish they would do more this year, but I have resigned myself to praying that they catch lightning in a bottle and compete with their younger players a little earlier than planned.

Wilbur Miller

Looks like the slider will make or break this guy. Hopefully, he won’t get Ciriaco’d.

Aurorus

Yeah… his fastball is the real deal when he doesn’t try to overthrow it. He has a nice smooth pitching motion that repeats well. His control problems (at least in the above videos) all seem to come from the slider, and it looks as though it is not a problem with repeating his delivery. It is nigh impossible to throw a pitch in the same location if your deliver is different every time. His deliver is consistent and repeatable. The problem may be a simple matter of grip and repetition with the slider. If the Pirates use him sparingly and let him work on that slider on off-days when rested, he could stick in the majors and be helpful.

skliesen

Unless he’s got Lance Lynn type command/control of that fastball, he ain’t making it without the Slider becoming better than average.

leefieux

Now THERE’S a blast from the past. One of the longest necks I’ve seen since Merton Hanks.

roberto

I appreciate your work. He looks like an interesting prospect.

skliesen

Let’s hope he exceeds expectations.

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